An Interview with Illustrator and Graphic Designer Nicole Gustafsson of Nimasprout
I was excited to have the opportunity to interview Nicole Gustafsson, the fantastically talented illustrator behind Nimasprout. Nicole creates drawings, gouache paintings and prints that depict tiny and complex universes filled with imagination. Trained as a graphic designer, Nicole is currently working as a full time artist, part time framer and free lance designer. I first met Nicole through an artist residency program, and then started noticing her work all over in galleries, at friends’ houses, local shops and craft fairs. She has a great following for her work both online and in her local community, and I talked with her about how she’s been able to navigate between graphic design and fine art, the web and local customers and galleries.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started creating drawings, paintings and prints?
My name is Nicole and I am an illustrator/designer working in Lincoln, Nebraska. I grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska and my interest in art and drawing was apparent from a very young age. My childhood was a mixture of running around the neighborhood with my friends and then hanging out in my room and drawing. My family was always very supportive with encouraging my artwork, and my school would enter my work in art contests. It was very exciting to see people’s reaction to my artwork, and it helped me to gain confidence to pursue art as a living.
Beautiful Journey, Gouache & Ink on Wood, 2011 – Commission for the group Nature Explore, whose goal is to provide comprehensive resources to help young children connect more deeply with the world around them.
2. How do you balance your creative energy with the business side of selling and promoting your work?
I wake up in the morning and focus on checking my emails, Etsy, and blog right away. That way if there are questions, orders, and messages I can answer them right away and get back to the customer. Then, when that’s all done, I work on one of my paintings or any graphic design projects I have.
Nicole’s home studio in Lincoln, Nebraska
3. What have been the biggest obstacles for you while trying to make a living selling your art?
I think the main challenges for any artist are time and finances. Time to do what you love, and spending time with loved ones. Making sure that I have enough money to pay the bills, fund my projects, and get some groceries is always on the back of my mind. I have a part time job in the afternoons at a frame shop to help support my income. I love having a set job schedule to go to in the afternoon and it gets me out of the house (I have some hermit like tendencies) I like to see what projects people are bringing in to have framed and working at the frame shop is another way I can create with my hands.
Commissioned illustration set with poster and tin for the Nebraska Book Company, 2008
4. One of the things I admire about you is the great support you have for your work in the local community. What advice do you have for those looking to grow and maintain a following both on and off the web?
My advice would be to talk to the customers you do have. This may be meeting them at an art reception or answering emails. I think word of mouth is some of the best free advertising an artist can have. For example, friends may be visiting at someone’s house and see my work, then they could go online, or to a local gallery to see more of my work. Listen to what you customers like about your work, a lot of times people want a companion piece to add to their collection. Art is a great way to connect to people and make longtime friends in the process too.
5. What are three great ways you’ve found to promote your work and interact with potential customers?
The best way I have found to promote my work is through the Internet. I started a blog when I was in college, and more recently I started a Facebook fanpage and Twitter account. Blogging has been really great for tracking my work and events in my life. I like looking back a year ago and remembering what I did and where I was. Twitter and Facebook have been really beneficial to connecting with others, where as people may be shy to post on my blog. When I update twitter or post new projects to Facebook, minutes later I can have comments and reactions to my work. I have found it very supportive and encouraging.
6. You make prints, paintings, drawings and now adorable T-shirts as well. In addition to diversifying your artistic practice, do you find these help make your work accessible to those with different budgets who would love to own your work?
I began making illustrated cards, and t-shirt designs to have something available at a lower price point in my Etsy store and have more seasonal items to sell at holiday shows or craft fairs. It definitely helps to make my work more accessible and I like that my work may then appeal to a broader audience. Even though cards and shirts may have a lower price point, it is still very important to me to pick high quality materials and printers for items.
7. You are involved in some awesome fundraisers for charities right now. Tell us a little bit about the charities and how other artists and shoppers can help.
Two of the major fundraisers I did this year was Desert Bus for Hope and Art Blocks for Ghana. Desert Bus for Hope raises money for Childs Play who provides games, books, and toys for children in hospitals. They raise money in a few ways, the main and original way they did this is by a playing the game Desert Bus, non-stop, for several days straight and live-streaming it on the internet, during that time items can be auctioned off while they play the game. Originally the auctions consisted mostly of geek swag, t-shirts, posters, etc, but in recent years the biggest items were pieces of artwork and crafts that were inspired by video games and geek culture. I donated two pieces (inspired by Legend of Zelda and Mario Brothers) and had incredible responses from the video game community.
The latest charity I was involved in is Art Blocks for Ghana. They are auctioning off original works of art created by top artists within the animation and illustration community to provide boarding and education for orphaned children in Ghana, West Africa. This has been very rewarding to be included with a great group of artists. They also had two exhibits, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, for people to view the works in person and I gained exposure to a wider audience that way.
I usually get ten or so requests a year for charity art donations, and of those I try to pick two or three charities a year to participate in that I really believe in. As an artist it is important to do your research on charities, because otherwise your work could go for way below it’s value and then it doesn’t help the fundraiser and undervalues your hard work. Desert Bus and Art Blocks for Ghana are fundraisers that I know will directly impact the lives of others and I can meet other artists and groups. These two charities are also great because they update the artists exactly how their donation was used to help reach their goals.
I highly recommend reading more about Nicole’s studio practice through her wonderfully written blog, and taking a look at her beautiful artwork and graphic design on her websites and at craft fairs and galleries throughout the MidWest. Thank you Nicole for sharing your work with us!