Every job interview I have, they always ask me if I work to live, or if I live to work. I’m exactly sure which answer they expect to hear from me, but that questions importance doesn’t really matter for today’s guest in the Creative Spotlight. You see, Nimit Malavia lives to work. And he doesn’t have to wonder if its the right answer or not because he creates and draws with passion and precision. Born in 1987, he is an illustrator from Ottawa, Canada who is being featured in exhibits all across the world. We sat down with Nimit and asked him a variety of questions. Read below for the full Q&A…
A lot of of your creative work includes daily sketching in notebooks. How crucial is this step in your creative process?
Nimit: It’s an essential part for me. My sketchbooks serve as a sort of journal, or rather a chronology of my (daily) life and thinking—it’s where I’m able to massage good ideas and vanquish the unusable/unseen. If you were to have a look through my sketchbooks you can usually find the timeline for a lot of pieces from thumbnail to refined details, as well a lot of thoughts and musing that occur at the time.
How was it participating in the ‘Homeroom’ group show? Do pieces you provide for a show entail additional pressure knowing so much individual focus will be on those pieces?
Nimit: It was great! Christina did a wonderful job putting everything together. I was really happy to have been able to show my work alongside so many artists that I admire. I feel like it does, in some cases, puts a little more pressure on you to produce a more “standout” image. Unlike a solo show where you’re able to showcase a range or variety in the work, you have to do your best to leave your mark with the one image, at least that’s how I feel about it.
Also you attended your first con a few months ago. Did you enjoy doing on-the-spot commissions and meeting so many fans? Would you recommend these events for networking purposes?
Nimit: The cons are quickly becoming some of my favourite weekends. I’ve been to a few now since my first convention and have just grown to love the rush of those 2-3 days. Spending the weekend hanging out with all the artists and sketching for the fans has been pretty amazing! It’s really humbling to see how enthusiastically many of the fans show their support for the artists that they admire. Personally, it has been so worthwhile for me– I’ve made a lot of good friends and professional connections from attending these cons. If you’re looking to work in comics or even just that side of publishing, I would definitely recommend attending.
Were people going nuts meeting you since you are basically one of the main guys behind the Wolverine/Jubilee series?
Nimit: I think I was probably the one most excited about it! Since the books were released I’ve had the chance to meet with Kathryn Immonen, who was the writer of the series, and her husband Stuart, which was such a pleasure, they’re both such lovely people. Stuart was actually a really big inspiration for me growing up, which made working on this series only that much more amazing for me. With regards to the fans, oddly enough most of the recognition was for my personal illustrations. My very first day I actually had a pretty surreal fan-moment where a girl was left speechless and began tearing up after recognizing my work and meeting me in person—I think I was almost as shocked as she was to meet someone who was that excited about my work.
A lot of your illustrations deal with special moments in life. For you personally, what makes a moment in life worth capturing in your art?
Nimit: I’m very drawn towards extreme moments of emotion, and the stillness that comes before. What I find marks them for me is that they’re usually followed by great change, or the immense anticipation before. In most cases this involves the first contact (a kiss, an embrace) or last (a loss). The beginnings and endings of things, really.
I was curious to know, because a special moment doesn’t always have to be a delightful moment (Deafening Demons). Are you ever torn between illustrating sorrow instead of happiness?
Nimit: Naturally, I find myself looking more towards sorrow than happiness, for the images I want to make. There’s just something really captivating to me about that sort of turbulence in a person, when there’s and aggressive almost violence brewing. It’s volatile, most often melancholic, but also probably the most vulnerable and honest (in a raw sort of form). Happiness does also have its draws. A totally ecstatic experience is what we aspire for. It’s when we feel invincible and we are our closest to flying. But I sometimes remember words from Stefan Sagmeister – about how incredibly boring it is to hear of another persons happiness… and I find myself being a little more selective with those moments.
What can you tell us about working with graphite? What are some of the pros and cons of working with this medium?
