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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Christopher Nielsen: Over the Top and Down Under

Interview, Illustration

Written by Alice Watson

Christopher Nielsen, I’m happy to say, has it made. Based in Sunny Sydney where he lives, works and plays from an old warehouse studio with other extremely talented illustrators and artists as well as his beloved wife, son and pet cat, Nielsen’s work has been adopted and exhibited in a wide range of publications and settings, from zoos and wineries to chronicles and annuals.

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Not only does Picture Pig, the collective which Nielsen is affiliated with, go from strength to strength, but his own work has been given the thumbs up by notable bodies such as The Society of Illustrators New York, Communication Arts, The Australian and New Zealand Illustration Awards and Luerzer’s Archive.

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In order to keep his approach fresh and innovative Nielsen ensures he works and collaborates with an assortment of clients, keeping his contacts global and maintaining a presence as teacher, lecturer and exhibitor with his feet firmly on the ground. When you have folk such as TIME magazine, Waitrose Food Illustrated and PlanSponsor after you, things must be on the up.

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From looking at the cheerfully coloured animated images Nielsen produces it is easy to decipher that he draws his inspiration from vintage advertising, retro design and old fashioned signage. What might not be immediately apparent is that he is also a sucker for Mexican art, Japanese prints, Russian space travel and the Wild West.

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Music of the folk country blues genre, he is keen to point out, is another big passion, his personal taste including Gram Parsons, Hank Williams, Gene Clark and Neil Young. When he isn’t busy creating illustrated masterpieces he plays with his band the Ramalamas, who on top of having a darn radical name are actually musically brilliant. Enjoy the following Q&A with the man himself.

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So, Christopher, what makes you so awesome?
My Phantom Ring.

Which artists or illustrators do you most admire?
All the dudes at Picture Pig, Jeffrey Fisher, Calef Brown, Christian Northeast, Brian Cronin, Nate Williams, Gary Taxali…

Who or what is your nemesis?
Nobody, I’m very congenial.

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If you could time travel back or forward to any era, where would you go?
I’d go back to the fifties like Marty McFly and fill up my santa bag with lots of design goodies.

Which band past or present would provide the soundtrack to your life?
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass- Spanish Flea.

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I say Modern Art is Rubbish, you say…?
Like Jonathan Richman says “Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole”.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
I’d be the Artful Dodger, Guvna!

What would your pub quiz specialist subject be?
The Westcoast Psychedelic Underground 1967-68.

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What advice would you give up and coming artists?
Keep the shower curtain on the inside of the bathtub.

Who would your top five dream dinner guests be? Who would do the washing up?
I hear if Paul McCartney comes to dinner he wash’s up but I’d prefer John Lennon.
Lennon, Dylan, Pablo, Antonioni and maybe a hottie like Bettie Page.

What piece of modern technology can you not live without?
Swizzle stick.

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What is your guilty pleasure?
Mexican Flags. That’s tequila, tabasco and lime juice.

Tell us something about Christopher Nielsen that we didn’t know already.
I have an “In-ny”.

When did you first realise you were creative?
1978.

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How long does it usually take you to create pieces?
One day for roughs and one day for the final art.

Where do you imagine yourself to be in 10 years time?
Hopefully still doing this but getting paid more to do it from some exotic locale.

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Sydney, you sure are one lucky city.

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