Our latest Featured Artist is the brilliant Nichola McCall, 30, who’s based in Cumbria. Nichola creates fantastically detailed pencil drawings with a lifelike quality that we think you’ll love.
How did you get started as an artist?
I started drawing in 2016 when my 8 year old dughter asked me to draw Elsa from Frozen. We sat down together, just as a bit of fun, and it turned out much better than I expected. I actually really enjoyed doing it and carried on drawing more characters for her. That quickly moved on to me trying animals and other subjects. I really wanted to try colour so I bought myself a set of Prismacolor pencils and that was me hooked.
What inspires you to be creative?
I am fascinated by photorealistic drawings. I discovered Heather Rooney on Youtube and her work just blows me away. I would say she is my main inspiration. I follow a lot of artists on Instagram and I love seeing the progress that people can make in just a few years when they have the determination to do it, so that always inspires me to better my own work.
When I look at my work now compared to 3 years ago there is a massive improvement, so I cant wait to see my progress in another 3 years’ time.
How would you describe your creative process?
I really enjoy a challenge. I don’t have any particular ‘field’ as such, I just see an image I love and think “I need to draw that. Can I draw that?”. I think that is the most exciting aspect for me. I always wonder if I’ll be able to pull it off and when I do it’s very satisfying.
What’s your favourite medium to work in and why?
I love working with Prismacolor pencils. They layer and blend so easily. I love the texture of them and find they work effortlessly on most types of paper. I also really like the effect of watercolour paint and want to give that a go sometime soon.
How do you tackle a blank canvas?
I study my reference image several times before I start a new piece. I try to visualise how I’m going to do it and I always make a colour chart of all the pencils I think I’ll need to match the reference image as closely as possible before I begin. This saves a lot of time and makes things much easier.
What do you find the most challenging about the creative process?
This has definitely got to be finding the time and being in the right frame of mind. My youngest child is only 17 months old so I have no time to draw during the day. My only free time is in the evening and after running around after a toddler all day, sitting down at 8pm and expecting a high level of concentration is not always possible.
I used to get frustrated by this but I’ve realised it really helps me with not rushing a piece. If I’m in the right frame of mind then sitting down and doing an hour or so little and often means I give it my full attention and don’t feel the need to rush.
In which ways do you differentiate your work from that of other creatives?
I try not to compare my work to other artists. I spent a lot of time watching tutorials and although in some ways they’ve really helped me, I also quickly realised that what works for one might not work for somebody else. I have developed my own techniques that work for me so I always see my work as unique.
What are your most essential tools?
A mechanical pencil for the outline. Prismacolor pencils for the colour. If I’m working on white paper I always opt for Bristol board – I love how smooth it is and how easily the pencils blend. For toned paper I really like Strathmore toned tan or toned grey. I also use a battery powered eraser and a white POSCA pen for any highlights.
What’s your studio/workspace like?
I have a large desk in my dining room. I use a daylight lamp since most of my drawing is done in the evening. My laptop is always beside me with my reference image open. I always sit down to a completely tidy desk and aim to keep it that way – an hour later there’s 40 pencils scattered around all over the place. I would love to have a separate room in the house one day to create my own space just for drawing.
Do you have a favourite art tip that you can share with our readers?
I think the most important thing is not to rush. If you feel like you’re getting fed up then take a break. My worst time for rushing was when I was nearing the end of a drawing and I just wanted to get it finished. I learned the hard way by ruining two pieces because of that. I’ve never done it since.
Even if I have only 10 minutes left until I’ve finished, if I feel like I’m rushing I will force myself to walk away and come back to it later.