Networking – Online interview with Nick Hayes

Hello, fellow illustrators and designers and welcome to another blog page. In this particular blog I will discuss and give the online interview correspondence between me and Nick Hayes. Firstly I want to thank Nick Hayes for the delightful conversation concerning his work and also for letting me interview him during a busy schedule. The online interview itself was quite long, so I will narrow it down to the main questions and answers. I hope you will enjoy reading this. Here is Nick Hayes website, if you enjoy his work and want to contact him further.

Woods by Nick Hayes

1 Me: Why did you become an illustrator? I know that is a question everyone seems to ask, but

Nick: “No well um. honest reason is that I probably had nothing to do with illustration itself. But I used to be a sort of communications manager for various charities and I just found the world of the office so crushingly, not just dull, but just like you were doing work that didn’t need to be done basically or it was just like they were putting stuff in front of you just to keep you at your computer. Um and especially in the charity sector, it didn’t really seem like much. You know I only entered the charity sector because I ran a magazine with a friend of mine at m university and I kind of thought ah, I got sick of that after a while. Because it got quite successful, which meant we had to spend more of our time doing add sales to red bull and levies. Talking to people on the phone and it just became very superficial very quickly. Um so I jacked that in, thought I wanted to do something where everyday where I could feel at least I was doing something positive. But the just the world of office, um was crushing for me basically. Just dull and unnecessary and meetings and emails. Basically luckily I had an idea for a graphic novel and did that and it got published. Then that sort of became a calling card that someone else had printed, someone else paid for a calling card and I was just able bit by bit unprize my fingers from the world of security and regular paye. And become an illustrator, but I mean if it was juggling, id have done juggling, you know. I would of done anything to just get out of the office really.”

Me: Yeah my mum works in an office, she sends all these emails. It seemed to me to be a little bit dull. So I was like I don’t really want to do office stuff.

Nick: “Well sometimes you do end up working in an office as an illustrator, there are a million different ways to do it. I suppose freelance was what I was more interested in. Freelance brings with it, its own bollocks. Its own kind of admin and kind of invoicing, following up invoicing. But basically ever since I got myself an illustration agent, the majority of that was handled by them, thoroughly for a hefty slice of money – take 30%”

Me: I have heard about that with illustration agents, um in the future do I really want to do that or shall I not get an agent

Nick “Well to be honest, 30 % there have been some big jobs, where 30% is a lot of money like in the thousands. Um just to whip all that s**t from your desk, if you are on your own, the larger the company the less likely they are too pay, then every time you invoice a company, there accounts team or finance team has two individual unnecessary forms you have to fill out on top of your invoice. Just all of that kind of stuff you think, I only have a certain amount of heartbeats in my life and I don’t want to waste anymore than I have too on filling out pointless forms, so the finance department can file it and everyone can look at it. It was just invisible pointless work, they demanded you. So I’m really happy the illustration agency takes care of that basically. And is it worth 30%, just in terms of laziness yeah.”

Me: What would you say would be your favourite brief? Like in all your illustrations that you have created?

Nick: “I probably get most joy from the ones I have created myself. Like um maybe the graphic novels or where you can create your own world. But in terms of a brief, I had to do something for the folio society, that was um, they basically take old editions of books, books that have come out before and then they kind of republish them for rich people. You know they put a gold leaf cover on it and sell it for 300 quid a book kind of thing. Um the thing is that is was kind of David Attenborough’s first three autobiographies, so taken from a nipper to where he was like head of the bbc. And David Attenborough’s a cool dude and it was one of those briefs that is actually quite similar to what its like at university. I imagine, I didn’t do illustration at university but you know where you have to read the book, you have to think, it engaged your own creativity and basically I just had to come up with an illustration for every chapter, that was about an animal. That in some way kind of expressed what was going on within the chapter. It was a good challenge. And drawing animals is more interesting to me than drawing cars. It’s really good but in the end, it turned out that the person’s whose job it was to get the permission from the people who originally published it had just forgotten to do it. So those illustrations were never used and I am not allowed to show them because they are contractually owned by the folio society. But I really enjoyed that job. But yeah they paid me for it anyway, it was there mistake. But stuff like that where you actually week on week, the telegraph will get involved saying here’s an article, we wanna pay you £500 to just decorate it. Sometimes that’s fun, but by a large that is just machine work basically. But every now and then, when the brief is slightly longer and give you a bit more time, its not a rush job. Then suddenly your not just using your hands to make something pretty, your using your brain and your hand to make something that means something aswell and that’s nice.”

