Work / Illustration

“I sometimes get a bit dizzy”: welcome to the giddy illustrative world of Nolan Pelletier

The work of illustrator Nolan Pelletier is so busy it makes you a bit giddy. His work is enriched in detail, so much so you can almost imagine him nose to paper, drawing lines, characters and architecture until the page is totally full. It turns out creating the work is as much as a disorienting experience as viewing it, “when I work too long on a piece I sometimes get a bit dizzy,” Nolan tells It’s Nice That.

“Since I was a child I’ve been a bit an obsessive collector,” Nolan explains. “I collect paper ephemera, vintage design books, packaging, and too much else to mention.” As a result Nolan’s work features a “ton of historical references,” creating pieces that look as if they could have been made yesterday but also decades ago, in a method which combines “different eras in unexpected ways”.

We were introduced to Nolan’s work via Clay Hickson’s Tan & Loose Press, who have just published a book by Nolan titled Mirror World. “It’s fun being able to curate a tiny world and populate it with the things you love,” the illustrator explains. “That was the main impetus behind Mirror World, putting a bunch of the carnival and dream imagery that was rattling around in my head to paper. I like that with art you can collect the old things you love, while simultaneously creating something new. It’s therapeutic.”

Mirror World has both a fictional and true narrative depicted in Nolan’s illustrations. The architecture for instance, takes inspiration from postcards of Coney Island dating back to the 20th century and antique carnival signage. Other parts, like giant smiling suns or hot air balloons that double up as vehicles, are a representation of the illustrator’s brilliant imagination. “I love how overwhelming, colourful and electric carnivals are and wanted to capture a bit of that energy. Even though they’re still images, I want all the art I do to vibrate with movement and pattern.”

Movement and pattern is the main focus of Nolan’s work in Mirror World. An illustrative use of repetition enhances this, from characters popping up over and over, to drawing out lines one after the other to add a texture to backgrounds. Designed as a fold out book, “The front side of Mirror World features a crowd of identical men wearing pink and yellow suits and bowler hats. Something about the repetition of the bowler men was mesmerising to me, and so I just kept repeating them,” Nolan explains. “The back side is a distorted version of the same scene where everything is reversed — day is night, the scale has changed, the men and buildings are merging, etc. As it progresses from left to right, the scene gets more and more surreal until in the final panels it breaks down completely.”

Based in Toronto after moving to Canada from Connecticut to go to art college in 2007, Nolan also has a great mix of projects on the go on top of his recent publishing venture. Recently working with fashion designer Anna Sui has seen his works be presented on 3D materials from pin badges to runway shows, but day to day Nolan’s work is mostly editorial illustrations for magazines and newspapers where his eye for detail adds an edge to any story.


Nolan Pelletier: Mirror World


Nolan Pelletier: Mirror World


Nolan Pelletier: Mirror World


Nolan Pelletier: New York Times


Nolan Pelletier: Somnolent


Nolan Pelletier: Somnolent


Nolan Pelletier: Somnolent


Nolan Pelletier: Somnolent


Nolan Pelletier: Sphinx


Nolan Pelletier: Still Life


Nolan Pelletier: Still Life


Nolan Pelletier: Still Life


Nolan Pelletier: Village Voice


Nolan Pelletier: Sun Pin


Nolan Pelletier: Anna Sui, invite


Nolan Pelletier: Within the Palace Gates