We were very excited when we were recently given the opportunity to interview Dublin based Illustrator Denise Nestor. As an artist whom we’ve admired for quite some time, we knew she would be the perfect fit for our magazine and what it stands for. With a main focus on portrait illustrations, her work carries underlying themes of animal symbolism, memory, and loss, while enchanting us with pops of cotton candy and pastel colours.
Please tell us a bit about how it all began; when did you first develop an interest in illustration?
I was one of those kids who was always drawing from a young age. It’s just been something that I’ve never let go of and it’s grown and developed along with me over the years. It’s been a very natural progression for me. I studied Graphic Design in college and went on to work as a designer, I never expected that I’d be in a position to make a career out of my drawing. I began to take illustration more seriously after I joined an Illustration Collective with some friends here in Dublin. It really helped to get my work out there and helped to get me motivated about it.
You’ve created a portrait for the New York Times. Please tell us a bit about this experience!
That really was an experience and such an honour for me. It really felt like a turning point in my career. Getting your work published in the New York Times is such a great launch pad and it has led to more jobs on an international level for me purely based on the exposure it gave me. I collaborated with the illustrator Shout on the Winston Churchill portrait and even though we had three time zones to work with, New York, Dublin and Milan, it all ran surprisingly smoothly! I’ve worked with the New York Times since and it’s been such a pleasure every time.
What medium(s) do you most commonly work with, and are there any you wish to experiment with in the future?
I work mainly with pencil and sometimes I add colour with colouring pencil or vectors in Illustrator. I’m starting to experiment a little more with ways of introducing colour into my work. I’ve been trying out watercolour lately. I think it’s important to try different things and develop your style as you go along.
Your beautiful works often incorporates elements of animals and nature merged with human subjects. What draws you to create work like this, and are there any emotions or feelings you hope to transmit to your audience?
My interest in animals and nature began when I was a child. I grew up on a farm and spent my childhood outdoors. I’ve never really lost my interest in those things even though I live in the city now. I suppose that the merging of animals and humans in my work is a way of representing that connection I have to nature still. My Wreath series began as a tribute drawing for my dad who taught me so much about animals and nature as a child. Each animal and flower in “Wreath (for dad)‘ for example, is based on a specific memory I have of him. I really like the idea of preserving memories in a symbolic way and I find animal symbolism from mythology and folklore really interesting. There’s definitely a theme of memory and loss in my work, but it’s not always intended to be sad. I prefer to look at those pieces as a celebration of a memory or a tribute to someone’s memory.
What is the best piece of art advice you’ve ever received?
Make it your own. It’s simple advice but it’s really fundamental I think. If you can produce work that truly represents who you are and that you feel is unique to you, then that’s the most rewarding feeling.
The song on repeat at the moment.
‘Ivory Coast’ by Pure Bathing Culture.
You’ve had multiple published features as well as your work chosen for various book covers. What do you think has been your biggest or most memorable accomplishment thus far?
I think it would have to be having my work published in the New York Times. That really changed things for me. I happened to be in New York when it was published and I got to go to the New York Times and collect the magazine in person. That’s something I’ll never forget!
What do you wish for your future?
I just want to be able to continue doing what I do. I’ll never take for granted the fact that I get paid for doing what I love.