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Winchester artist Nate Kitch on using the digital age to kick start a career

PUBLISHED: 12:14 18 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:14 18 June 2014

Nate Kitch

Nate Kitch


The familiar, yet simultaneously unnerving, inevitability of making mistakes can so easily deter ambition. Blunders feed embarrassment. Not only that, unencumbered by social etiquette, they insist on hanging around to taunt us. And don’t they reflect a lack of insight or skill?

Indeed, I venture that few of us are comfortable when things go wrong, most surely preferring to avoid the necessity of vindicating those errors that should never have been exposed in the first place.

Yet for one Hampshire artist, imperfections have no place amongst such negative connotations. Since this is a man who thrives on errors.

“I live off mistakes. In fact some of the techniques I now use came about by accident,” admits 24 year old Nate Kitch. “When I make mistakes on Photoshop – 
a programme I can’t imagine being without – they just turn into something I’m happy with.”

The studio of this illustrator, who, despite only graduating two years ago, enjoys commissions from international clients and is represented by the prestigious Eastwing Illustration Agency, comprises a white L shaped desk upon which all items are positioned at 45 degree angles.

“I like order and structure; my pens, pencils and mug of coffee must all be in their right place.”

More importantly, he uses modern technology to his advantage. The latest Apple technology is present providing a crucial element in producing digital collage imagery, and also supplying him with the tools with which to engage in social media, as he testifies: “I enjoy Pinterest and Twitter camaraderie with other illustrators. There’s no animosity and it’s good to see how hard other people are working. It keeps you on trend.”

Nate’s creative instincts rarely dip below overdrive. He notes down ideas as they emerge and when given a commission he might spend half a day thinking it through.

“I have a selection of magazines and see which things look right, then start my colour palette to determine the best colour. A digital collage is scanned into the computer then I open up Photoshop and move things around.”

His laid back demeanour and simplistic explanation imply a method that is as effortless as it is straightforward. But examine the complexity of his images and you soon recognise the depth of reflection and creativity involved in composing such thought provoking illustrations.

I suspect a self confessed and long standing interest in psychology is influential in his compositions. That his first commission came from New Scientist magazine is, therefore, no surprise.

“When I left university I had three dream clients and, although one has gone out of print, I’ve worked for the other two – New Scientist and Wired. The first commission, for New Scientist magazine, was about consciousness. My agent just rang one day and asked if I wanted to do it. I’ve always been interested in design and the layout of text.”

Nate linked up with his agent when he left university. Within a few months there came an influx of assignments which have continued to snowball.

Since he regards his style as “commercial art” I wonder whether he has ever been tempted to join, say, a design agency?

“I never really enjoyed day to day routines,” he responds, “and everyone has different times when they are most productive. As a freelancer, I work all the time. My days are flexible and even at weekends I am creating my own pieces, if not something for a client.”

He is also adamant about the need to adapt.

“There are moments as a freelance when there is no definite pay coming in but you have to use that to fuel your work ethic.”

Being an employee, he reckons, means you are obliged to follow a specific approach, while working alone offers the liberty to explore new techniques 
and methods.

One of his current personal projects is an alphabet series. Each image is a square containing a letter. At the moment Nate is focusing on L and confesses a lack of progress over the previous few months due to the frequency with which he has gone back to change earlier designs. Eventually, he would like to sell the series as prints, one offs, or a pack of postcards. No matter what the project, I am beginning to realise, part of his attention is always reserved for marketing opportunities.

It’s a far cry from his original ambition to be a drummer in a band. In fact, his initial college training was in media and film. Following this course, however, he recognised there was something missing.

“I hadn’t gained what I wanted from college and had been misguided in my choice of subjects. I knew I had more to give.”

As a result he enrolled at Southampton Solent University School of Art and Design, where he enjoyed making objects rather than drawing.

“Everything was based around narrative so I would play with books and storylines and turn them into a new way of telling stories. It made me think how I could do that with illustration.”

It’s easy to identify his calling from the many thought provoking images Nate has created. The more I look at his illustrations my reaction is to study and analyse them, to delve into their meaning. For none of his pieces can be momentarily glanced at, or fleetingly admired. The depth depicted in each image automatically triggers an intensity, a concentration level necessary to not only appreciate, but comprehend, their meaning. Is inspiration inevitably available, I wonder?

“I’m always at my desk straight after breakfast. Some days I don’t work as well - but I do if I have a deadline.” Pressure, it seems, prompts creativity so hardly surprising that Nate revels in its positive aspects.Yet this is a man who is also remarkably in tune with the business side of his vocation.

“The Association of Illustrators gives great financial advice and my agent has also helped. Some artists find it difficult to talk about finances but you have to learn that your work is worth money.”

It’s an impressive outlook considering artists aren’t universally credited with commercial wisdom. In fact, I venture it is this mindset which spurs him on to land bigger clients. Meanwhile, he has other ambitions to achieve.

“I would like to do a Masters and I want to lecture; perhaps have time to view my work from a third person perspective.”

A plethora of creative ideas as well as an overflow of aspirations - no wonder my admiration for this Winchester artist is growing by the minute.

But that’s not all. He is keen to share advice, too: “You are the people you surround yourself with. Just keep going; it’s about resilience. Don’t be complacent; the ones who try hardest are the ones who get the most work.”

Nate Kitch is talented, intriguing and clearly adheres to his own advice, such qualities being the essence of this award winning illustrator’s achievements, proving that success comes to those with creative skills and wise counsel, not to mention the ability to exploit random errors.

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