Sci-Fi Art Now Creator Interview: Nelson Evergreen

Flight of the Cosmic
by Nelson Evergreen

Nelson Evergreen’s work is mainly geared towards childrens’ publishing, but he tells us he likes to do a fair bit of slightly more adult/peculiar small press comics stuff on the side. His more recent include a Tom Thumb comic book for Capstone, a Wild West Pop-Up book for Templar Publishing, and an Edgar Allen Poe comic strip adaptation for Graphic Classics‘ second collection of Poe adaptations, due out on 1st August 2011.

“I’m just finishing off a couple of book covers at the moment,” he tells us. ‘Robbie Forester & The Outlaws of Sherwood St for Penguin, and A Tale Dark & Grimm for Andersen Press.

“I’ve also got a heap of kids’ picture and comic book ideas piled up in the corner, screaming ‘Hoi! You! Develop us!’ morning noon and night!”

Sci-Fi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?

Nelson Evergreen: Pencil and paper (cheap printer stuff, nothing too fancy), Photoshop & Wacom tablet.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Why?

Nelson: It’s nearly always paper and pencil for composition. I don’t care too much for being chained to the computer while working out where to place all the elements. It’s much better being able to wander about, plonking the paper down as and when and just scribbling. Moving around seems to help keep the ideas flowing.

But once everything’s where it needs to be, there’s nothing quite like Photoshop for the rendering. Photoshop is pretty much my favourite thing ever. I always loved analogue inking, but years of doing it in real life, with actual mapping nibs and actual inks and all that sort of variable, fickle nonsense, had reduced me to a hollow wreck of a man. Digital inking is more like sketching with a pencil; looser, freer, less tense. Plus you can jump from medium to medium at the click of an icon.

Red Riding Hood illustration by Nelson Evergreen

Sci-Fi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Nelson: I never had a chance to imagine being anything else! Once I was old enough to realise that all these comics I loved so much were being drawn by grown ups, and that those grown ups were making a (kind of) living from doing so, well, that was it.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Nelson: 2000AD was year zero for me, and I was especially smitten with Brian Bolland’s work. He wasn’t a spiky, off the wall stylist like Mike McMahon or Kevin O’Neill, but his ability to convey character, and his exquisite way with composition and pacing, inspired me no end. 2000AD really was a bomb going off – a comic so rammed with wonderful writers and artists that I feel guilty for only mentioning three of them.

A quick list of current names who continue to blow me away include Jamie Hewlett, Dave McKean, Paul Pope, Simon Bartram, Shaun Tan, Todd Schorr, Jon Foster, Charles Burns, Chris Riddell… Plus, a whole horde of old timers like Samuel Palmer, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kathe Kollwitz, Honore Daumier, Gustav Klimt, Goya, Vermeer, Ingres…

Plus all the amazing artists you discover being shamelessly brilliant on the web every single day. I get severely kicked up the backside at least a dozen times a week.

‘Built with a Smile’ by Nelson Evergreen

Sci-Fi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

Nelson: It’s a blank canvas for un-tethered invention. You’ve got scope for mad organisms, freewheeling alien technology, all sorts of shiny, strange unlikeliness, making it a great conduit for automatic brain/hand/paper tomfoolery. I really enjoy not being quite sure what’s going to emerge. Plus, because I get bored of researching real life stuff pretty quickly, the more I can grab straight from my head the better.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?)

© Nelson Evergreen

Nelson: Work for hire is brilliant (and essential!), but most of my favourite projects tend to be personal. When it’s your own baby the whole Unconditional Love thing quickly kicks in, and it all gets a lot more precious and subjective.

Leaving aside all the stuff I’ve got in development at the moment, on of the things I had in recent years was working on a pitch for The DFC (David Fickling’s defunct – or rather, hopefully just resting – weekly British childrens’ comic). The strip was about a 10-year-old boy going about his day to day business, blissfully unaware of this hectic universe of anthropomorphic cartoon cells going about their business inside him.

From the outset I got carried away and decided I was going to depict his innards as a cross between a random psychedelic alien environment, Judge Dredd’s Mega City One, and The Simpsons’ Springfield, all rendered in a pseudo animated CGI blockbuster style.

Of course, if I’d paid proper attention to Pixar’s Golden Rule, I’d have remembered to get the script absolutely right before launching into production – given how absurdly long these pages took, that’s not as outlandish a comparison as it might sound! But three years on, I’m still really pleased with how the visuals worked out. There was real love put into them, and I hope that comes across.

Sci-Fi Art Now: In your career, have you had any bizarre experiences while creating your art ?

Nelson: Friends and colleagues sometimes crop up in my pictures by accident. It’s weird to think of all that incredibly precise visual info floating vaguely around up there in your head, never accessible when you want it but always ready to pop out and say hello when you least expect it.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

My inner critic, without a doubt. Lax when he should be strict, strict when he should be lax. I’d sack him if he wasn’t attached.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Those moments when you realise you’ve broken out of a stylistic straitjacket you didn’t even know you were wearing.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Nelson: From a creative point of view, work out what you’re best at, push it in public, and work on your weaknesses behind closed doors. From a professional point of view, just try and be a pleasure to work with.

• Check out more of Nelson’s work at or his blog at You can contact Nelson via

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2 replies

  1. Nelsons illustrations are often simply jaw dropping. Go see more at his website! (that’s at least a coffee AND a piece of cake you owe me there N). No really. This man has paid his dues. It’s brilliant to see him getting the recognition he deserves. And I say this knowing I will never see that cake.

  2. We’ll see about that! Prepare to be caked, Mr Drowning. Caked like you’ve never been caked before.

    And thanks 🙂

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