Colortime with Nick Stokes—sketchXchange

My happiness as a human being is wholly dependent on making things. It’s the best way to hold my fragile ego together. Also, I’m not good at much else.
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Written by Morgan Braaten, Photos by Rowan  Bradley

WeMake was excited to welcome illustrator and art director Nick Stokes for our second sketchXchange of 2018. His talk was moderated by friend, coworker and poet extraordinaire, Becca Wadlinger.

Nick’s playful work was a great indication of what the night would hold - there were plenty of stories and laughs, all with a clever, intentional edge. Topics included everything from his early doodling days to directing his first Super Bowl commercial for Wieden+Kennedy (and being pranked fantastically while doing so).

We also had the chance to ask Nick a few questions of our own, which resulted in the perfect combination of inspiration, process and Kanye poetry. Check out his answers below:

MB Your style is so playful and full of color. Was that a natural approach for you, or did it develop over time?

NS My disposition overall is pretty upbeat and positive. I think my work is naturally an extension of that.  Bright and bold colors have always been something I’ve been attracted to, and it’s been a shorthand for communicating fun and playfulness. I’m sure a huge part of it comes from watching so many cartoons as a kid where everything is bold and colorful.

MB How has incorporating animated elements into your work changed your process?

NS I like to think of animation as another tool in the drawing toolbox. If an idea works better as an illustration I’ll keep it an illustration, but sometimes the story is better told through an animation. It’s been really great experience adding animation to my workflow thought. There is something I like about tediously drawing frame after frame in an animation that's so mundane, tranquil and therapeutic.

 Also, animation adds some cool production value and wow factor to the work.

MB You’ve worked with some amazing clients. Can you tell us a little bit about a favorite project that you’ve worked on? What made it special?

NS Yeah I have been very lucky so far. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it may be IGN, the video game and pop culture website. They found my work a couple of years ago through a personal project my good friend Eric Swanson and I created called 'What Ye is it?'. It was a website that featured a new Kanye West looping animation for everyday of the week. They found that project and asked if I could create a similar series of animations for their social media channels. They gave me free reign to create whatever animations I wanted based on my favorite TV shows, movies, video games and pop culture moments. The nerd inside of me couldn’t have been more excited.

MB On the flip side of that - if you were given the opportunity to work for anyone on anything, what would it be and why?

NS Oh man. My bucket list is a long one. I think on the short term I would love to design a beer can or a series of cans. I have ideas I’ve been bouncing around in my head for the last few years that I’d love to get out. I would love to work with the publishing company Nobrow too. They put out such an amazing collection of work. It would be a blast to work with Nike or Adidas again. Both of those companies do such great work with illustrators. I would love to do an illustrated identity for a band, work in cartoons, design toys, direct music videos, design tattoos and do another another skateboard series. I mean the list is endless. I could sit here and add to this for days.

MB What or who do you find yourself drawing inspiration from recently?

NS Recently I’ve been really into French illustration. Folks like Moebius, Hergé, Jean Jullien, and Je Andre. There’s a really cool style the French use called ligne claire that uses fine black outlines and bold eye catching color palettes. I love how clean and crisp it is.

 I’ve also been really into 1980s New York city. There was an awesome grime and grit to it that had so much character and charm. All the hand painted storefront signs, garbage, graffiti, steam from sewer grates, and traffic add so much life to the city. It’s been a big inspiration in several of my personal projects.

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MB You seem to be constantly creating. Have you ever experienced burnout, and if so, how do you overcome it? What do you do to prevent it?

NS I get burnout from advertising work for sure. The industry is really intense with crazy timelines and that can be a total drag. It helps that I have my own personal work. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced burn out from that. Drawing is my favorite thing to do. It's how I charge my batteries.

MB Can you please write us a short poem about Kanye?

Kanye West you are the best.

Aladdin had a purple vest.

Had I three wishes from a magical genie,

I'd use all three to see your weenie.

jk

MB Why do you make?

