How to stay true to your unique creative approach, with May’s Nicer Tuesdays
Back in the Oval Space on a (very rainy) Tuesday, we saw Gaurab Thakali, Lydia Chan, Jack Bridgland and Raissa Pardini pick up the mic and offer some precious insights into their practice.
At May’s Nicer Tuesdays, London certainly wasn’t on our side, offering up a day full of intermittent storms and massive transport delays. But, the crowd certainly didn’t let that dampen their mood and the night kicked off with the usual excitable hustle and bustle.
And what’s more, to counter such a dreary day, if there was one thing that unified all of this month’s speakers, it’s a love of bold aesthetics and bright colours – from Gaurab’s purple-orange sunsets to Lydia Chan’s technicolour set design, Jack Bridgland’s love of pink and Raissa Pardini’s 70s-inspired pallets. This month, our creatives delved deep into the nitty-gritty aspects of their practice, from the importance of weighing MDF boards to getting weird with Robert Pattinson. It really wasn’t one to miss.
Gaurab Thakali walks us through his music-infused practice and why he always has to work from something “tangible”
Kicking off the night we had one of south London’s most prolific illustrators, Gaurab Thakali. Discussing the love he has for both his hometown of London and his birthplace Nepal, he explained to the crowd that it’s these two places that have most informed his figurative scenes, his depictions of people dancing and his lively portraits of musicians. The illustrator also offered a pretty detailed look at his process, the research he does, the images he collects and the preliminary sketches that are always essential to his work. “It’s so important to see something in front of me”, he shared, “something tangible, so I can imagine what comes next”. But, he also talks about his love of going off-piste once in a while and trailing his work on some pretty out there materials – specifically, skateboards.
If there’s one thing we learnt from Gaurab’s talk, it’s that his passion for working with people he admires really gets him going. One such project – and one of his favourites to date – was his work with the comedian Hannibal Burgess. Being a massive fan, Gaurab took a chance and reached out to Hannibal on Instagram. Almost instantly getting a reply agreeing to a collaboration was a “weird”, but utterly brilliant moment for the artist, with a series of vibrant and characterful promo posters ensuing.
Of course, it would be impossible for Gaurab to talk about his work and not discuss how his love of music fuels pretty much everything he does – often listening to music when he works, it inspires experimentation. Immersing himself in the tunes of Dorothy Ashby and Bill Evans among many others, he creates personal pieces inspired by the artist and their energy, putting them in positions and situations they visually belong in – “in the middle of a sunrise with waves thrashing around them”. Gaurab ended his talk by giving us a look at his first stab at animation, made for the fashion designer Nicholas Daley and inspired by African American martial arts professionals in the 80s. A perfect end to a great talk, it was a real treat to see Gaurab’s dynamic, musical work moving.
“You have to let yourself be free and expressive, but also rooted in reality”: Lydia Chan on interweaving creativity with pragmatism
It was a big day for set designer Lydia Chan. Not only was she on the It’s Nice That Stage in front of hundreds of people, it was also her birthday. Sharing this when she first stepped on stage, a chorus of Happy Birthday erupted through the crowd. “I wasn’t expecting that” she laughed, “I was just nervous and needed something to say!” You certainly wouldn’t have known Lydia was nervous as she dived headfirst into how her colourful childhood is still the foremost influence to her “maximalist” work. She began by highlighting the noughties trend of creating beaded creatures – specifically for her a replica of Pokemon’s Pikachu – and how this instilled a love within her for all things beaded. And, she also had no shame in testifying her everlasting love for cartoons: “I’m turning 30 this year but I still love Fairly Odd Parents.”
But, alongside this playful approach Lydia’s vast and very technical practice is also embedded in pragmatism, and some pretty meticulous planning. Lydia explained this considered outlook to be very necessary in one of her most recent projects, an immersive installation at the Now Gallery in Greenwich. Being given the opportunity to create an alien universe or, “the most Lydia space ever”, there was still a thorough pitching process. “You can be crazy but you have to sell people on your crazy, help people wrap their heads around this fantastical world you want to create for them,” Lydia shared pointedly.
