I first caught wind of Natalie M Wood’s design work as part of an exhibition at Twenty Twenty Two in Manchester last year named Before I Could Draw, at which artists were asked to replicate an image they’d created during their childhood. Her style – clean but with an abstract edge, particularly when creating images of people – has attracted the attention of international magazines, including Public Finance and Computer Arts, for which she has contributed editorial illustrations during evenings and weekends, while by day she works as an illustrator and animator at the Stockport creative agency Fuzzy Duck.

What initially drew you to graphic design?
As a child I was constantly drawing. Anything creative that I could do, I’d do it. I remember having a massive bag filled with pens, crayons, cardboard tubes, egg boxes. It was like a Blue Peter presenter’s dream bag. My primary school books, which I still have, were filled with colourful pictures that I’d decorated the pages with, so I suppose it has stemmed from there.

Early bird to catch the worm or burning the midnight oil? When do you find is the best time to work on your art?
A bit of both. I do find that I get more done late at night and regularly find myself working until the early hours of the morning. If a deadline is looming though I will burn the candle at both ends, so to speak, and get up early to continue. I find that I get my best ideas late at night though. I recently heard that the reason this happens is because the part of your mind that pushes for perfection is suppressed at night and lets the more crazy ideas run free.

Do you prefer working from design briefs or with a blank slate to fill with your own ideas?
I definitely prefer working from a brief. Sometimes sitting and looking at a blank piece of paper and thinking up something to draw can be daunting. I’ve always been a perfectionist and am my own worst enemy when it comes to making mistakes. I’ve always hated having sketchbooks as any mistakes are there forever, unless you tear them out. I prefer to work on scrap pieces of paper, so there is no requirement for what I’m drawing to look good initially, then I can just keep the best of a bad lot when I’m done.

Have design technological updates changed the way you work?
Definitely. There was a time at college when the photocopier was my best friend. It was a fantastic way of composing pieces from found imagery – enlarging things to ten times the size they’re meant to be and using them in a more abstract way. Now I mainly use a Wacom tablet to produce my final pieces, which is a great piece of equipment that I find bridges the gap between computer and pen.

Which other artists or art forms inspire you?
I’m influenced by a lot of different styles, with the main runners being Charley Harper, Shepherd Fairey, David Weidman and Jim Flora. I love 1950s graphics, anything that came out of the 1980s and Pop Art. I spend a lot of time visiting art galleries and various exhibitions, gathering inspiration anywhere I can. Also I have a real passion for children’s book illustration and this is an area that I’d really like to explore at some point.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on an editorial piece about confidence within teams. The topics I usually work with are business-related and it’s my job to liven up the piece with an interesting image to draw the reader into the text. I’ve also been working on a personal project which is a series of posters based around popular 80s movies, which I really need to continue with.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?
Don’t get disheartened and keep at it! Whilst trying to get my first break in freelance it seemed like an endless task to keep sending out postcards featuring my work and hammering art directors of magazines with my work in the hope of getting my first freelance job. It paid off in the end though and it’s a very rewarding thing to finally receive a copy of your work in print. I keep all the magazines that my work is in, as there’s nothing nicer than having a physical keepsake of the work you created.

timebomb

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nataliemwood.co.uk

Ian Pennington