Nina Carter, a recent graduate of Kingston School of Art’s BA Illustration Animation course, understands the significance of an image. While working as a freelance illustrator, Nina is also the creative director and co-founder of It’s Freezing in LA!, a publication about climate change. These two worlds combine in Nina’s portfolio, informing each other and allowing her to fully get to grips with how imagery can transcend verbal and written communication, delivering important messages to everyone.
“I actually went to look around Kingston School of Art to learn about a different course and I unintentionally stumbled into the Illustration Animation talk and realised then and there that it was a discipline that seemed really inline with the way I work,” Nina tells us. “In my perspective, illustration and mark-making is quite a primal thing, I think we all engage with it far more than perhaps we realise.” Images and symbols, she continues, are how we learn and navigate spaces, but are also so attached to what we see, dictating our understanding of things, particularly in advertising. As a result, Nina utilises illustration’s abilities to “introduce new voices and faces to these spaces, to warp some of the tropes of what’s existing and normal.”
It was through life drawing that she first began to develop her signature style, one that sees bodies geometrically filling frames, often without any perceivable gender. “When I started life drawing, I was observing the outlines and isolating sections of the body. Through practice and wonderful tutors, I began to see gradients and shapes within people’s bodies,” she recalls. It’s this which lends itself to Nina’s shaded, pencil-mark aesthetic, as she observes not only the outline of a body, but the shapes and tones that exist within that outline.
She tells us: “My drawings often consist of strong, powerful characters that aren’t necessarily conforming to many stereotypes. They sometimes have one boob, or one limb, and they’re often quite fat. I’m learning how political drawing can be, and so I think I try and draw things that aren’t necessarily represented publicly as atypical bodies or characters. If you challenge what’s held as an example by drawing someone unconventional on a poster or a mural for example you’re making a statement.”
In a recent commission for the Nike European Headquarters in Amsterdam, Nina was able to elevate these ideas, creating a mural of Caster Semenya, the South African middle-distance runner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist. Nina was asked to encapsulate some of Caster’s story into the image. “She is an athlete that has received much scrutiny over the verification of her sex due to higher levels of testosterone than most women, there has been a huge media flurry around her for some time but she consistently stays humble and composed with the aim just to run when she is given the chance,” the illustrator explains. While she’s always used frames within her work as a tool to design and compose images, it’s this piece which marks the moment she began “bending and morphing the content of my drawings to fit inside the frame an illustration.” In turn, the mural symbolises the restrictions placed on Caster, using the frame of the wall to contain her physically while celebrating her humbleness. “To do this I illustrated her in a running position, ready to go whenever she was given the chance. She isn’t be squished into the frame, she’s taking it up,” Nina continues.
Now, this technique appears across Nina’s portfolio which is packed full of projects that aim to advance social and community progression. Whether it’s a T-shirt for Sister Supporter, a pro-choice, anti-harassment organisation or a poster that for Blindside Theatre, a theatre company celebrating the best female and gender non-binary performing artists in London, Nina concludes: “Ultimately, the projects that I enjoy working on the most are those that investigate topics and ideas that I think deserve to be spoken about.”
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