Artist Profile: Nathan Nankervis

Illustrator Nathan Nankervis makes freelance look easy. I could tell from the whiteboard covered in jobs and sticky note calendar covering the wall that it's far from, but when someone is as naturally talented as Nathan, they look like they're doing anything with ease. Graduating from Swinburne with honors only a few years ago, Nathan is already well into an illustrious career that would give any university student hope. His client list is impressive, his fun spirit and good attitude is contagious and his work speaks a maturity beyond his years. Getting to photograph his space and learn more about him was the best way to break a long hiatus from interviews on the OJS blog. 

Nathan talks about approaching illustration from a graphic design background, early press in K-Zone and shares a playlist that spans from Anderson Paak. to 2001 P. Diddy and back to Earth, Wind & Fire.


Hi Nathan! Thank you for being part of an artist profile with On Jackson Street. Can you start by introducing yourself – telling us a little about what you do and where you’re based?

Thanks for having me! I'm Nathan :-) I'm a graphic artist, digital illustrator and designer. I've always been a little confused with my title but I think those three are the best way to describe what I do. I like to have fun and smile, laugh and put googly eyes on things.

I'm based in Melbourne—Box Hill to be specific (my favourite place in the world). I usually work from my home studio, but I was recently granted a scholarship with Magic Johnston, which is a creative shared space in Collingwood. So I switch between the two studio's depending on how I'm feeling. 

What is your earliest memory of creating?

I don't have the best memory, but I do remember I use to enter K-zone drawing/colouring competitions almost weekly when I was little. Actually the first place my work was published was a K-Zone magazine. 8 year old Nathan was making moves. 

Going back even further, when I was about 3 or 4 I remember having meltdowns when mum tried to dress me simply because I wanted to dress myself. I'd cause a ruckus, kicking and screaming, throwing my clothes across the room. Mum soon gave up and I dressed myself from then on. I like to think the 'creative control' I had early on played a massive part in shaping my style. Thanks mum.

In the past few years, you've built a prolific portfolio of work; running a successful design practice that focuses on integrating your illustrative style through both personal and corporate projects. It's incredible to see your distinct style applied to so many scenarios and clients, but what would you say is your ideal job to be working on? How does the commercial world balance with your more self-driven initiations?

Thank you :-) My absolute dream job would be to design a toy. I'm a grown ass kid. I still get really excited over toys. I'll make sure I have my own toy before I stop breathing. I also have this overwhelming urge to create a big colourful sculpture and stick it amongst the sad colour palette of Melbourne's concrete jungle.

My self-driven projects are starting to balance out with my commercial projects for the first time ever. To the point that they're taking over, which is very new to me. I like commercial projects because of the confinements of a brief, it forces me to think laterally and find new ways to push boundaries. Self-initiated projects are the exact opposite, I can do whatever I like, which is not always a good thing. I find them a lot harder to complete because I don't have a client to say "yup, that’s it! I'm happy". I have to be my own client and I'm a lot harder to please. Often my personal projects are off-shoots of my commercial ones. Ideas that got cut down or discarded by a client or taken in a different direction than I envisioned. I find myself resonating towards these personal projects more so than just making one up for the sake of it. With that being said, the more I explore my own projects the more it sparks new ones. I'm still very new to this illustration game, coming from a strict graphic design background, clients and end users were always front of mind. I saw myself as a tool to create some else's dream. I decided to pursue illustration to live out my own dream. As I've slowly transitioned, I've had to reteach myself new ways of approaching my craft. Strategically forgetting ingrained design traits when necessary. Self-initiated projects have and still play a huge part in my transition and are crucial in bringing Nathan out in my work.

What are some things that consistently influence your work?

My childhood influences my work a lot. My fondest memories are as a child. No worries, no problems, just lots of fun and smiles. I recycle the happy times in my work, and my childhood happens to have a lot of them. I like to laugh and joke around and not take things too seriously. I think my work is a pretty good representation of myself and my personality. 

Detail your ideal/favourite day.

It would start with a sleep-in of course. I'd remain dressed head to toe in snug attire for the duration of the day, some sort of looney tunes garment would grace my shoulder blades.

