Interview: Illustrator and Artist Scott Nellis

Today we introduce and feature the work of artist and illustration graduate; Scott Nellis. Wanting to give a more open insight to his working mind and his background we had a moment to chat with Scott making it a full interview to expand on his design work and thoughts on the industry as a whole coming out of university.

Hi Scott, Can you firstly introduce yourself to the Design Juices readers. Who are you and what strand of the creative mindset do you work under?

Hi Jared and all the readers out there. Thank you for having me on Design Juices.

I’m Scott Nellis, an artist and illustration graduate living in Brighton, UK. I guess I tend to think of myself as an artist when I am creating my own work and an illustrator when working to an outside brief. They’re are probably the same thing, the lines are generally blurry.

What has 2011 been like for you as a designer, have you been affected in slow down of work under the harder economic times? How do you think we as creatives can combat the harder times of the economic climate?

It’s been patchy for me this year. As a fairly recent graduate (2009 to be precise), I’m far from being an established artist, so as a newcomer into the professional design world it’s been difficult for me to gauge the effects the economy slowdown has had.

However, I hear times have been more fruitful. The market is possibly a lot more saturated now with the large amount of illustrators that exist and what with everyone having access to the internet, this makes for an incredibly competitive market.

To keep myself positive I always tell myself that if you are good at something there’s a place for you to be successful, whatever i is you do. I’m sure many an artist or musician – whatever – would counter that statement but it keeps me going and I know for a fact that there is still a lot of money being made, it just needs to be tapped into.

As for these times, I don’t believe being a graduate from art school is any different to being a graduate from another subject. I have applied for regular jobs and made it to interview stage, whittled down to the last ten from 250 applicants, only to tumble at the final hurdle due to a lack of experience. Like many others, I too have found it hard to gain employment via the usual routes and I am now more determined than ever to find success in self-employment. At present in this country it can sometimes feel that graduates are unable to meet their full potential and can expect nothing other than a position as a call centre agent.

What was your route through education to get to the path of work you are on today? Would you recommend to upcoming designers that your route is the best way to go?

I actually did very badly at school due to a lack of interest and seven years ago after a few years of non-fulfilling job-hopping, I decided to move to Brighton for a change of scene. Here I decided to go back to school as a mature student.

To begin with I enrolled in a couple of evening classes. One was a fine art class and the other was a pre-foundation portfolio course in art and design. Both excellent classes and the portfolio course enabled me to then go on and complete my BTEC foundation in art and design, full-time at Brighton and Hove City College. This in turn, along with nurturing my talents, gained me the opportunity to study for and obtain my BA (Hons) Illustration at the University of Brighton. To accomplish this after such a long break from education gave me a real sense of achievement.

Speaking from a personal point of view and as an illustration graduate, this route through education, including university, would be the only way to get to the stage I am at now. Of course you can create a portfolio outside of the confines of education but personally I wouldn’t have been able to motivate myself to do the amount of work that goes into the kind of portfolio I have now. As a species, us humans have evolved as a result of being sociable and spending time together enables our ideas to develop. This is a lot easier to achieve in an education environment than it is in isolation. Many a portfolio would be a stagnant affair if the artist had not been in a position to bounce ideas off of other people or gain regular criticism whether of a good or bad nature.

As an illustrator I now spend a lot of time at home and in isolation but I have gained the skills that enable me to develop good (as well as commercially viable) ideas without the company of others. This is something college and university has helped me with (saying this I do hope at some point to find studio space away from home and pursue opportunities to collaborate with others): I learnt so much at university. To be honest we probably don’t realise until after we graduate how much information is gained purely subconsciously. Receiving advice from tutors who are experienced illustrators, having contact with practising professionals and gaining access to various printing equipment are clear benefits of university. I think I’ve probably made my point – and with a bit of anthropology thrown in too!


Which people were your design icons and inspiration growing up through your early design years? Have you changed your design icons as you have grown older to today?

When I was a kid I loved the work of fantasy artists such as Roger Dean and Tim White. I think a lot of people would recognise their work even if they don’t recognise their names as they’ve been widely used for numerous numerous formats, from book covers, computer game packaging and, probably most notably with regards to Roger Dean, his album artwork. In my teen years when I started to appreciate the music from the albums that Dean’s artwork adorned I developed a passion for design of a psychedelic nature and suddenly noticed the infinite amount of other great album covers there are out there. It was around the same time that I visited the Tate Britain gallery for the first time. My main tool of choice to that that point was probably the pencil, or perhaps earlier computer software, but from that first gallery visit until about my second year at university I wanted to be a painter. I lusted over the work of greats such as Dali, Turner, Caravaggio, Monet, Modigliani etc etc etc. Since I restarted my studies I have looked at contemporary illustration more than anything else. These days I see so much that it is hard to single out specific icons but to throw a couple of names your way, I highly appreciate Vania Zouravliov and Neal Murren; I think they are both awesome.

What has been your favourite project of work you have produced to date? Which project has been the most commercially successful?

I love a lot of my older black pen drawings but recently I was commissioned by Seattle band Holy Names to create some new album artwork. I’m really happy with how this piece turned out. Not only because my work is being seen by a different audience but also because it was the result of a lot of hours I’d spent over the past year developing my style and combining my black pen artwork with various other mediums to create new vibrant, colourful work.

As for now? Now I am presently engaged in setting up an online shop to sell reproduction prints of much of my work.


Do you think that the advent and popularity of social media and networks is a positive change for the design industry? How do you interact with the most on social networks?

I’ve had my own website for a few years now and dabbled on and off with various artist communities. I don’t have a personal Facebook profile but a few months ago I joined Twitter and created a Facebook Page for my illustration and, as a result, feel rejuvenated for doing so. Twitter is great! In the short space of time I’ve been using it I can already feel new doors of opportunity opening and like I was saying earlier about ideas developing, I am finding all sorts of new ways I can get my work seen by a larger audience.

Also I get to meet new people such as you who are kindly willing to offer a showcase for emerging artists and after all were it not for social media, I wouldn’t be having this interview.

Would you recommend any of your social networking followers to our readers from your social networking followers?

I’ve been enjoying the work of Twitter users @godmachineuk, @sandradieckmann, @drewmillward, @benjamintmills and @mr_a_j_jones to name but a few. I follow most of them voyeuristically but I’m not sure it is reciprocated.

Thanks Jared it’s been great!

We must offer our thanks to Scott for helping to put this interview together today. You can check out Scotts website (& new etsy store) and follow @scott_nellis on twitter. If you wish to contact scott: