Nikolas Ilic Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I was born in Orangeville Ontario which is a small city located outside of the greater Toronto Area. I have two sibling’s, one brother and one sister. Being the youngest in the family I looked up to my brother a lot while I was growing up as he was my main inspiration to take on art. Me and him would always draw from comics and even had ideas to create are own comics one day. As we grew up my brother took on art as more of hobby. However I didn’t , throughout high school I took Art class which made me realize that this was the career I would pursue.

Upon completion of high school I attended Sheridan College Art Fundamentals to improve my artistic abilities and to strengthen my portfolio. The following year I got accepted into Animation program offered at Sheridan College. I would say without those amazing four years of my life I would not be the artist I am today. I am now a recent graduate of Sheridan College and excited to pursue my goals!

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

The very first thing I do when I go about designing is to remember have fun doing it! That is half the work. If you are having fun with what you are doing it usually shows and comes easy. First things first, you should know what you are drawing, by that I mean get inside the character and figure them out, collect reference and get a visual idea inside your head. When I usually start a design I just think shape- no details.

When I am working digitally I tend to just make solid black silhouettes and shapes and imagine the character within those. Once I have a silhouette I am happy with I start putting in some details and carving parts out. Once I got a rough pass done I like to look at it again and play with it making things larger here and things shorter there , basically seeing where I can push the shapes and or contrast them. After that pass I usually end up with a design I move forward with.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

Right now I am currently freelancing so everyday is kind of different which I love. I like to be doing different things as I find it refreshing moving from one project to another. Spending to much time or focusing on one design you tend to be indecisive and over work it.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

Since I just graduated from Sheridan College I haven’t had the chance to work on anything to extraordinary. I recently completed some Children wall d├ęcor which there were two series of. One being sock monsters and the other being Vikings. It was neat working on this as it is something that was new to me besides your general type of animation design.

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

I find with the design work, when you come up with a design you absolutely love you think to yourself, this is my best design ever. The next day you look at it again, and say I could do better and that’s the most rewarding part of designing. Always push yourself to strive for better, I mean its great to be happy with your work no doubt but there is always room for improvement.

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

I just finished up some freelance work for JibJab Media which was designing and animating birthday e-cards. As of now I am working as a freelance character designer for Eddy Mayer Design. My job is to create characters and designs for a potential upcoming television pitch. Its interesting to do these different kinds of jobs and explore different styles. You learn new things with each one and it definitely makes you more versatile.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

Oh man there are to many. I would say Nicolas Marlet’s work is one of my all time favourites. His style is so unique and appealing. Robin Joseph is another artist who’s work is a lot of fun. Who else…. Deanna Marsigliese, Ben Balistreri , Shiyoon Kim, Pete Oswald, Chris Reccardi, Josh Parpan, Nate Wragg, Morrow, Chris Sasaki and Marie Thorhauge. The list goes on, there are so many talented artists out there.

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I generally just use Photoshop for coloring my designs. I usually start them all the same way. Where I block the design in with flat colors. Once I think I got color choices I am happy with then I switch to black and white and make sure the values are working. From there I make minor tweaks and continue rendering the piece to what the project calls for. I generally don’t like to over render things as it sometimes takes away from the design aesthetic. In terms of the tools I use, I just picked up a cintiq which is something every designer should consider as it speeds up your work process and quality and makes life that much easier for us artists.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

The most fun part about designing is definitely the initial drawings and exploratory stage where things are nice and rough. Its probably because you have less commitment to the drawings and its all about finding the character and what works best. The hardest part is just that…committing to the design, its hard to stop on a design to move forward with but that’s usually when the deadline factor comes in. If only there was more time.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

To keep creative I always use a sketchbook. It’s a place where anything goes and where you are free to explore and do what you want. I think the best thing to do to keep creative is drawing from life. I like to get a glimpse of somebody for a brief second and then just draw the impression I get from memory. The goal here isn’t to get a drawing that looks necessarily like the person but to get your creativity and imagination going. At least for me if I observe someone for to long I notice my drawing turns out boring and to technical with not so much character. Another thing I do to keep creative is to do quick simplified drawings of people, its a good way to practice shapes and simplicity.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

Off course I love some of the original cartoon designs I grew up with as a kid such as Tazmanian Devil, Looney Toons, and the Flintstones as they are allot of fun to watch and in terms of design. Right now I would say some of my favorite designs which I have seen are from cloudy with a chance of meatballs. The designs are super cartoony and pushed which I love. I think its also the fact that the characters personality fit the designs so well. Definitely looking forward to part two if it ever comes out.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

My favorite subject to draw are people! There are endless amounts of characters you can get from people. Every drawing has its own personality. In terms of designs I love drawing medieval/ barbaric characters, there is something that always intrigued me about them since I was a kid. Maybe it’s the outfits, or the manliness I don’t really know but its something I love to draw.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

My brother was my main inspiration to become an artist. He would always draw from comic books or from cartoons or video game covers and I always wanted to do it as well. Obviously being younger my artistic ability was not as strong as his so I guess its safe to say he pushed me to become better. Me wanting to draw as good as him. I remember we would do some collaborative work where he would do the drawing and I would do the coloring, things like that made it fun and inspired me to become an artist for sure.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

During my Co-op experience at Sheridan I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Colin Jack at Elliott Animation. Colin is a fantastic artist, and it was an amazing experience. I must say that those three months I learned so much. It was interesting to see my improvement at the end of it. Looking back at the drawing I did the first day and one near the end there was no doubt I definitely improved as an artist. That summer there was a lot of drawing, I learned a lot of the basic principals. From structure to pushing your designs to make them appealing. Another key thing I learned form Colin was simplicity, and how simplicity plays a huge part in designing. I am definitely grateful for his teachings.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Never give up! Getting to where you want to be is never easy. It takes lots of work and patience. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a break and take a fresh stab at it later. Like I said half of the work is enjoying it and it will show. When I was attending Sheridan I found a lot of artists compare to each other. I tended to stay away from that. I mean sure there are other amazing artists out there. The moment you start comparing yourself to others the more you set yourself back, my suggestion is stick to what you do and focus on yourself. That being said its good to get critiques from colleagues. It’s always good to get a fresh eye on your work. Lastly, I always here the question “How do you become a better artist? How do you draw like that?” My answer to that question is quite simple. It doesn’t happen over night, just keep on drawing and have fun with it! Practice makes perfect, soon enough you will see improvement without even noticing it.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

Feel free to shoot me an email at : or drop by my blog at

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

Unfortunately not right now, Hopefully one day I will come out with a sketchbook!

Nikolas Ilic Gallery