LEAH CLIFFORD (third eye contributor): Where do you find inspiration for your art? Are you usually inspired by objects around you, pop culture, or your personal experiences (or maybe a mix of all three)?
NICOLE ZARIDZE: My art is mainly based on personal experiences, feelings, what I watch on TV, and whatever else happens during my life. But, I also get a lot of inspiration from meme pages (not those basic meme pages that reuse the same jokes but those that post the oddest pictures you’d ever find on the internet) and also shit posts and aesthetically pleasing posts on Tumblr. Meme pages inspire a lot of my character designs, and the aesthetic posts on Tumblr inspire the compositions in my work. Soundcloud also helps me out since I find a lot of inspiration through song titles there. I also find inspiration hiding in thrift stores. Thrift stores always got the strangest ceramics and toys laying around on their shelves, and always got shirts with weird sayings on them, and I love that.
LC: What do you enjoy illustrating the most, particularly when it comes to comics?
NZ: I really enjoy illustrating unfortunate or boring scenarios happening to characters because I can take these scenarios and turn them into humorous situations that people usually relate to. I enjoy a boring scenario like someone sitting in their room doing nothing, because with my art style I can make it weird, silly, exaggerated, and colorful, then it’s not as boring anymore. What I love about with comics, is that you can create anything or anyone in any world and you don’t have to follow any rules when illustrating.
LC: In your webcomics, the “Black Pants Club” seems to be a pretty consistent group of characters. Where did you draw inspiration for each character? Do you think they could have been created based on people from your life, whether it be intentional or not?
NZ: I think all these characters are all different characteristics and personalities of myself. I haven’t gone too deep into each character and their ways, but each have their own flaws and strengths that are based off of me 100%. Not only with the main characters, but the small characters too. The relationships we see with the characters are definitely based on my relationships with my friends, family, and other people that I’ve come across in my life though.
LC: If one looks further back into your uploads, the Black Pants Club seems to have recently become a staple. Why did you choose them to create a webcomic around, as opposed to the more random subjects that were common in your art before?
NZ: I didn’t plan for it to become a staple at all! I was kind of iffy about the comic when I first posted it. But when I started coming up with new stories the characters kept creeping into them and so I made it a permanent thing. I have a lot of fun with the comic and many people seem to love it so it’s all I’ve been posting lately. I am hoping to post something different from Black Pants Club soon, and also maybe bring back old subjects and characters from previous art.
LC: Most of your art appears to be digital. Why do you tend to opt for this style, instead of, for instance, painting?
NZ: I like the undo button. Since my art style is very simple and I simply block in all my colors, I don’t think it’s necessary to paint my work or anything. But I have been wanting to include more textures into my work so I have been starting to work more in my sketchbooks and experiment with different mediums.
LC: Walk us through your process! How long does it usually take to create a single comic (such as one out of the seven you’ve uploaded thus far)? Do you meticulously plan out what you’re going to illustrate before sitting down at a computer, or do you start with a rough idea and go with the flow? Feel free to be as specific as you like.
NZ: It can take me from one whole day to a week to complete a comic. I usually start with an idea and start drawing on my tablet right away. I rarely sketch out how the panels will look like unless I’m really having a hard time with a composition. I do play around with framing and zoom ins a lot when making my comics, so that takes up a lot of my time too.
LC: How long have you been an artist for? Are you self-taught?
NZ: I have been an artist for my entire life! I was part of an art program in high school, and now I’m heading into my fourth year of studying Illustration at OCAD University. But I’ll say I was self taught until university, I learned a lot about technique and concept creating since university began.
LC: Do you have a favorite member of the Black Pants Club? Why? If so, who?
NZ: I love all of them, but I think my most favorite character is one that’s a small character to the story that hasn’t been shown yet ;-)
LC: Do you plan to pursue a career in art, digital or not?
NZ: Yes! After getting my degree, I hope to develop a career in illustration, comics especially. Hopefully get a couple of books published. I would love to be involved in animating as well. That’s the plan anyway.
LC: When you finish a piece, do you often find yourself satisfied with it? Are you more of a perfectionist when it comes to your art?
NZ: I usually am satisfied with my pieces. I do sometimes rush many pieces because I can’t work on something for more than 2 days before going crazy so I end up a little unsatisfied sometimes. I feel like I could put a little more time into pieces, even ones that I spent a week on. And I am a TOTAL perfectionist when it comes to my work. Even though my style is super simple, I will spend hours just to make a line look perfect enough, or getting the colors right, or fixing the composition so it’s a little stranger, things like that. I’m glad I don’t do realistic work because with my school assignments for painting class, I will spend so much time trying to perfect a piece, even if I only have 30 minutes left before it’s due I WILL paint all the flower petals in that still life. Every single petal.
LC: Was there any particular moment in your life that inspired you to become an illustrator?
NZ: No one moment really INSPIRED me. I think drawing is the only thing I’m kind of good at so I just went with it. It wasn’t until a year ago that I truly believed that I wanted to become an illustrator. I was always questioning to pursue a career in Illustrating in high school because everyone was questioning the money aspect to it. It got me thinking it wasn’t worth it, and that I should go into business or something. But in the end, I went with my gut and decided that this is what I should do. I’m a creative person and if I push through, I can get somewhere with it. And I haven’t regretted my decisions yet.
LC: What’s a day in the life of Nicole Zaridze?
NZ: I hate this question because I feel like I don’t do anything. I’m an introvert, I want to be home all the time and I am home all the time if it weren’t for school. But starting my day, I wake up and have my breakfast (which is a giant cup of coffee), and then I am on Youtube, Pinterest, Netflix, the usual. Food, food is part of the day too. Lots of food. Drawing on my tablet takes up most of my day, especially since Black Pants Club started. AND THAT’S IT. I guess I go out sometimes. I feel like I’m trying to be that quirky “I am so antisocial” girl but I’m just someone who’s kept to herself in her room a lot…slowly developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
LC: Lastly, is there any advice you’d give to fellow artists out there who want to become an illustrator or comics artist?
NZ: One of the main things I’ll put out there is that there is a lot of pressure staying within styles that people find to be more “talented” or “worthy” or “professional” but screw that. Do not be afraid to be weird with your work. Make what you like, be original, try your hardest to push your style, and make it work.
Also, use sketchbooks, and don’t try to make perfect work in those sketchbooks. Be messy, experiment, write your thoughts and ideas down every time! Do a whole rant on avocados, do anything and everything. Sketchbooks are a great way to get loose, and it is really great to keep track of ideas and drawings to revisit again.
The last point I want to make is to not give a heck about people who laugh at you and ridicule you for going into the arts. Art is a huge field with many different creators, other than painters and illustrators like graphic designers, advertisers, animators, and more. The world needs creatives and there are many ways for artists to make a living nowadays. Don’t be discouraged. Yeah, it’s an extremely difficult career to be successful in and you have to be realistic about it but if you feel that you should be in the arts, be in it.