Hello Nick, for once I would like to start from the beginning of your story as an illustrator, and follow all the steps that you have taken so far. Would you like to tell us who you were and what you were thinking the day after you ended the Pratt Institute?
As soon as I graduated, my mission was to work for my design hero, Louise Fili. So I immediately signed up for her lettering workshop in Rome. Though it took two or three failed attempts for me to get hired by her, it eventually happened a few years afterwards.
How did you manage to start your Freelance career? Have you massively emailed all the mailboxes of the best editors or have you been contacted for your beautiful portfolio?
The Rome workshop really helped jumpstart my career. Not only did I meet Louise there, but I also got to spend time with lots of other designers and letterers from around the world. Those relationships have been incredibly rewarding, both personally and professionally. Aside from that, being active on Instagram and doing personal projects has also been very beneficial to find work. I’m grateful to be able to say I never had to cold-call or mass email anyone in those early days.
How were the first steps in the editorial world? How did you handled the tight times of the commissioned jobs?
Before working at Louise Fili Ltd, I was an in-house book cover designer at Penguin, so I became very familiar with the publishing industry. As far as tight deadlines, I ask for more time whenever possible and, if the deadline remains too tight, and if I can afford to, I often don’t take the job.
Which do you think is your most challenging commissioned job so far, I mean, the one tested you the most?
Every job is challenging for me, but creating book covers during the 1.5 years I worked at Penguin was one of the toughest design challenges. Book covers require you to think metaphorically, something I’m very bad at, and communicate complex ideas in a meaningful, profound, and eye-catching way. They have to be intriguing and true to the author’s voice. They also have to rely on certain stylistic conventions that can instantly give the viewer an idea of what the book is about without being cliché, too oblique, or too obvious. My time at Penguin was incredibly formative, but I’m still terrified every time I get commissioned to create a book cover.
And here is the “Fauxsaics” series, before understanding the technical aspect, I must say that it’s a genius idea, these images speak for themselves, simply the perfect illustration for any city on the planet. Super. Now could you please tell us how did you come with this idea?
The old typographic mosaics that grace stations, hotel entryways, and old storefronts in Europe and beyond have always been fascinating to me, but it wasn’t until after I started working for Louise Fili—and especially working on her two latest sign books, Graphique de la Rue and Gràfica de les Rambles—that I began to truly appreciate them. During this time, I the pleasure of looking at photographs of gorgeous mosaics every day. I spent many hours digitally restoring these images to prepare them for inclusion in these books and often had to recreate missing or obscured areas. I created the first fauxsaic on a whim, for an Instagram contest held by Typism, though the technique had been developing naturally for months prior without my realizing it. Mosaics seem like the perfect convergence of three of my major interests—typography, interior design, and decorative arts—which is why I think they have such a hold on me.
Give us some technical info, how do you start and what is the process to complete each single Fauxsaic?
I use Adobe llustrator to plan my design and prepare it for the grouting phase. This is where I establish the tile size and shape as well as the different tiling patterns I plan on using. The “grouting” happens by hand, with the aid of my iPad Pro—though my very first fauxsaic used only pen and ink. Afterwards, every tile is individually colored in Photoshop. I stay in Photoshop and finish the piece by adding one or two textures and some subtle lighting. Achieving that realism starts at the individual tile level: they each have to be created with a sensitivity to the methodology used to cut tiles in real life. For example, smooth curved lines are difficult to create when cutting stone with a tile cutter, so most tiles in real mosaics tend to have squared off sides even if they are on a curved line. When combining several tiles, their flow and pattern must be consistent with classical technique. The biggest challenge, however, is probably resisting the temptation of overdoing it in Photoshop by adding unnecessary effects.
For this series, which I believe is an ongoing concept, do you continue to receive requests for new cities, or is it more a personal project and you choose your next destination?
I always choose which city I want to do next. I don’t usually take requests because I only one to work on cities that I’ve experienced myself—this helps me design each piece. I like to incorporate details from the city in every fauxsaic I create.
Tell me some about of your artistic references, would you be able to mention 3 modern illustrators who you think have influenced your work?
I try not to look at modern lettering artists too much, since I find it really difficult not to get too influenced. That said, I can say with certainty that my former boss Louise Fili has had a profound impact on my work. Jordan Metcalf and Erik Marinovich are both amazing letterers and their work is a big part of the reason why I became interested in lettering in the first place. But also Kelly Thorn, John Passafiume, Spencer Charles, Alex Trochut, Chad Michael, Scott Biersack… There are really too many amazing people to name.
And talking about your contemporaries, who do you think is doing something really extraordinary nowadays?
Andrei Robu’s work never ceases to amaze me. He’s been doing a moving poster series lately that is very inspiring.
Little truth game, tell me the thing you love the most about your job, and the one you hate.
I love being able to dive back in time with my work and references—while also challenging myself to bring this historical visual language into this century. I hate the homogenization, the need for external validation, the competition, and relentless marketing often caused by and practiced in social media.
Now you have 30sec to explain how this odious thing could be changed forever. Spit it out.
I suppose I could change it forever at least for me by removing myself from it, though I think I would miss the good things that come with participation in social media: a sense of community, a platform to share work and themes that are important for me, and, of course, the commissions that come from it. As much as I often wish I could just be an artist in the 1850s, without all the modern distractions, social media as well as the internet as a whole, have helped me and lots of other designers tremendously.
Nowadays a lot of illustrators bring their designs on the streets, painting on a large scale and joining the super hype street art movement. Have you ever thought about it? Is this something you would like to accomplish?
I have certainly thought about it and I think it’s something I would definitely enjoy experimenting with. I’ve never created work at such a large scale, it sounds like a fascinating challenge.
Here we go, Proust Questionnaire:
Your favorite virtue?
Your main fault?
Your idea of happiness?
Doing fulfilling work, feeling a sense of connection to friends, family, and community, and being surrounded by beauty.
If not yourself, who would you be?
An archeologist, or maybe a ballet dancer (both things I wanted to do at some point in my life)
How you wish to die?
What is your present state of mind?