Showing some “chaotic” images of her studio throughout the project, Lydia talked us through her multi-layered process; painting cutting over 1,300 pieces of wood (with one or two helping hands from family and friends). But, perhaps the most important aspect of the whole project was making it safe for use. “MDF is heavy” Lydia said, “You lift an Ikea shelf; that shit’s heavy… I don’t wanna get sued. I’m good.” So, whilst Lydia’s work may look like a fantastical technicolour dream-world, we learnt that it would be nothing without the laws of maths and physics. “That’s a big part of my career. Thinking about when to be crazy and intuitive and when to respect the boundaries of the universe.”
Jack Bridgland advocates for sticking to your vision and adding a little bit of pink wherever possible.
Jack Bridgland began his talk with a situation we’re sure many creatives can relate to: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do at school.” This declaration was teamed perfectly with a (very cute) image of Jack in primary school blown up on the big screen. In his later years in education, getting a feel for photography, Jack admitted to not being too fussed about the way it was taught: “you’re learning a lot about technicality and old photographers, but not about how to be on time for a shoot.”
From there onward Jack dedicated himself to developing his own style and focussing on doing things in his own unique way. This began organically, by taking trips to London and shooting people in London in their “everyday lifestyle”. But, ever in the pursuit of bigger and better things he later transferred his practice to New York – utilising Instagram as one of his foremost tools: “I can’t tell you how important reaching out on Instagram is, otherwise people don’t know you’re there?” Then, after a stint in LA – “everything I had seen in movies in one place” – Jack returned to a “drizzly” London, where every time he wanted to do a shoot it was raining; an aspect this month’s audience could definitely relate to. This, Jack explained, was a foremost moment in his career, as it pushed him off the streets and into the studio.
The real standout moment of Jack’s talk, and perhaps his whole career to date, was his recent shoot with Robert Pattinson, which quite literally took the internet by storm. Funnily enough, Jack nearly missed the opportunity entirely after failing to see an email from Robert’s agent. Eventually being called, Jack shared that “they were like do you want to do a shoot with Robert for GQ global and I tried to play it cool, when in reality I was on mute screaming”. Being afforded creative freedom, the shoot ended up being pretty much everything Jack dreamed of and more. Robert was on board with his wild card idea and they ended up putting eight ideas into one, taking the actor through a process of roughened transformation, resulting in Jack’s most iconic photo to date: Robert in a white vest, gold teeth glinting and bleached spiked hair, sporting a sinister grin. Jack ended powerfully, by sharing the quote upon which he bases his whole practice: “Don’t give people what they want, give people what they don’t know they want.”
The intersection of music and design and not letting age hold you back from pursuing your creative dreams, with typography guru Raissa Pardini
If there’s one thing we love here at It’s Nice That, it’s someone with a passion for all things type, and there was no one better to conclude May’s Nicer Tuesdays than typography guru Raissa Pardini. To our delight, the feeling is very much mutual, and Raissa opened her talk with some very flattering words – “I used to look up to It’s Nice That as the design Mecca, and I still do!” Interestingly enough, Raissa’s bold practice began somewhat quietly, with her spending her childhood hidden away drawing for hours. Coming from a working class Italian background, Raissa also shared that none of her family were massively involved in or understanding of art and design: “Until they attended my first solo exhibition in 2020”, she says with a laugh, “now they know.”
When first getting into the world of design Raissa says that she was completely unaware that music and design could come hand in hand. After two moves pursuing her design career – one “challenging” one to Germany to pursue studio experience, and one more successful one to London which she now calls “home” – Raissa jumped ships completely, and joined a touring band. Despite believing her designer career to be behind her, the designer also attested to getting bored “very quickly”. And who of course was the first to give her work when getting back into design, than the music industry. Beginning with promos for small bands, Raissa later got a brief for a worldwide Mamma Mia tour. “I went from designing for indie artists to doing stuff for Justin Beiber… it was very weird.” If there’s one thing we learnt from Raissa’s talk, you should never hold your creativity back, “design can come at any time”, she shared with passion.
The designer concluded her talk with a few of her recent projects (one of which involved an immersive audio experience showing the “true” side of Ibiza) and with a few tips that a lot of us could do well with taking on board. Shaking up her practice over the lockdown, as many did, the designer focussed on how she could “do things a bit better”. “I went down to a four day week, which is much better for my mental health – and I’m just as productive as when I was working seven days a week!” It seems the four-day week movement has its coolest new advocate.
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Nicer Tuesdays Online is our monthly event of creative talks. You can find out more here.
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