NS My happiness as a human being is wholly dependent on making things. It’s the best way to hold my fragile ego together. Also, I’m not good at much else.

 

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Supporting the IPRC with $12,000 donation

Print is not dead and storytelling is a vital element of creative expression.
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During the month of love, we are so excited to announce WeMake’s $12,000 donation to the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a Portland non-profit providing invaluable resources and tool to our amazing maker community. Our donation builds on the generosity of many IPRC supports who have donated to a recent Kickstarter campaign to fund the organization’s move into a new space this summer.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be working with the fine folks at WeMake and to have them supporting our mission at the IPRC!"
-- Brian Tibbetts, Interim Executive Director Independent Publishing Resource Center

This is one of WeMake’s largest contributions in its seven-year history. Over the non-profit’s existence, we have donated about $95,000 raised through community design-in-action initiatives.

"We need organizations like IPRC to flourish and I am thrilled that WeMake can help to that happen. Congratulations on your twentieth anniversary, you are amazing!”
- Yvonne Perez Emerson, WeMake founder

None of this would be possible without the support of Portland’s maker community, artists and volunteers who have donated their time and talent at sketchXchanges, workshops and our WeMake Celebrates conference since 2012. 

This year, we will continue to support local arts education by donating all the proceeds from our 2018 events.

Thank you, everyone! 

About the IPRC
Now in its 20th year of operation the IPRC’s mission is to provide affordable access to self-publishing resources and outreach programs serving Portland’s marginalized communities including those experiencing incarceration and home-/houseless-ness; at-risk youth, vulnerable adults and LGBTQ community members.

 

26—A Lettering Show

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26 international, national and local letterers participate in a curated show presented by WeMake for the 2018 Portland Design Week. 

Thursday, April 19th in our headquarters at Tillamook Station

Each artist has been asked to used only three colors - black, metallic gold and WeMake orange -  to create a letter, a word or a phrase.  40 9x9 limited-edition prints, from each participating artist will be screen printed by Seizure Palace. Prints will be available for purchase with 100% of the proceeds going towards arts education. 

The event is part of WeMake’s Lettering Exploration celebrating Design Week. More on that soon!

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS

  1. Joseph Alessio, San Francisco
  2. Craig Black, UK
  3. Pies Brand, Portland
  4. Thomas Bradley, Portland
  5. Colt Bowden, McMinnville
  6. Mark Caneso, Austin
  7. Anna Drivis, Sweden
  8. Martina Flor, Berlin
  9. Tobias Hall, UK
  10. Josh Higgins, San Francisco
  11. Jessica Hische, San Francisco
  12. Dani Loureiro, Portland
  13. Shauna Lynn, Orlando
  14. Erik Marinovich, San Francisco
  15. Masgrimes, Portland
  16. Mary Kate McDevitt, Philadelphia
  17. Hope Meng, San Francisco
  18. Jordan Metcalf, Portland
  19. Nick Misani, New York City
  20. Gemma O’Brien, Australia
  21. Kkade Schwarzmaler, Switzerland
  22. Brett Stenson, Portland
  23. Maia Then, British Columbia
  24. Brian Patrick Todd, Louisville
  25. Travis Wheeler, Portland
  26. Zach Yarrington, Portland

RECAP—sXc with Eric Nyffeler

I guess I had accidently become an illustrator.
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Written by Morgan Braaten

Designer and illustrator Eric Nyffeler joined WeMake for our first sketchXchange of 2018. The walls were covered in a cascade of his colorfully textured music posters and illustrations, covering nearly every inch of white space there was to offer.  The moderator for the evening was Eric’s long-time friend and fellow Midwesterner, Brett Stenson.

Eric has built up an incredibly impressive and diverse portfolio of work for some of the world’s most exciting bands, brands and publications. While he had always had an interest in art, it was not something he ever planned on pursuing; originally, Eric was working towards a degree in music. By chance he ended up in a couple of entry level art and design courses. Something clicked, and soon-after he changed his majors to visual communication, design and print-making. However, still set on being a rock star, Eric viewed these courses as practical skills he could apply to his band as opposed to something he wanted to pursue as a career.