Nimit: Graphite is probably the most accessible and direct marking mediums around. I’ve found it has such a great range that I’m able to work with, be it with graphite powder where I can build form and values quickly and later pull away with an eraser to develop the more sensitive areas, or with the hard/soft leads to layer in and make the definitive marks that will ground the image. Depending on how delicate of a touch you have, you can produce some stunning subtleties in your drawing. This is probably its greatest strength and weakness for me. It’s hard to remain entirely mindful of your drawing at all times, so sometimes I find myself accidentally smudging out details that have been labored over. Also, it tends to be a little reflective, I’ve managed to work my way around this a bit, but it can be trying.
Are you a fan of any Asian films or Anime? Have any films ever inspired any of your work?
Nimit: Yes, absolutely! This is probably the most difficult question… I’m having to fight myself to not just list all of my favourite films and series’. I really love Asian cinema, there’s an elegance in their visual language and also a naturalism that is so rare to find here in the West. With regards to Anime, well, to say I enjoy it is slightly understated…I have a long-standing tradition of picking up at least one anime series every fall to watch and subsequently love. My latest choice has been Neon Genesis Evangelion. Some of my favorite and most inspiring directors/ films and /series would be Akira Toriyama, Wong Kar Wai, Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo, Satoshi Kon/ 2046, The Taste of Tea, Shower, Akira, Tekkon Kinkreet, Ghost in the Shell, Tokyo Godfathers, Princess Mononoke, Memories, Amazing Nuts, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie/ Samurai Champloo, Cowboy Bebop, DragonBall Z, Sailor Moon, Death Note, FLCL, Paranoia Agent…I could go on forever.
Your work has raised money for several charities such as Red Cross and Unicef. How does it feel to be able to raise money using your talent and creativity?
Nimit: I’m really glad to have been able to find a way to give back with my work. Being an illustrator can be a pretty solitary occupation, and at times it can feel like a slightly selfish endeavor, where I seem to be the only benefactor of my talents. So I’m more than happy to jump at opportunities to give back and help out.
We had a chance to chat with Yuko Shimizu in an earlier episode of the Creative Spotlight who had worked on Mike Carey’s Vertigo series. You recently contributed artwork in his new book! Could you tell us how you approach projects that already have a theme and creative boundaries established? Versus you having full creative control on a project?
Nimit: Often, I find those types of projects to be the most enjoyable! It’s a great excuse for you to have to educate yourself on a particular subject matter that you normally wouldn’t have pursued. With The Steel Seraglio, it was an especially great pleasure as I had the opportunity to spend some time with Mike and his wife Lin (who is a co-author of the book), and really get to know them a bit and have them give me a sort of ‘first hand account’ of the world they had created. For the most part, this became a fantasy for me, a lot of the subject matter and character details were things that I have a severe interest in, so it was a lot of fun adapting the images I had in mind to the visual culture that Mike, Lin & Lou had put together. I actually found this process to be very similar to one where the product and subject matter are my own— for both client and personal work I usually try to find elements that I really want to work with in whatever subject matter I’m dealing with and try to focus on them, it helps being able to make images about things that interest you. I also usually create a lot of constraints for myself and set rules, especially when I’m trying to develop an idea to such an extent. It makes for easier going if you create a box to operate within (and when necessary, break out of).
Lastly, you seem to hustle a lot, working on so many different projects, contributing to cons, and participating in exhibitions. Can you offer up any advice on time management for a creative?
Nimit: [Laughs] I’m glad it seems that way! For me it’s been important to prioritize, making sure I’m aware of what needs to be done and delivered first… and then work accordingly. I try to schedule out my days so I’m able to devote at least an hour here or there to each project. Also, I know this is sort of the goal, but it’s hugely important to be able to say ‘NO’ to certain opportunities, especially when you have prior commitments. It’s a great feeling having so many things on the go and it’s also very easy to be drawn in by a nice paycheck, but it’s equally as important that the other projects do not suffer because of it. Like the old saying goes, the bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – Better to do one well, than average out on two. Also, not sleeping is not the answer. Make sure you get enough sleep! I can’t stress this enough. You make mistakes when you’re tired, and your moods can spiral down, so when it’s late and you’re unsure…go to bed. You can always fight the good fight tomorrow.
Want to keep tabs on Nimit’s work? Follow his cookie crumb trail below:
His current show (which is almost over!) ‘Finding Together Again’ at Spoke-Art in San Francisco: