Interview: Nate Williams

          Its safe to say that Nate Williams is a formidable force in the world of illustration. A true social networking pioneer, Nate is responsible for Letter Playground, a home for budding handmade font enthusiasts, and IllustrationMundo, an online community where creative minds young and old can share their love for illustration, animation, type and everything that falls between (the place is literally bursting at the seems with inspirational talent). As well as all this communal spirit, Nate sports a mighty back-catalogue of his own works; a fanciful world of Lions, Space Rockets and signature Hand-Drawn Lettering (Characters in themselves). If you mention his name to any switched-on, young and aspiring illustrator (myself included), you are likely to be met with excited, breathless sentences describing just how ace and inspiring this guy really is.

           I caught up with Nate this week and managed to ask him five questions I thought would be of use to one and all.

1. Would you say there's any recurrent imagery within your work, if so, why do you return to this thematically?

There have been various reoccurring conceptual themes in my work, which I can break down into three main sections.

Firstly, "Be aware of News/Entertainment". I stopped believing the news a long time ago, but when the World Trade Organisation Protests came to Seattle it crystallised how biased the news was, I experienced the "chaos" first hand which to be honest really wasn't very chaotic (I have seen more havoc at sporting events). But the news made it look like the city was burning down when the trouble was contained in a very small area, the situation was completely over-exaggerated. I had friends calling me from all over the country worried about my safety because of what they saw on the news. So one theme in my artwork was being aware of your influences, for example; ' Run for you life here comes Democracy', and 'We don't need another anti Hero'.

           Secondly, "Love and Optimism" (a theme I am still working in). The news can make our world feel small, but when you turn off the TV, go outside, travel and socialise with people you realise how beautiful the world is. I think generally the human nature is loving.
This theme has inspired me to create works such as 'Beautiful Life'.

           The last theme is "Nurture your Subconscious". After working at an advertising agency, I was hired by Microsoft as a web designer and eventually became an Art Director, marketing high-tech video games and managing the art direction for Xbox.com. Everything was 3D rendered and highly polished. All our marketing efforts were extremely strategic. In that kind of hyper-corporate environment, where ROI (return on investment) is king, finding a way to measure a campaign’s success is extremely important. We ran usability tests, held focus groups, reviewed eye tracking studies, analysed statistics, tracked youth macro/micro trends, and much more. It was all very interesting. But still, I felt we put far too much emphasis on things that were easy to measure, and not enough on things that were less calculable or more intuitive—things that live on the subconscious level.
           In response to this deliberate environment, I launched my own zine. ' Hola Amiga' was about doing exactly what I wanted, for some or absolutely no concrete reason at all. It was about not having to explain why I did what I chose to do. It was about nurturing and exploring the subconscious realm in a very low tech way, which eventually grew into the 'Hola Amiga Product Line'. I decided to take it a step further and not only apply this approach to my art, but also to my life. I chose to make a huge change in my life and invest in the less tangible things like learning a language, living in another country, learning about history and nature, and most of all, just having the free time to experience, think, wonder, and discover.

2. It's clear that you have a specific passion for handmade lettering / type, where does this originate? 

              There are two main reasons I would attribute to my love of handmade type. Firstly, hand-rendering gives a word and a tone, it tells the viewer how to interpret it on a subliminal level. Like a horror movie with music for example; if you didn’t have the creepy soundtrack when someone walked into the basement … it wouldn’t be scary!
              Secondly, when I was a child I had a learning disability, when I would try to read a book my eyes would jump all over the page; this forced me to see letters as forms/objects rather than the words they represented.

3. Who is your greatest visual inspiration?

That is extremely hard to say and I can't really credit one person, but here is a list;

- punk flyers in Berkley
- Mexican wood cut art
- Japanese food packaging
- Marisol Escobar
- Picasso

4. Describe an average working day?

             My average working day involves waking up and hanging out with my son until I take him to school. Then I'll grab a coffee with a friend or brainstorm on ideas at a park, and create sketches outside. When I go home I'll answer emails and do the things I need a computer for. Later I'll go to the gym or for a run, take my dog out for a walk, eat lunch, then pick up my son from school. I'll try and do something fun with him like going to the park, for a bike ride, make some art, play with his toys, read, watch a movie etc. Then its back to work for a while, followed by dinner with my girlfriend or a friend and walking my dog. In the late evening I usually surf the web, watch TV, or read. 

5. Do you have any advice for young and aspiring Illustrators? 

Yes, here are some articles I wrote for young and aspiring illustrators which make useful reading.
Illustration Career Advice
Does an illustrator need a "style"?
A methodology for creating new ideas

(These essays are extremely useful and I can DEFINITELY recommend)

All I have left to say is once more a massive thankyou to Nate for being so sporting and making the first (of hopefully many) Visual Journal Interviews a great success. I wish him all the best of luck in the future.
To discover more of Nate's fabulous and diverse works and projects, please explore the following links.
Hola Amiga
Alexander Blue
Illustration Mundo
Letter Playground

'Via Little Kingdoms Visual Journal' 

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