Natalie Nehlawi // Alumni Q&A
What have you been up to since graduating from the program?
Since graduating from Sheridan Illustration I’ve got my hands into many different creative projects including design, editorial illustration, working on a National Monument ( Canadian National Holocaust Memorial), large scale murals, heritage restoration (Canadian Parliament of Canada), and working with new clients and brands I’ve been honoured to collaborate with. Aside from art I’ve been keeping my inspiration alive through travel and experiencing different culture. Traveling through Central America last winter/ spring was one of my travel highlights where I kept a travel journal with paintings, and notes from my experiences. I am very fortunate to have had a solid three years filled with a variety of work experience that has helped me discover what I love to do as an artist and where my skills are strongest. I look forward to see what the next few years has in store for me as I will continue to seek new opportunities in public and commercial art.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
There are two main typical work days for me, the business day, and the art day.
The Business Day
As much as I would love to say that everyday consists of creating art, it isn’t. A huge side of making an income off my art is the business side of it. At least half my time is spent networking, reaching out to people I’ve meet at art events or in coffee shops and elevators, reaching out to business organizations that I have a genuine interest in learning more about, and responding to people who reach out to me. I have a genuine interest in connecting with people who see my work and like it enough to send me a message. I love to hear about what draws them to my work the most ( topic, visual, both), and I love to get to know them as a person.
The Art Day
When I am creating my work, whether it is a new illustration for a magazine or a mural concept, I really tunnel vision in on my projects. I will work for days at my desk researching topics of interest, brainstorming, sketching, and finally creating the work itself. I keep open communications going with my clients, I am not afraid to ask questions I really try to get a grasp of what they need when the projects are specific. Sometimes the projects have full freedom which is exciting but just as challenging.
When I am executing my murals, I tend to work long days painting my murals on site. When I was in Calgary painting my Bee Together Mural I worked for three straight weeks everyday on my mural. I really enjoy this part of my work. It’s fun to cover large surfaces with colour and get to know community members who walk by and introduce themselves.
What stands out in your mind as a highlight of your time here at Sheridan?
Looking back at my time at Sheridan, one of my most notable highlights to my education was being surrounded by passionate artist who pushed and inspired me to be a better artist everyday. I will never forget the late nights in the labs, we never wanted to leave. The wide variety of mediums and computer programs we were exposed to combined with the high level skill of my peers who challenged me to deliver nothing but my best for each assignment. I really think that this played a big part in developing not only my skills and creativity to be a professional artist, but it taught me that with enough drive, dedication and patience you can achieve your goals. Being taught by industry professionals who were passionate about what they do also played a huge roll in my excitement about the program throughout the four years.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to pursue an education and career in illustration?
In terms of the Illustration program itself, I strongly recommend participating in as many of the program workshops offered to you throughout your time in the program. In my last year of Illustration we were offered a 4th year extra curricular workshop where we would learn the process of painting and applying for murals. Only five of us did it, I was never really curious about murals but I have FOMO so I participated. Little did I know that this was the spark of a whole new interest of mine — public art. It has now been three years since graduation, and my interest in murals/public art has only expanded.
My advice for careers — always have the confidence to know you can do anything you put your mind to, but the motivation to always push yourself to be better. One of the beautiful things about art is that you can always improve. Art is innovative and it’s most exciting to viewers when you are excited about the work you are creating.