My confidants would bless me with their presence—a prerequisite to any good day. Practical jokes and ramblings of utter nonsense would be in abundance. Hoops would be half-heartedly shot. Delicious food inhaled. Life's issues, which we know little about, would be passionately debated. Implausible and outlandish scenarios would be presented and over analysed in fullest of depth. Tempers would flare over Playstation duels which would escalate into a board game Royale. A true and honourable battle of wit. Taunting, cheating and under the table dealings would decide the victor. Excessive boasting would make losers sore. Laughs shared over a post-game meal would rebuild burnt bridges. And whatever else the crew wants to do I'm down. 

I love that your studio and surroundings always seem to be such a graphic amalgamation of you and your work. What are some of your favourite things in your space?

Why thank you. When I was about 9 I entered a competition on the back of a violet crumble wrapper. It was my Mums wrapper. I don't eat violet crumbles.  Violet crumbles. Violet crumbles. Violet crumbles. Violet crumbles sound funny with an 's'.

I can't remember what the competition question was exactly but it was one of those "in 25 words or less..." kind of things. Turns out I won. Prepubescent Nathan was like half leprechaun. Never really seemed to lose a competition. Not too sure if leprechauns win a lot of competitions but I figured they're Irish so they're pretty lucky. They're also magical. Anyway, guess what the prize was? A giant. Illuminated. Spider-man bust. 

Who gives out giant illuminated busts these days. No one does that anymore. The 90's were just a better time to be alive. How can I not love my childhood? 

What are the main themes you're trying to portray through your work?

I know I sound like a broken record but definitely positivity, optimism, energy, life, fun, humour :-)

Anything exciting coming up in the future that we should keep an eye out for? 

Let me see, I recently finished up a super fun shopping centre food court adventure map! Filled with yummy food characters and all. I collaborated with an industrial design studio—ISM objects, on a lighting installation. It's pretty much a big ball of fun. I've also completed my first solo exhibition which I'm dying to show the world, but still need to decide on a few things and hopefully get financial backing. I'm working on an alphabet AND I may or may not be collaborating with one of Melbourne's coolest restaurants on a little something soon, so stay tuned.

Lastly, what would be on your ultimate playlist for a day in the studio?

No fair. That's way too hard. You can't make me choose! I'm listening to music from the second I wake up to the minute I shut my eyes so my playlist would be a billion songs long. Usually my days start off with some loud ignorant rap music to get the blood pumping, it will slowly transition into some soulful hip hop and most likely end my day with some calming jazz/soul or celebratory groovy disco beats, that's if I've been productive.

It would take me years to create an ultimate playlist but I can list some songs that got bumped in the studio today :-)

My day was productive :-)

Find more of Nathan's work here and here. Artwork supplied by artist, photographs taken by Tatanja Ross (On Jackson Street).

Guest Blogger: Tiarne Katona

I'm quite taken with the thought and care that goes into Japanese packaging design.  Following a month long trip that I took earlier this year, I'm thrilled to share a series of photographs showcasing my collected goodies. I found that everything from ice cream cone wrappers to flavoured syrups from a coffee shop and jam packets had tiny details that made me smile.

All of the items pictured have little stories attached to how I found them. One of my favourites is the bottle cap with the happy bear face - It came off a used bottle that had been left behind on the train and was far too sweet to leave behind. It's very unusual in Japan for rubbish to be left anywhere so I think it was meant to be!

The strawberry milk can came from a vending machine on top of a mountain and was uncomfortably stuffed into my ski parka for an entire day. Most definitely worth the bulging pocket. 

The cute-as-pie tea packets are from Karel Capek, a tea shop that I struggled to find as it had relocated several times. A group of extremely kind high school girls helped me find it and walked me to the shop front. Small acts of kindness like that (which happened a lot because I got lost a lot) make a lot of the items very special.

It's difficult to walk out of a Japanese supermarket or convenience store and not feel jolly. Partly because of the extra lovely people and especially since a good majority of the food packaging inside smiles back at you. 

Photographs and words supplied by Tiarne Katona, as part of an inaugural contributor post with On Jackson Street.  Tiarne is photographer and stylist, who specialises in food photography. More of her work can be found here and on Instagram. Keep an eye out for future guest bloggers in 2016 and get in touch if you have a story / photo series or thought you'd like to share.

