Looking through the portfolio of Brooklyn-based illustrator Ohni Lisle, the first thing that may strike you is how brilliantly vast it is. Rather than limit herself “ror better or worse, I like trying out markedly different styles,” she tells It’s Nice That. This process is largely grown from the fact that Ohni is uninterested in trying the same thing twice, explaining that: “I’ll have this idea of a perfectly rendered CGI illustration, complete it, be satisfied, but then have an aversion to repeating the same rendering process again.”
As a result, Ohni’s work bounces around constantly. Sometimes it will be “something super digital and polished” but next “something totally opposite, like cut paper or coloured pencil,” she says. In a creative world where most assume a style and stick defiantly with it, it’s understandable that initially at least, Ohni “thought it was a problem,” she continues, “as in, not a keen business strategy, but I’ve ended up getting work in all the different styles I’ve shown.” This leads her to the perfect analogy of “trying to make all styles be friends and play together in new stuff, which is fun and right.” It’s only a positive in her portfolio for us however, always excited to see what she’ll try her hand to next.
Ohni’s interest in illustration has been a long-lasting drawing affair since childhood but, “I would say I got serious about illustration after my first break up in my late 20, and lost myself into a world of making,” she explains. Pinpointing this moment as when she developed a practice, “and started putting my work out there,” it was digital processes which she first adopted, but “everything started spilling over a couple of years after that, and I started having no medium boundaries.”
Despite a diverse illustration style being an attribute of Ohni’s output, there are a few consistent trademark qualities viewers will be able to spot. “If everything I make were to be put under an umbrella though, I love rendering people the most,” she tells us. “I love face crops, busts, portraits from the shoulders up. My work can range from campy to serene but besides a smaller percentage of abstract stuff, it’s mostly figures.” Facial expressions and characteristics also switch out dependent on the style Ohni is working with, only demonstrating how broad her personal illustrational talent is too.
A particular colour palette is also another consistent quality, explaining how, “red, yellow, pink and blue are kind of a must. Then I almost always have a muted fleshy pink in the mix,” she says. “This colour pattern is hard to waver from for me. I also love frosty secondary colours for compliments, like greens, purples and oranges.” It’s this approach, and this self-described quality of frosty or muted, which allows Ohni’s work to come together again under one umbrella while not being dependent on a stylistic approach.
Working as a freelance illustrator means Ohni is also often spinning several plates at once, although currently a few of her projects are on hold due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19. “But I’m fine and rolling and adapting with our new system,” she says. “I have a secret project I’m cooking up that I will be looking to be released as a physical product. The rest of the year is uncertain for us all.” Concluding with a key piece of advice we could all benefit from following: “I’m just trying to take it day by day and focus on what I want to do rather than what I should do, if that makes sense.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.