Me: Yeah, I agree, we are doing a brief at the moment. We have to do a live brief, where we have to enter a competition and I think it’s for a book cover. So I have to try and read the book. It’s a poetry book, try and make a cover for that. So yeah I understand we’ve got like a month to create it.

Nick: “It’s cool. Also because book covers set the tone of the whole book from the potential reader’s perspective, what makes them grab it off the shelf. Book covers are really nice, I’m doing this one at the moment illustrating a book of poetry for that was written during lockdown. So there is about 40 illustrations inside it, and then the book cover. Just the dialogue that you have between the author and the editor and the illustrator. I really enjoy those creative conversations, that might sound pretentious if you are having them with your friends. But actually they get a good, the collaborative kind of thing gets produces an image that neither one person working on their own would of produced, you know. You come up with something completely different and that’s that’s interesting. That’s fun.”

The book of Trespass, illustrated and authored by Nick Hayes

Me: Who first inspired you to become an illustrator? Did you look up to illustrators as you were beginning your profession?

Nick: “I had sort of heroes, the guy that drew that up there, is Stan Donward and he basically did all the how I got to know his work. Is that he did all the front covers for the radio head albums. And then he started illustrating one of mine literary heroes Rob Mcfallen. He started lending his images to some of Rob’s books. Um and the more I got into his stuff the more I realised that he was basically doing better what I’d  hadn’t even imagined, could be done. Kind of. So he’s a total hero and actually his daughter is two boats down on the cannel as well, so I ended up meeting him. He’s a cool dude basically. All of radio head, you know. Yeah if anything it was more music that inspired me, I just wanted to be in the world of people that where making cool stuff. And music is what really gets me going. I’m much better with a pen than I am with a guitar. than anything so. Also just Eric revillious, just anything that guy touches I just think is gorgeous. Do you know Eric Revillious?”

Tennis (triptych, centre panel) 1930 by Eric Ravilious

Me : I haven’t heard of him, but I will look him up afterwards.

Nick: “He’s a bad boy”

Me: That painting behind you does remind me a bit of Alan’ Lee’s work.

Nick: “Oh I don’t know Alan Lee. Ill check out Alan lee. Oh I see, yeah yeah yeah Awesome, like concept design. Yeah its mythical and otherworldly for sure”

Me: Because I have looked on your website and you prefer to work with lino, is there any other printing methods you prefer to use as well. One’s that you are interested in using in the future

Nick : “Oh yeah lithograph for sure. I feel that me and lithograph are going to have a beautiful long relationship. But I just haven’t. It’s like the formula one of printmaking, you actually need quite a lot of money to be able to rent the studio and basically some one to teach you how to use the big stone. And how to rub the ink on and all of that. But I feel like one day, when like I’m richer and older I will definitely start lithograph for sure. ”

What are your weaknesses in illustration?

Nick: “My weaknesses there’s probably a very obvious answer to that, laziness really. I don’t think I have ever drawn a picture twice. You know I am very much like a bosh it out, and if it is good enough, just send it off basically. So weaknesses are definitely laziness. Also I am very bad at drawing butterflies. It just irritates me to draw butterflies, I’ve had to draw a lot of them recently. I’m not very good at drawing mechanical stuff. I tend to just draw organic stuff. But then you don’t really get the choice sometimes, when the brief comes in you just have to do. Sometimes the brief comes in and you think why did they even choose me for this. Nothing on the website that has anything to do with this brief. So you just have to suck it up and do it.”

Me: Butterflies is a very strange one, I remember at primary school we were taught how to draw butterflies on paper.

Nick: “I know it is a random one, just recently I’ve had to draw lots of butterflies that I just had to. What it is when the butterfly is sunning it self, then you get all the patterns on the wings. But if your drawing It when it’s flat, your basically getting the underside, which is just brown and dull. And so how to make that look interesting and also the angle of the butterfly. It’s very hard. There wings shapes are kind of hard, anyway I don’t know what it is, that is just the direct answer to your question. My weakness is drawing butterflies.”

There is more of this correspondence, but it was quite long to fit into one blog.

The experience I have learnt from talking with these illustrators have been helpful with understanding working in illustration, either in an agency or in freelance. Nick Hayes was particularly helpful, in discussing the benefits of having an agent. Which I have been on the fence about.

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