Photographs and words supplied by Tiarne Katona, as part of an inaugural contributor post with On Jackson Street.  Tiarne is photographer and stylist, who specialises in food photography. More of her work can be found here and on Instagram.

Keep an eye out for future guest bloggers in 2016 and get in touch if you have a story / photo series or thought you'd like to share.

On Jackson Street turns ONE!

Life has been so busy that I missed the first birthday of On Jackson Street last month, but I’m making up for it with these nice illustrations by Oliver Page-Dutton to celebrate.

OJS started on the 24th of January 2015, and the past year has been pretty momentous. It was hard to anticipate how the year would pan out, starting a small business on my own, off the back of networking I’d done during my degree. It was audacious, and very daunting, but I’m proud of the jobs I’ve taken on, quality of my work and connections I’ve made in the past year. Always room for improvement, but validity in the pride I feel when I finish a job. OJS is run by one person – it’s just me who goes to all of my jobs, meetings and events, who responds to your emails and Instagram comments, and I’m very proud of that. Doing it alone means I can control every aspect of my business, but it also means I’m constantly improving and expanding my skills. Thank you to everyone who has given me a chance, for your patience and advice. My business may be run by just myself, but it’s powered by all the nice people and clients who take such good care of me. Thank you. I truly couldn’t have done it without you.

1st birthday illustrations for On Jackson Street, created lovingly by my partner, Oliver.

1st birthday illustrations for On Jackson Street, created lovingly by my partner, Oliver.

Little Life Update in IG Photos: 2

I’ve tried to write this paragraph at least ten times, but truly all that needs to be said is that 2015 has been unbelievably surprising. I find myself surrounded by lots of new faces (and some familiar ones, thank you for sticking around, you’re the best), lots of new challenges and work hurdles, new portfolio pieces and new clients, less money, more comfort, less structure, but a lot more happiness. I could definitely talk at lengths about the mixed bag of emotions this year has brought, but instead, let me debrief a little through some of the Instagram updates I’ve posted over the past few months.

I hope you’ve all been well, and that your year has also been pleasantly surprising (captions are top-bottom, left-right).

  1. I was lucky enough to do cover to cover illustrations for Finsbury Green’s 50th edition of Look magazine. I’ll do a complete post about this job before the end of the year, but this photo was taken on the day my personalised copy arrived in the mail and I was beyond chuffed.
  2. Some of my typography inside Look. I’ve enjoyed developing my handwriting to suit my illustrative style throughout the year, and finally feel like I have a good grasp on my style which I can apply to both personal and commercial jobs.
  3. My name and portrait on the back of Look. A big thank you to everyone involved in both acquiring and facilitating this job from start to finish. I feel very lucky to have worked on such a momentous project for my first ever illustration job. My copy of this magazine lives on my studio desk and has become an emblem of proof that I should persevere anytime I want to throw in the towel.
  4. Forever celebrating clever pals. My friend Ffive and Martina Martian exhibited together at Rooftop Art Space in September.
  5. Inspiring body positive artist Frances Cannon, in front of some of her works at her Paper Queens exhibition last month.
  6. A portrait of me that sits on the wall in my studio, by one of my favourite artists Ben Sea.
  7. One of my best friends finished her degree and I was one of many who went down to see their graduation show and celebrate. Well done Lizzi Morris! Very proud of you, and the beautiful portfolio of works you have achieved this year.
  8. A moment of important introspection as the year draws to a close.
    “This time last year, I had just finished my bachelor. I was coming off the back of a big graduation exhibition, enjoying the summer and spending my days in the sun with friends. I was about to turn 21, about to embark on an ambitious journey to start my own small business, and waiting for my mum to relocate so that I could be at home again. I was content, warm and excited for the future. I wouldn’t have ever anticipated the year I’ve had, but I’m taking a moment to appreciate how unbelievable the last 12 months have been. Thank you to everyone who has given me time, good energy and support through a sometimes turbulent time. I’m doing my best, and I’m proud of myself for that.”
  9. A work in progress shot of an illustration job. Quick and relatively simple, but probably one of the most satisfying and happy jobs of 2015. They eventually made up a header of a newsletter, for a local school in my hometown.
  10. Working in the studio surrounded by lots of chaos and lollies and photos and artwork and very nice feelings.
  11. Another big illustration job complete – and this time printed large scale for a display suite wall in Heidelberg. This was one of five lifestyle illustrations, that went into a brochure for a new apartment development. They featured a range of terrifying subjects outside my comfort zone, which I eventually had to bite the bullet and draw (full bodies and buildings!) I spent a little bit of time panicking and a lot of time working hard to get these done to a standard that myself and the client would be proud of. A very hearty tick off my creative bucket list.
  12. A detail shot of another illustration from the apartment series. A cheeky pair walking their dog next to the river. I’ll do a full post of this job soon too.