Eric took everything he learned in his design classes and tried to figure out how he could use them to take his band to the next level. He recalls approaching a senior in his design program and asking if he would teach him how to screen print so he could make flyers for an upcoming show. “And for some reason, he said yes,” Eric said.

Unfortunately, not everyone was so helpful. Eric recalls a professor telling him that the work he was enjoying the most wasn’t realistic for a career in design. “I had a professor tell me, ‘Graphic design isn’t about making posters for bands – it’s business cards and cereal boxes.’ But to be fair, I would design the s*#% out of a cereal box,” Eric said.

Despite the naysayers, Eric continued to pursue the kind of work he enjoyed most. He started off creating posters for his own band, until eventually a venue he was performing at began asking him to make posters for other performers as well. This led to him being asked directly by bands to work on tour posters and official merchandise. His client base expanded from there to include bands like Mogwai, The Black Keys, Gotye, Phish and many, many more.

Eventually, Eric expanded his work to include editorial illustrations. Usually, this transition would be a hard one; art directors are looking for illustrators who have already done editorial work, so getting a break at the beginning can be difficult. However, one of the posters Eric did for Andrew Bird caught the eye of an art director, who believed that his colorful, clever illustration style would translate well into the editorial world. This led to Eric’s first of many opportunities in the industry. “I guess I had accidently become an illustrator,” Nyffeler said.

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Since then, Eric has expanded his creative focus to include typography, icons and more. He recently started working with a guitar pedal company on pedal graphics, tradeshow booths and animations. “In a lot of way it makes sense that I’m working on little colorful boxes that people want to spend money on, because what are these but colorful boxes people want to spend money on?” He said, pointing to the wall of posters behind him.

The talk ended with an incredibly tough question – The Smiths or Nick Cave? The look on Eric’s face made it obvious that that was a painful decision to have to make, but Nick Cave came away with the victory. Morrissey is likely to write a very sad song about the loss.

Everyone who attended the talk walked away with an original 9x9”, 3 color screen print that was created specifically for WeMake. For 2018, each speaker will be coming up with a custom design that is only available at their respective sketchXchange.

WeMake couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the New Year. Eric is not only an incredibly inspiring creative, but also an interesting, humble and genuine guy. We can’t wait to see what he does next.

Photos by Rowan Bradley, See more here

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The handy work of Eric Nyffeler— our January sXc guest

Every single texture I use is something that I made myself by hand. I’ve never even played with any sort of brush or texture pack or whatever they’re called.
— Eric Nyffeler
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The art of local designer and illustrator Eric Nyffeler is unique in style and in process. His work is gritty (in a good way), textured, and colorful. With influences from mid-century design, the gig-poster era and the complexity of silk screened art, Eric has created a look that has garnered attention from an array of clients in the editorial world, the music industry, and beyond.

Please join us for our first sketchXchange of 2018

WHEN: Friday, January 5th, 2018
WHERE: 6-9pm at Tillamook Station
COST: $15—Includes a limited edition silk-screened poster


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Our photographer Rowan Bradley got an opportunity to visit Eric in his studio and I had a chance to ask him a few questions on process—check it out!

YPE Your work is layered with texture, and so representative of your style. Has it always been a key factor or something you have developed over time?

EN Texture and distress have always been an essential part of my work, pretty much from the first day of my first design class. I've never been able to fully explain why my brain responds so positively to it, but things never felt finished or complete to me until they had some wear and tear on them. Nothing feels better when building a composition or illustration, and then slowly working in the textures and distress—everything falls into place.

YPE How often do you create the textures in the computer verse by hand? If they are created by hand, do you have system/library of go to backgrounds and textures or do you create new ones each time?

EN Every single texture I use is something that I made myself by hand. I've never even played with any sort of brush or texture pack or whatever they're called. My process is definitely more time consuming, but I feel like the results speak for themselves and it’s worth the extra time and effort.

