Folio illustration agency, established London 1976

In the Studio: Nabil Nezzar

Bruges, Belgium

Welcome to the wonderful world of watercolour, pencil and gouache. Giving traditional media a contemporary twist, Nabil Nezzar creates truly unique and stunning art. His range spans across fashion, products, portraiture and beyond. Nabil began illustrating at a very young age in France before moving to Australia and New Zealand in his early twenties to develop and explore his work. Now residing in Belgium, Nabil enjoys an international client list and a highly desired style.

In the Studio: Nabil Nezzar 5
How do you feel being part of an agency represented as a freelance illustrator has helped with your work to date?

The benefit of having an agent that represents you is that we, artists, can make the separation between the creation and the direction. When I create, I can not direct. Adding to my work all the marketing makes it very difficult to be creative. Therefore the agency gives me the freedom to focus on what really excites me. It is a bit like an orchestra, we are all working together for a client, the audience, and we all conduct one another using our own expertise. Without each individual member of the orchestra we couldn’t pull it off. We are all working together to produce and bring great ideas to life.

Describe your working style in five words…

Intricate – Delicate – Story-Telling – Decadent – Enchanting

Who and what keeps you inspired?

I am inspired by people and their interaction with one another. I am inspired with everything surrounding me. It can be very subtle things that attract my feelings, such as the shape of a shadow on a wall, or when I’m having my coffee, or listening to people talking on the street. It is all about those tiny everyday little things that spark my curiosity and touches my heart. Somehow these end up as an idea formed by the world around me.

How do you feel you personal work feeds into and influences your commissioned work?

I think my personal work and commissioned work are very good ‘friends’, because they are both (and especially in the luxury industry) about intuition and not marketing. I can work for weeks on a single piece just to make it right, and even though it might not seem profitable marketing-wise, at the end it pays off because our purpose is to bring great ideas to life and please the audience.

Working within illustration and creativity can have its highs and lows. What are your three constraints and three motives to work during the day?

My mind is full of contrasts so I have to be very careful with it, I have noticed that I am often trying to knit masculine strength and feminine delicacy together until it becomes overwhelming and I start to overthink and therefore in need to take a step back.

But the best feeling lies in the accomplishment. I find it mandatory to have the sensation that I have achieved something before going to bed, no matter if it was for a client or myself. And that achievement is also confirmed when I start receiving feedback from people as well as through social media. This highlights my day and makes me feel like producing more and more.

When for you do illustrations hold more strength than words?

I create a story with my illustrations but I let everyone interpret their own. It (illustrations) provides more freedom as we can then add words; adding more detail to the story. This is something I enjoy as I find it really hard and sometimes needless to explain my work, or explain ‘why’ I am doing this, but I do like when people give their own interpretation.

What interested you in the direction of your illustration style?

I work with instinct. I never know when it is time for me to start a new illustration, absorbing and reacting to all the things surrounding me and at some point I just feel like I have to pick up one of them and get started from there. Though initially it starts according to what tools I am going to use, whether it’s graphite, gouache, a type of paper or size, which can take weeks. I spend a lot of time in art shops and I play around with all the different pencils and paints or feel the grain of a paper.

Finally, pick three things that are most valuable to you in your working studio and explain to us why you have chosen those and what story there is behind them.

Photo named: 1-Personal notebook:

This is my personal notebook and I’ve had it since 2008. Everywhere I go I take it with me jotting down different kinds of notes from working schedules to my grocery-shopping list. I love reading through it in my spare time it reminds me of my time in France, Australia, New Zealand and Belgium. Bringing back lots of cheerful memories.

Photo named: 2-Book:

Back in Australia I found this book “Everything men know about women”, clearly you’ve got the answer as soon as you open the first page. Just love how simple and efficient the idea is and I have promised myself to never ever use it for a sketch.

Photo named: 3-Handmade toy:

This little handmade toy was a gift from a young lady that I have met in Tokyo. We used to meet up every two days at a whiskey bar and she would teach me Japanese. She didn’t speak a word of English so we communicated through drawings and storyboards. It never leaves my sight!


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