Boneshaker Press is happy to give you some one-on-one time with Nyra Drakae who is taking part in the second volume of Encounters with the Imaginary. Nyra lives in Melbourne, Australia checkout her website for more wonders from this talented artist !
What’s your background?
I moved around a lot as a kid and grew up mostly in rural areas of Australia. I moved to the city of Melbourne after graduating high school so that I’d have better education and social opportunities as there wasn’t much in my hometown. Melbourne is fantastic for creative people, art galleries, study and just all round fun things to do.
Originally I started off as a tattoo apprentice but soon learned that I wasn’t cut out for that line of work.
Too much pressure in the permanency! I managed to grow a small online following that was enough to start getting commission work. The past few years I have grown enough of a following that I’ve been able to work full time as a freelance illustrator, which is awesome.
I’m also now branching out into the indie gamedev scene and intend to turn my art, worlds and stories into 2D video games.
What got you interested in the arts to begin with?
Growing up I have always had a love of scientific illustrations of animals in books, beautifully illustrated children’s books, movies and videogames. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t inspired by the art I saw around me. I was always trying to learn how to draw what I was seeing in all of these books and magazines.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?
When I was about 6 years old I knew I either wanted to be a veterinarian, paleontologist or an artist who paints animals and dinosaurs. Early on in high school I realised I wasn’t the best at science and couldn’t emotionally handle the job of a vet, so I focused on becoming an artist probably around the age of 14. By the end of high school I knew I wanted to particularly work as a fantasy artist doing illustrations for books, games and concept art for film and television.
Do you remember the first piece of art you made that you were really proud of? The one that made you say “yes I am an artist!”
Probably a drawing I did when I was 8 years old of a horse copied from a photo in a book. It was a magnificent palomino horse, I realised yellow was too light and orange was too dark so I tried my best to use both colours to get something in between to make his golden coat. I wasn’t exactly successful, but both my teacher and my parents made note of my effort to blend the colours properly and this made me feel like a real artist. The other kids at school also accused me of tracing the horse because they couldn’t believe I drew it myself, so I took this as a massive compliment!
When I was 10 I also had all the kids at school asking me to draw Pokemon for them and I took a list of requests, my Mum even let me stay up later that night to get all the drawings done! My favourite thing when meeting new people was to ask what their favourite animal was and draw it for them, it was just incredibly fun and fulfilling to draw things for other people.
Do you collect anything?
I have a bit of a collection happening of lions, started by my boyfriend when he bought me a lion plush toy on a date at the zoo early on in our relationship. I could not pronounce his very italian last name “Ciaffaglione”, so I resorted to calling him “Coffee Lion”.
I also have a bit of a collection of plastic plants growing (or rather, not growing) around my studio as I love to be surrounded by plants but I can’t for the life of me take care of them. I even managed to kill a cactus once.
What research do you do?
Before a painting I do at least a few quick studies from photos. I also read up a bit on the subject matter of the painting.
For example, before painting my Chimera card for Alderac Entertainment Group, I read up a lot about the history of the Chimera and how they tend to be depicted. I painted a number of lions, goats, bat wings and snakes to help me with my painting, including a lot of lion muscle anatomy. I even went to the zoo to observe the lions and took heaps of photos.
I also learned that the Chimera is actually usually depicted as a female lion despite the mane, apparently when the ears of the lion are showing in art or sculptures it meant the Chimera was female. I was sure to include the ears because I thought that was quite an interesting fact!
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
First thing in the morning I make a coffee and spend 1-2 hrs on Facebook. I then get all of the references for what it is I am painting and get inspiration from other art or related subject matter. I make a second coffee and finally open Clip Studio Paint so I can stop procrastinating and get to work. Halfway through my painting I realise my second coffee has gone cold and I either microwave it or make a fresh one, then repeat this process throughout the painting with anywhere from 2-6 coffees per day. My creative process is basically just coffee.
What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career?
I suppose I haven’t made any terribly big sacrifices for my career as such, I would however say that I make a lot of personal and social sacrifices which I am trying to balance. I often become a hermit and do not see my friends often enough due to being a workaholic sometimes or simply having too much work and deadlines.
I also will sacrifice my own personal enjoyment time for the sake of working sometimes (you know how it is, you try to play a video game or work on personal art and then you feel bad for not working on your commercial things even though you just worked a 10hr day on said commercial work.)
How do you measure your level of success/achievement?
I measure it mostly in the baby steps. Not everyone can be an overnight success and it can often feel disheartening to put in a lot of work and feel like you’re getting nowhere. It’s important to focus on the little victories like a FB page sharing your work, an artist you look up to writing a nice comment, your first commercially printed job, hitting your 200th follower on Instagram. That post got 60 likes!! My biggest success is probably that I have enough followers who commission me for enough private work that I have been able to live solely off my artwork for the past 3-4 years while slowly working on my commercial career.
What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?
You know how you keep skipping those anatomy studies and all the text in all those “how to draw” books? You know how you find studying the old master artists boring? Stop. Study anatomy properly, do life drawing, study the master artists. Do it every week, or at least monthly. Study the basics elements of art like value, colour theory and shape and refresh yourself on these basic things regularly. Learn perspective! Learn it all properly because it might seem boring and pointless now but I assure you it is not and you will regret not doing this sooner.
How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?
Coffee. Live streaming. Really though, I just don’t wait for the spark of motivation to happen. Sometimes I don’t have the time to wait, I have work to do, bills to pay, you can’t always wait for motivation to happen. Coffee. I usually find that I just keep putting the pen down and sketching until I get into the flow of things and then it all just happens from there. Coffee. I try to give myself regular short breaks and often look at other artists work or fantasy movies that inspire me. Did I mention coffee? I’m not sure I did.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I have a number of goals and I am simply trying to follow all roads that will lead me to them. I’d love to work for companies like Wizards of the Coast someday. I’d kill to do creature concept art for video game and film companies. I’d also love to simply make and distribute my own indie games. Book covers! A successful Youtube artist perhaps? Wildlife illustration? Just all of it! I’ll paint fantasy art and creatures wherever I can do so professionally.
What was your first step towards being a professional?
When I started getting requests for private commission work, I did a short course on small business management to learn how to make a proper business out of this. I then studied illustration for a year in a diploma that was designed to teach you how to follow a brief and work professionally in the industry because I felt a bit clueless and like my work really needed to improve. Since then I have simply worked on my portfolio, networked with other people in the industry and sent my portfolio around to various clients that I’d like to do work for.
What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?
I am currently obsessed with learning how to code 2D video games. I am incredibly inspired by classic RPGs like the Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda series, as well as modern indie games like Ori and the Blind Forest and Owlboy. Have you seen them? They are visually stunning.
I am enjoying learning how to animate my paintings, code my characters to come to life and be interactive. It’s an incredibly thrilling new medium to apply my illustrations to. Once I know how to make games properly, I hope to make a few games that have been on my mind for some time. I have many worlds and stories I want my friends to explore!
Would you eat the moon if it were made of spare ribs?
Well, I mean, yeah.
I suppose I’ll need to become a billionaire first though in order to convince NASA to allow me to fly to said spare-rib-moon in order to eat it. If this kickstarter does really well how about we all go and eat the moon to celebrate our success? I’m an Aussie, I know how to cook up a grouse barbie, mate.