This year certainly hasn’t come without it’s challenges, I’ve spent as much time stress crying as I have celebrating my achievements. Freelancing is not a glamorous lifestyle, but with the inconsistencies and awkward emails and long hours is little glimmers of pride. Someone recognises you at a gallery opening and tells you you’re doing a good job. You get an email offering you a job with one of your creative idols. A comment on an Instagram post telling you that you should be proud of your work, and you are. Take all the little wins, they are the things that make this ridiculous journey worthwhile.

Thank you to everyone who has made it count. You know who you are, I love you and I am forever thankful.

Artist Profile: Aaron Grech

Sometimes when I’m out in the world, going about my day, I’ll catch a glimpse of someone immersed in creating. Doodling in a field book on the train, taking a photograph in the middle of the street, scribbling notes on a scrap of paper. This is engrained making; when being creative is so innately habitual that you are consumed by it. I admire these people, I strive to be as liberated as they are. These are the people you look at and know that they must be wildly creative. This is what I see when I see Aaron, both in person and through his work. A mad creator who thinks in pink and blue visuals.

Aaron Grech is the young powerhouse behind Patch Squad (an artist collaborative patch label) and also does his own work under the pseudonym FFIVE. The medium of his work is interchangeable – ranging from postcard sized musings to large scale murals – but the colour palette and playfulness of his subjects remains the same. Personified fruit, cars, houses and stars; Aaron puts his recognisable brand on everything he touches. It is impressive to say the least.

I always feel very lucky when I can call an artist I admire, a friend, and getting to know Aaron has not only fuelled my passion to make but has reminded me of how humble and human artists are. I’m stoked to feature and share his work for my seventh On Jackson Street artist profile. Sit down, gaze at his beautiful work and read about his suburban Australian influences, the logic behind his teen hotmail address and the best artist profile playlist shared yet.

Photo by Michael Souvanthalisith

Photo by Michael Souvanthalisith

Hi Aaron! Thank you for being part of an artist profile with On Jackson Street. Can you start by introducing yourself – telling us a little about what you do and where you’re based?

Hi : – ) My name is Aaron and I draw pictures of things with faces on them, mostly. I currently live with my girlfriend out in the south eastern ‘burbs of Melbourne (on the Mornington Peninsula), but most of my Big Boy art squad are in Melbourne so I’m kind of stretched between two annoyingly distant places.

What is your earliest memory of creating?

My earliest memory of creating is probably when I was a toddler, watching my brother drawing cars on a stand-up chalkboard, and then trying to draw cars as well as he did. My Dad was a car nut and so my brother was too. I was a sleepy kid and didn’t like loud cars racing around tracks, but I was pretty keen on drawing them for a vast period of my early life.

I like that your work is never restricted to one outcome. In my eyes, what sets apart an artists’ portfolio from modest to prolific is the ability to swap seamlessly between mediums without disrupting their vision. This way you are always growing and expanding. Whats your favourite medium and scale to create in?

Thank you. I like to pride myself on always trying new mediums; it’s good and bad. I get obsessed with finding new mediums and then insulting the traditional method by doing everything my way – as naively as possible I guess. That’s probably why everything has the same flavour. The reason it can be bad is that I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. It sounds dumb even suggesting that I know a lot of ‘trades’, but to be honest I have briefly tried a lot of things. While most people I know spent their late-teens and twenties partying and socialising, I was probably at home trying to make a circular backpack out of orange PVC or embroidering dumb pics. Heck, my girlfriend’s at a party right now and I didn’t go because I have art to make. SUE ME.

What are some things that consistently influence your work?

