Inspired by “daily personal experiences and things that I want to be doing”, Melbourne-based illustrator, Nicko Phillps, says his drawings are like a “’Wish You Were Here’ card to myself, but filled with curvy weirdos and saturated colours.” Which is completely understandable once you realise that all the characters in his work are in perpetual party mode.
Growing up in rural Victoria during the “dark old days of dial-up”, Nicko would spend much of his time attempting to redraw comics, cartoons and trading cards such as Footrot Flats, Count Duckula and Garbage Pail Kids: “The ’90s were a wild time for children’s entertainment,” he tells It’s Nice That. His influences stretched into music too, with just as much time spent trying to recreate the logo from the hair metal band, Poison: “I’d cover my school books and rulers with it trying to perfect those swashes in the ‘P’ and ’N’.”
These days, when he’s not working as a graphic designer at creative agency Marilyn & Sons, Nicko can be found drawing intensely colourful and captivating scenes under the moniker Champagne Nicko. Filled with characters that are at once strange and charming, his illustrations are reminiscent of The Muppets with their shaggy hair, droopy noses and googly eyes. These creations are all about having a good time – they drink themselves silly, jam on their instruments and swim naked whilst eating. The artist says he finds inspiration for these characters from “music, family, mates, local weirdos and nature”.
Speaking on his process, Nicko explains that “all good things start with pencil and paper”. Adverse to diving straight into a blank Photoshop or Illustrator document, he will first figure out poses and compositions on sketchbooks, scrap paper, post-it notes and even receipts. After this initial stage, Nicko will refine and colour his illustrations on a Wacom Cintiq, which he says “really helped evolve my style and make for more organic illustrations and hand-drawn typography.”
With plans to push his drawings into “weirder places,” Nicko says that he just wants to enjoy the process and for others to enjoy the results: “I think as long as I keep challenging myself and having fun with my work, there’s a good chance someone else will be having fun looking at it,” he tells us. “Fun, humour, happiness, love and good vibes are all so contagious, and it can never hurt to have more of them in the world.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.