A new book and a new studio space

I’m ending off my 2015 with a new book and a new studio! How exciting?


My first hard cover book illustration project has just been published in December 2015 and is available for purchase, Waarom Kameelperd se nek so lank is en ander dierestories. You can find it at Graffiti bookstore, or order it straight from the publisher: lidav@lapa.co.za in the meantime.


Photo credit: of http://www.fullcircle.co.za

This book is filled with 25 stories of South African animals and is written by the talented author Wendy Maartens.

I really enjoyed being able to extend my style into animal illustration; you can see some of my process from pencil to colouring below. It’s rather detailed.


My challenge in this book was to condense each story into one main image. Usually, in other books I work on the text and images in a sequence of imagery, which plays out over a series. So this pushed me to tell a story through a single picture, which I’m quite happy about.


My husband and I have also moved into a stunning new home and I have set up a new studio. I am really happy to be able to have a new space to create in, with the added luxury of more space.


I hope your festive season brings you lots of joy and thank you for reading, see you in 2016!




Playing with patterns

I have been busy sticking my fingers into all sorts of different creative pies.

Earlier this year I briefly touched on my exploration into the world of surface pattern design.


Since then, I started seeing patterns EVERYWHERE! If you look around you, it’s on bags, curtains, stationary and all sorts of things. This has inspired me because I am such a lover for detail. So experimenting, as I like to do, I’ve created my own wrapping paper (I’m still working on collections).


I actually ran out of wrapping paper the other day, for a gift I needed to wrap and then I remembered I make my own. So silly and so obvious! It was really cute to see a gift wrapped in my own giftwrap.


I also finally had one of my patterns printed onto a roll of fabric and have ideas for products I want to make. I can’t wait to see the final result. This is my fur child Gustav Klimt Nathanson sitting on my newly printed project 🙂

There are some amazing surface pattern designers out there and lots of different styles, you can find all sorts of inspiration on Pinterest and blogs like Print and Pattern. Someone I admire is Helen Dardik. I really enjoy her work. She uses these quirky characters and has a distinctive style, using colour palettes that are refreshingly unique.


Photo credit: http://www.oneluckyhelen.com/pattern/pattern_1_8.html

For any of you who are interested in learning how to make your own patterns, here is a cool skillshare link and tips on making your own patterns: https://www.skillshare.com/classes/design/Illustrating-Patterns-Creating-Hand-Drawn-Wallpaper/112402133/classroom/discussions

Let’s see where this pattern journey goes~


Unleashing your Creativity, the idea of keeping a visual journal

Visual journaling is such a great tool of thought documentation for creative types and a means of transportation for visual people to access their own minds and ideas. I personally have been intimidated at the habit of visual journaling because I like to make fully formed and beautiful imagery. I am my own worst critic!


In reality, my sketchbooks are really a mess filled with scribbles and words. So when I think about condensing this information, it’s really such a personal process, which I believe everyone can approach in his or her own special way.


Some strange sketches from my sketchbook.

That’s the point I think, it’s about finding a way that works for you as a visual creative person, to be able to store your thoughts in a visual way, while experimenting with techniques, narratives, characters and all of the limitless possibilities in your mind. Even if you aren’t a creative person, this is an awesome way to get in touch with that part of yourself.


Creativity is a muscle, just like any other part in your body and you can grow it. I actually use a lot of words and scribbles in between pictures to put my ideas to paper. Every now and then when I need a new idea, I’ll go back to my books and all of these connections are stimulated in my brain again. It’s a fun way to just sort stuff out in your head and get things out.

I have big beautiful books, little ugly ones that I can keep in my handbag which are coffee stained and curling up at the edges, some have pictures, some have words…the point is they are all meaningful and nobody has to see them, so it’s all about you.

If you’d like to try doing this, buy a blank book, get some new stationary so you can feel inspired and try some of these projects to start, have fun with them and do it in your own time, play nice music, light a fragrant candle and enjoy yourself while you experiment:


Photo courtesy of http://sarasketches2013.tumblr.com/post/39668209906/and-so-we-begin

Yay go and draw this week!


The Secret is Out.

Yay! I am so excited to be able to share my art with the world in a more tangible way. The super fun little book I illustrated earlier this year, is published and it’s out on the shelves. Die geheime bestanddeel in Petra Pienk se piesangbrood. Written by one of South Africa’s most popular children’s book authors Fanie Viljoen. It was a really fun book to work on, I just love when the hardcopies come out and you can feel the actual book in your hand.

I created about 5 different Petra characters, before finding her face. She started off a bit ugly and I just pushed through the ugly stage, she manifested herself like magic. I always go from pencil to scanning and colouring my images digitally with a wacom. I’m over the moon happy that my natural style is growing so nicely. The more work you create, the thicker your natural style becomes.

niccinathanson0 niccinathanson1My studio space is also starting to grow bigger and bigger and I’m looking forward to my new studio space at the end of the year. I’ve developed this habit when I’m in the thick of illustrating a book, I stick all my images onto the walls for inspiration, I like to see where I’m at in the process. Sometimes it feels like I’m in an actual storybook.
niccinathanson5If you’d like to get a copy of one of these books (it will cost about R95) you can order it straight from Lapa Publishers. Email lidav@lapa.co.za  ISBN 978-0-7993-7403-2

It’s cute. I promise.


Swanbloom Scarf


Pretty patterns, pops of colour, soft fabrics and quirky illustrated products really give me a creative boost. I think surface pattern design is just a super way for illustrators to expand their talent into a whole new market, on special items which people can use and love. I recently started experimenting with pattern and entered my first one into a Tigerprint competition to create a floral print for Marks and Spencer for a pattern that could be used on items like wrapping paper.

I was happy to be shortlisted into the finals out of 1400 entries from around the world. I then turned my pattern into a scarf and I’ll share a bit of my process with you.

moodboardnicciThe brief was to create a floral pattern design for women and to use colour trends for Spring 2016. Florals are really popular because they never go out of fashion and can be interpreted in lots of different ways. I started finding inspiration by creating a mood board, which incorporated my swan illustration (I’ve been a bit swan obsessed this year.) I then combined photos from my travels and did a bit of colour research as to what is popular next year. This all turned into an inspiration collage.


I started with my florals and I decided to bring my quirky swans into the design because they are fun and it turned my floral pattern into a conversational piece. Following this, I created a swatch which could be repeated.


I re-interpreted the swatch to fit onto a scarf and was really happy when the end product arrived in the post this week, all the way from New York. It’s printed on silk and I find it wonderful to be able to touch my art on a real scarf. I can’t wait to make more! *~nicci_scarf3

Hyper Lush Zipper Pouch

This weekend I experimented with a Hyper Lush theme for a zipper pouch bag, you know those cute and handy little things you keep all your secret girly things in? It was quite fun and I really love this style, which has a lot of overlapping and bright pops of colour.


Hyper Lush is actually based on the fashion trend of mirroring digital photographic prints, often of florals. I started with inspiration from these proteas which I overlapped and created floral elements from.


I created this fun little birdy character wearing glasses “can’t see no haters when I’m wearing my love glasses” and I am inspired by narwhals lately which are just super cool little whale unicorns. I developed elements from my drawings which are then digitally coloured with my wacom.


After mixing, overlapping all these elements, mirroring them and colouring these little babies, my design came together. Voila! Super cute and Super Lush.


Turkish Delight – A Paisley Plate Collection

This week I worked on a pretty project, where I designed and illustrated a collection of four plates with a paisley theme, which work as a collective but can also be sold separately. I have GREAT memories of paisley’s from high school when I was absorbed in my “hippie” years (free-spirit is the term I associate with this chapter of my life I think).


My first step when I start with a new project is to find inspiration in something. I have this beautiful paisley jacket, which I have had for 12 years. I bought it from an antique market and I got it for next to nothing, it was a real treasure to find. So I really love the muted pinks in this jacket and of course the paisley’s. The second item is my favourite deodorant. I ❤ Vanilla from Lentheric’s Kaleidoscope range and I just love how the bright fun colours pop against the subtle background of the product.


After finding this visual inspiration, I then I go on to my sketching phase and draw lots of different elements. I choose my colour palette and after that everything slowly starts coming together. Then it all gets scanned in and the magic happens in my computer.

nicci_drawing While working on plates I found something to compliment them. COOKIES. I need to make these gorgeous paisley cookies which I found on cookie connection by Fernwood cookie. The orange and turquoise just called out my name.Fall - Abstract Paisley - Fernwood Cookieimage credit: http://cookieconnection.juliausher.com/clip/abstract-paisley

Be your own creative cheerleader.


I believe that creativity NEEDS to be expressed, even if you can’t draw. If you are pulled to having your voice heard in a visual way, you need to do it. That means making the time to do personal work. Sometimes living a creative life is HARD and you need a lot of internal motivation. I like to stick up inspiring things around my art desk to keep me motivated and feeling good so I came up with this little manifesto during a MATS bootcamp with Lilla Rogers.


I made this sweet cactus illustration this week too. Just to provide some inspiration and be a colourful vitamin for myself and all the great people in my life who support me. Good music and standing up to do a little dance every now and then is a good way to get those creative beans jamming for work. We are all made to be wonderful. Now go make something.

Retro kitchen Bolt fabric design, Can Cat’s eat Chilli?

Nicci_Nathanson_pyrex&peppers_5A_WK-1.This weekend I’ve been working on a bolt fabric swatch for a vintage kitchen theme. The brief was to create a fabric inspired by Pyrex corning and Peppers. I seriously love peppers (It’s my portuguese side) and Pyrex is just super nostalgic cool, I even found inspiration from a bowl that my mother had while we were living in the Freestate and it had this beautiful 1970’s orange flower design on it.

PyrexImage credit to intovintage.com.au

Coming from my retail background, I know red sells really well for kitchen themes as it is a classic and it’s a different colour to what I naturally choose. So I started looking for colour palette inspiration and found this book, The Paper Pieced Home. I pulled some colour inspiration from the cover to use as my colour palette as I feel it fits the vintage theme. nicci0 I made myself some chilli tea from Woolworths, brought out the chilly peppers…played some Red Hot Chilli peppers to get into the mood of course and started drawing lots of different icons. This little cat just kept jumping into my images so I let him stay. nicci2 I took my favourite elements and turned it into this pattern, with  some smaller co-ordinates on the sides. I think it would make  a cute KIDS kitchen fabric. Or a cute fabric for big girls like me who like playing in the kitchen! These colours really do remind me of something from my childhood.  image-3