My biggest influence is probably home and all that suburban Australia shit. As a kid I was on the fringe of Mambo’s hayday – so Reg Mombassa is probably someone who’s art I really got inspired from. Probably just that really naive, loose, caricature style, heaps of dry humour, a lot of pensiveness. Garfield as well. I was introduced to the concept of depression by an overweight cat – isn’t the world beautiful? I also wanted to be a cartoonist for a lot of my childhood. I’ve always kept that cartoony theme through my work – I couldn’t shake it if I tried.

My work has kind of gone full circle. As a kid I was pretty free and drew just whatever I wanted or I thought was cool, like cars and peace signs and marijuana leaves (I was obsessed with the 60s as an 11 year old, before I had any idea what drugs were, or what ‘free love’ meant… but that didn’t stop me drawing those things all over my sketch book and making my email ‘‘). Then I got into highschool and everyone made me feel like an idiot and I kind of burrowed in and went a bit crazy. Now I’ve said a sweet fuck-you to education and I’m slowly regaining that childish shitkicker attitude that made me such a hit with the ladies back in grade 5 (I’m lying I only smooched a few people… I wasn’t that skinny). I don’t really like going outside and talking to people I don’t know and all that – so my influences don’t really feature doing LSD on a contiki tour with 10 people from 10 different countries – but I try my best to be inspired.

In terms of what inspires me RIGHT NOW – I’m listening to a Northern Soul compilation called ‘Stand in For Love – 16 Sad Moments in the Cool Kent World’, I’m looking at my studio wall with all my friend’s artwork and a Beach Boys lyric that I printed off and put on pink fluro paper that says ‘Don’t worry baby, everything will turn out alright’.

What is your experience with forging your own path as a young creative? What are some obstacles you’ve encountered along the way and how you work on overcoming them?

Well I don’t know… On one hand I feel like I’ve done a lot of ‘hard yards’ in terms of going it alone and not relying on the amazing tertiary education ‘golden ticket’ that everyone keeps harping on about – but at the same time, I’ve just been me and flailed around for the world to see. Somehow it’s got me typing out answers to questions like I’m actually somethin’ special. I’m definitely yet to have major obstacles (I think?) I’ve definitely made LOTS of mistakes in my creative pursuits – but due to the fact that I’ve rarely done things for people other than myself, it’s hard to say. My biggest obstacle is myself and it’s a daily battle.

Detail your ideal/favourite day.

Usually the best days are the ones I don’t expect to be good. I had a pretty great day last week – I went to the beach with my friends – we all are obsessed with each other I think. There was lots of filming and photo taking and laughing at each other. My ideal day… probably making art that I’m happy with in some capacity, and also hanging out with friends. Art and friends. That makes a good day.

What are some things helping you to create at the moment?

Music, definitely. Getting good results also helps me a lot, which actually sucks, because if I can’t seem to get anything right then it’s a bit hard. I’d love to mention an amazing book or some kind of poetry but to be honest I’m on the tail-end of a massive creative block and some damned result is what I need to stay afloat. Seeing my friends make some really cool art helps push me as well.

Best advice anyone ever gave you?

I was told by a really lovely teacher that I can’t do anything that feels disingenuous – which is why I’m more of an artist than a designer. That stuck with me.

Good things coming up in the future that you’re stoked about?

I have an exhibition coming up next Monday with Sydney artist MartinaMartian at Rooftop Artspace! Martina hit me up when she came down to Melbourne a few months ago and then set up this exhibition so that’s really cool. I made a giant embroidered patch with a car smashing through a wall which will be on display which I’m stoked about.

Me and my friends are also planning on this big group show early next year which could either be the biggest disaster of all our careers or the best thing Melbourne has seen since the FCUK billboard near the Westgate bridge.

Can you share ffive songs that would summarise your quintessential day creating?

At the moment:
When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) – The Beach Boys
IT G MA (remix featuring all those hard motherfuckers like ASAP FERG and Waka) – Keith Ape
Neptune Estate – King Krule
Grindin’ – Lil Wayne (with Drake – the 6 G O D)
Wet Vision – U ROY

If you listen to those songs in succession you will be me.

Photo by Michael Souvanthalisith

Photo by Michael Souvanthalisith