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Q&A with Nicolas Burrows

Artist, designer, illustrator & musician

My name is Nicolas, i’m an artist, designer, illustrator and musician from Lancashire, living and working in London. I am a member of Nous Vous, a group of artists & friends collaborating since 2007 across illustration, print design, animation, art direction & publishing.

How did you get started in design & illustration, what is your background?

I always liked drawing and was quite good at art in school/college. Me and my friend Dan would spend hours when we were kids drawing Spiderman and Sonic the Hedgehog, and designing our own football kits. I studied graphic design at university, and met Will and Jay (from Nous Vous) whilst studying. I started illustrating professionally in my third year, and worked on design projects with the other guys. We got a few commissions doing record sleeve designs early on, and had a few exhibitions, published some books, we were trying to create our own environment and pursue our own way of working. I didn’t have the balls to study fine art as I thought graphic design was a safer bet, although I spend most of my time now trying to be an artist.

Where did you study? Looking back, would you recommend your path for beginners in design/illustration?

I studied at the University of Leeds. To be honest the course I took wasn’t very good, but I met the people I work with today, so I suppose I wouldn’t recommend that particular course. I’d say do your research (I didn’t) and make sure you do the course that feels right, even if you have to apply for financial aid or have to put it off a year. But also know that it’s probably 50% the course and 50% how much you’re motivated/interested and the people around you. Be visible, involve other people, put on events, exhibitions, make things!

What is a turning point in your professional career?

It’s hard to put my finger on a turning point - there’s not been any great moment where things are suddenly different. Earlier this year we did a residency (at Facebook) in California which felt like the firs time we’d really been treated as artists, so that may turn out to be significant, who knows…

What is your ideal work environment? Do you work at studio all day long or prefer to mix a few activities?

My ideal work environment varies depending on what i’m doing. If i’m working on collaborative projects, illustration or design I like to be in the studio with Jay and Will. If i’m working on my own artwork I prefer to be alone. Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of having both options, so i’m usually in the studio all day long, although I do teach 1-2 days per week which gets me out.

The studio space is fairly light, we have desk space for drawing and computer space for designing. There is a bit of printmaking equipment, a pottery wheel and a kiln, some power tools. It’s a space we can be both messy and clean in.

Where are your favorite places in London or outside?

In the city (London) I like to go swimming at Parliament Hill Lido. Outside the city it’s nice on the Kent coast, and i’m form the Northwest so I love going to the Lake District whenever I get the chance.

Who are the designers and illustrators, colleagues you admire most?

Rob Lowe (Supermundane), Luke Best, Nick White, Laura Carlin, George Mellor (Sister Arrow), Hugh Frost (Landfill Editions), Hannah Waldron, Espen Friberg, Yokoland, Jim Stoten, Geoff McFetridge, Bruce Usher, Dante Carlos, John Klassen, Sergio Membrillas, Jan Kruse, James Langdon, Peter Nencini, Marcus Oakley, David O’Reilly…