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How it started vs. How it’s going: Ryan Gilks, BA Illustration

Have you ever looked at an artist’s work and thought that they must have always been that good and sure of what they’re doing? It’s easy to look at a piece of creative and not understand the development that leads up to the finished product. How it started vs. How it’s going aims to highlight what goes on in the background of each creative project, as well as comparing the artist’s personal growth over time. In this episode we speak to BA (Hons) Illustration student Ryan Gilks, and compare his practice from Year One to Year Three. Ryan tells us all about his practice, and getting inspiration from pop culture.

How it started: Ryan’s work when starting at NUA

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What got you into illustration?

It was actually my college tutor throughout my Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art & Design. She had a personal connection with all of us, as my class was fairly small.

When we started to focus on applying to university, she gave everyone a solid suggestion of what courses they would thrive in. 

Having studied illustration at university herself, she saw the potential in my practice to flourish and develop my own voice.

How would you describe your practice, then and now?

Back then, my style was quite chaotic and lacked context and focus. I knew that I liked drawing people, but other than that I couldn’t imagine how I could develop or improve or have commercial appeal.

I cringe looking back now to how I described my work as ‘edgy’ and ‘alternative’. However, I feel I have matured as a creative, and naturally so has my practice.

Studying at NUA developed my understanding of commercial illustration practice from working on industry-focused projects. The tutors and resources opened my mind to the expansive illustration field.

My practice now is largely working digitally, which I used to heavily avoid especially in first year of study. It show’s how quick things can change!

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Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration is drawn from all different elements of visual and popular culture. I’m also really interested in the relationship between people and technology and distorted reality through symbols and hyperreality. 

I collect inspiration constantly through saving Instagram posts, creating Pinterest vision boards and amassing a library of creative magazines.

Music heavily inspires and influences my practice some of my favourite artists include Blood Orange, KAYTRANADA, Mura Masa, Gorillaz and The Drums.

Some of my favourite creatives are Dayna Murphy, Alice Bloomfield, Callum Abbott, Braulio Amado, Genie Espinosa and Kris Andrew Small.

What do you love about illustration?

That there are so many ways to approach a brief. 

You can pick and choose the method and process to create work, and kind of just pick up the rest as you go along.

How it’s going: Ryan’s work now

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How has studying at NUA helped develop your practice?

I can listen and take on constructive feedback and really apply it to my projects to push them further. It’s a solid skill I’ve picked up and has helped me build a level of resilience, which is vital working in a creative field. 

What have you learned about yourself as an illustrator since studying here?

That my approach to the creative process remains quite chaotic and not as organised as I’d like, but this actually doesn’t matter. It works for me.

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And what about your practice?

My practice has completely transformed since studying. Creative people are always evolving.

All that matters is you enjoy the work you create and have the desire to play and experiment.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing a creative subject?

Completely ignore voices of the less supportive around you!

Discover BA (Hons) Illustration