June 19th, 2017

6 Questions with Nicolai Sclater

An interview with graphic designer Nicolai Sclater, aka the Ornamental Conifer, on how he forged his career and what keeps him inspired.

Dark Blue: How has your background led to your work today? 

NS: As a child I was always encouraged to carry a pencil and a sketchbook, to avoid boredom, I didn’t grow up watching TV or playing video games, my childhood consisted of drawing, climbing trees and building stuff. My incessant need to continuously entertain myself has lead me to a creative career that I thoroughly enjoy. While years spent customising clothing, painting graffiti and building motorbikes has meant I continue to keep my work varied.

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Dark Blue:  Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

NS: First and foremost my main drive was my parents who were ridiculously supportive of me following a career in the arts, second to that would have to be Basquiat, who at a young age was the first artist that made me realise being an artist was a possibility. Up until then the thought of ‘the artist’ was someone mysterious and from another world, seeing work in galleries and museums at the age of 8 or 9 I had no concept who had made the stuff I was staring at in awe. I assumed they were all from an alternate universe, then one day I was given a Basquiat book by my mum and it showed him in New York City, he was a real person, and he did graffiti… that was a clinching moment for me. Since then, the list of influences in both people and movements has grown endless and I think that list still grows daily. My influences are as broad as my output.

Dark Blue: What would you say are your strongest skills and how have you honed those skills over the years?

NS: In terms of my art practice my strongest skills probably lie in hand painted typography, but I also think that my motivation, time management and my ability to conceptualise an idea and work out how to formulate those ideas is also a skill I find invaluable in running my studio.

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Dark Blue: What are you currently fascinated by and how does it feed into your work?

NS: Research and learning new processes, the beauty of the internet age is that we can now access so much information in regards to techniques and materials, at the click of the button we can access ‘how to’s’ on YouTube. I feel like learning has always been an obsession and a necessary part of a creative career, years ago you’d need to intern, or apprentice to learn a new skill, and although the education you get from hands on practice in undoubtedly far superior, if you need to try something out briefly, just to test and idea, the access to online support from professionals or specialist in their industry is phenomenally exciting.

Dark Blue: What particularly interests you about typography?

NS: The ease of conveying a message, or telling a story, especially to people who might not have the time or inclination to stare at a piece of art until the message becomes apparent. With my work, there is usually a secondary point or commentary I hope some people take away from it, but on face value, so long as you can read, you can see what I’m trying to say.

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Dark Blue: What’s your personal motto?

NS: Never Perfect but Always Awesome.

 Check out more of Nicolai’s work on Instagram @ornamentalconifer