Nicole Diacono is an established Japanese manga illustrator, who says she probably began scribbling on her pram at a very young age...
Interview: Nicole Cushchieri
She drew her way all through her childhood and teen years and on completing her studies at Mcast Art and Design College, she became a full time illustrator, creating incredible pieces of work for established local clients.
How did you first get into illustrating?
At Mcast Art and Design, most of the drawings were not assignment-related. I grew up with the dream of becoming a fashion designer, then (briefly) a mechanic and in my final year of A&D, while creating a comic for my thesis, I suddenly knew that I wanted to try my hand at becoming an illustrator. So, fresh out of school, one of my first jobs was with one of the best publishing companies on this island and that led me to where I am today. I’ve now been working as a full-time illustrator for just over a decade.
How would you best describe your style of illustrating?
Originally, the style behind every drawing was very Japanese manga, but over the years it has moved in other directions. Different styles are applied and the characters vary as well. I believe this helps to keep the illustrations looking fresh and versatile – and also keeps me interested in what I’m doing.
Can you take us through your design process, beginning with where you start?
When doing any illustration, I normally start with brainstorming ideas and procrastinating at times until inspiration kicks in, and then the actual creating starts. I use a drawing tablet as a coaster while sketching on ordinary drawing paper with an ordinary pencil. Yes, I’m very “old school” in my methods. Once the sketches are done, they are inked with graphic pens or felt tips (nothing too fancy) and then the illustrations are scanned and digitally coloured in Photoshop. It sounds really easy when I put it like that.
What tools and techniques do you use to create your art?
My essentials when working would be pencils, paper, my scanner, an extremely well-compiled play-list, obviously my iMac with Photoshop, litres of coffee, double chocolate muffins and my swinging chair which is ideal for brainstorming – I am indeed a huge “needer”.
Do you use social media to help promote your artwork?
I’m really not a huge fan of Facebook. However, I do have my own FB page, which I don’t use as often as I should. As a result it looks rather miserable but, now here’s an idea: since the public these days can’t seem to live without their online petitions for practically anything and anyone under the sun, maybe a petition to save my FB page would be useful? I must try to put some more effort into online exposure when I’m given more hours in my day to do so – so, as you can imagine, when it comes to social media, I’m not the one to give advice to others.
Have you ever considered tattoo art?
I’ve done a few so far. I guess it’s flattering to know that there are people out there who have drawings of mine permanently on them for LIFE – or at least until laser or other methods do them part – and that’s all I have to say when it comes to tattoo art.
What inspires you?
I’d love to answer that my inspiration comes from nature, sessions of yoga and this gorgeous world, but I can’t. Inspiration for me strikes immediately or when I least expect it to and forcing it doesn’t help. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that it either comes out of thin air, when I’m doing the simplest or silliest of things, or it comes when I’m around other people. Basically, it comes as it pleases and so far it has never failed me.
As an artist, do you manage to maintain a steady income?
I’m so pleased to answer this question for the general public since it is the most common work-related question. Over the last years I’ve been asked: “Do you actually do this as a job and get paid for it? You make an income out of this? People pay for illustrations?” I’m pleased to say that, yes, I work full time and I have a steady income and it hasn’t been a decade of charity! As for generating income, one method seems to fit the bill: work hard and keep the clients happy.
How do you want people to feel when they look at your work?
I was going to say I wish people would associate themselves with my drawings, but it would be worrying if they associated themselves with some of them – one example would be a girl jumping off a cliff! My personal drawings do have a little story behind them, based on real feelings or situations just projected in a surrealistic way. This may not be so evident at first glance, but it is not to be taken literally either. The majority are based on escapism, a place to which one can escape, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will turn out peachy. Having said this, art is open to anyone’s interpretation, so I would like people to be intrigued by the concept of the illustration but then decide on their own interpretation.
What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learnt as an illustrator?
Being patient. Patient with the creating process (not rushing it) and sometimes being patient with other people/clients, because it’s vital to understand what they want and how they want it in order for them to be happy with the final result.
Can you tell us about a moment in your career that you remember with pride?
I do have my little proud pleasures in my job. When a client tells me they are happy with the work I’ve done or someone tells me that they like my work – but it’s more a feeling of happiness than a feeling of pride. However, the ultimate “happy, clappy” moment for me would be the look on my little one’s face when she spots something I have created, instantly followed by: “Mama, that’s yours”. I’ll certainly get one of those moments as she flips through this issue of Vamp.
As for the future, I hope I’ll still be creating and as happy to be doing so as I am now. I’ve had plenty of ideas but have never found the time to put them into practice. I always wanted to write my own book and illustrate it; maybe have a monthly comic; maybe hang out with Tim Burton and discuss a mutual project and if a fashion design company were to suddenly need my services in the future, I certainly wouldn’t complain! My future is full of ‘maybes’ – and I’ll leave it open to any opportunities that come my way.
Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment that you would like to share with our readers?
I’m busy with a number of exciting projects at the moment, mostly illustrations for books, and as for the rest, well, they belong to clients so I have to be discreet about them because they will appear shortly – on my miserable FB page. I’ll try to make an effort as from this Vamp issue