In every piece of work, illustrator Des Skordilis attempts to recreate primary school art classes

The Australian illustrator works across several media but their worked is always imbued with childhood nostalgia.

27 August 2020

For Brisbane-born, Melbourne-based illustrator Des Skordilis, illustration was the only ever option. As a child, anything that found its way to them became a canvas – “crumpled paper, old envelopes and recycled cardboard” – and they spent their time drawing endless pictures of their childhood dog. “Initially, illustration was a form of communicating my feelings,” they tell It’s Nice That. “My earlier drawings were quite serious and dark which was a means of catharsis in my angsty years.” Today, their practice evokes the nostalgic simplicity of childhood, inspired by their love of cartoons and cereal boxes.

In turn, Des’ recent work features “bulbous, joyful figures and radiant block colours,” elements they describe as their signature. These characters can be seen riding a bike or a horse, hugging, dancing and driving a car but no matter what the scenario, the illustrator’s aim is to capture a moment lost in time, in particular, primary school art classes with crayons and torn paper strewed all over the desk. “You’ll notice a lot of textured pastel and crayon in my work that aims to bring the viewer to a place of comforting childlike nostalgia,” they add.

Through the use of mediums including pastels and crayons, Des’ work takes us back to drawings pinned on the fridge but this youthful, nostalgic energy is cleverly achieved through the use of graphic, bold and playful colours and figures. There’s a simplicity to the work which is understated, even disarming in its naivety. “I appreciate considered simple line work and colour palettes that can create something really beautiful,” they explain. This approach then expands into other dimensions, seeing Des producing paintings, sculptures and even claymations. One thing does remain the same, however; their concepts always start as a sketch on paper before being translated into the appropriate medium.

GalleryDes Skordilis

A recent favourite series of works of theirs, for example, are abstract torn paper collages that are “fun to play with.” They tells us, “I enjoy ripping up the coloured paper and making aesthetic decisions based on the colours and shapes of the paper.” There’s also a commission they completed using crayons, in repose to the lockdown and isolation the world has been experiencing. “The gentle texture of the crayon pastel and complementary colours leans into the mood of staying home, slowing down and being forced to appreciate beauty in stillness,” they remark. Simultaneously though, Des thrives when working digitally on an iPad, “being able to select particular brushes that give my digital work a hand-drawn feel, whilst still incorporating the naive and playful detail of my analogue works.”

Clearly, they’ve perfected an output which can be channelled through any avenue that Des sees fit. It means their entire portfolio feels familiar and consistent, yet there’s enough variation to keep us guessing. What really stands out though, is Des’ fervour for their practice, eager to always be trying something new or exciting. It’s a sentiment they express when telling us “I love the freedom of putting pencil to paper and creating my own little world.”

Looking ahead, Des plans to figure out how to navigate the world in a different way than before but still “creating, embracing and playing with various mediums.” In the immediate future, that’ll be woodwork, they conclude: “I’ve recently bought a scroll saw and I’ve been teaching myself how to create wooden sculptures which I plan to exhibit in the future.”

GalleryDes Skordilis

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.

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