My main texturing process involves the usage of a couple of 20-30 year old copy machines, but I do have a handful of other texture tricks involving lacquer thinner, paint brushes, graphite, or any number of other dirt-ifying processes. While I have been slowly assembling an ever-growing library of my textures, patterns, and worn shapes that I use to expedite some steps or to fill out background areas, (if I have the time), I will always build the main/important areas with bespoke (lol, I've always wanted to use that word) textures.

YPE There is an underlining tone of playful mischief that runs through your work. Do you ever get resistance from clients or do they expect to see a trace of it in the work you do for them?

EN Thankfully I rarely have any pushback with my weirdness. At this point, it definitely seems like people seek me out for that exact reason and often ask me to push things even weirder. I guess it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise when clients are paying me to draw robots or candy-colored skulls, they're going to have some sense of humor!

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YPE What or who have been inspirations to you? 

EN The single biggest inspiration in my career and my work has been the friends and collaborators I’ve made in the gigposter/screenprinted poster scene, which can be directly traced back to the (sadly now defunct) Gigposters.com website. The sheer variety of techniques and styles and aesthetics and talents and personalities is truly jaw-dropping and it was guaranteed that I would learn something every single time I interacted or hung out with someone from that community. There is no motivation greater than being friends with people who are staggeringly more talented than yourself and kicking your own ass to try to keep up with them. Apart from that, I have found huge inspiration in a wide number of the classic mid-century designers, such as Herb Lubalin and Saul Bass, or Alain Grée and Charlie Harper.

YPE You work with so many colors when you’re setting up something to be silkscreened. Do you feel like you are pushing the limits to that process or are there ways you are challenging yourself to do so?

EN Compared to some of work that is being done in the poster world, my work is vastly less complex, that doesn't mean that I’m not still trying to push my own limits at making prints which are bolder, brighter and denser than anything I’ve previously made.

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YPE Who would you like to design for and why? 

EN My number one bucket list band to work with would be Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I think I could make something perfectly dark and pretty with just enough of a sarcastic wink to it. As far as editorial clients go, I could die a happy man if I ever had a chance to draw something for National Geographic. Some of my earliest ever memories are thumbing open the yellow cover and instantly being transported all over the world. Also, someone needs to hire me to draw some beer labels for them! Who wouldn't want to drink a beer with some psychedelic colored space castle on it?!

YPE Why do you make?

EN Is there really a choice? It’s the only thing I really know how to do!


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Eric has a client list that is long and impressive. He's worked with the likes of: AARP, Adweek, Airbnb, American Greetings, Austin City Limits/PBS, Bon Appétit Magazine, Bonnaroo, CBS Films, Earnest, ESPN, Facebook, Fast Company, Freehub Magazine, Hasbro, iHeartRadio, Mental Floss Magazine, Merge Records, Mondo, Nike, National Public Radio, Portland Art Museum, Target, University of North Carolina, The Washington Post, Whole Foods Market, Writer’s Chronicle

Andrew Bird, The Avett Brothers, The Black Keys, Dave Matthews Band, The Decemberists, Philip Glass, Gotye, The Head & The Heart, Iron & Wine, Mogwai, The Mountain Goats, Phish, The Roots, St. Vincent, Superchunk

And been featured in and or awarded by : Communication Arts, Print Magazine, IdN Magazine, Graphis, HOW Magazine, Society of Illustrators, American Illustration 35, Uppercase Magazine, DPI Magazine, Advanced Photoshop Magazine, The Fox is Black, Underconsideration, HOW, Design Work Life, FPO, Illustration Age, BLDGWLF, OMGPosters,: A Decade of Rock Art, Gig Posters: Volume 2, Playful Type 2, Rock Poster Art, Low Tech Print, Damn Good, Big Book of Green Design, 1000 Indie Rock Posters,  The Wall: Inside the Poster Studio, AIGA 365 Publication

We are thrilled to add Eric to our sketchXchange roster and can't wait to share the limited edition poster with attendees. Grab your spot now, space is limited.