Eric Nyquist's Sketchbooks

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday July 12, 2017

The 2017 Summer Invitational: Pimp Your Sketchbook, in which artists show their personal work and open a window onto their creative process, continues with Eric Nyquist, who lives and works in L.A.

My sketchbooks are so important to my work process. As with every creative practice, sometimes the ideas come easily, and sometimes they just don’t. Sketching is a building process. One sketch might be a disaster, but it might lead me to a really good idea. And even sketching can be difficult. I don’t always have a plan for what each page in one of my sketchbooks will become, but I try not to abandon a page. Sometimes a page on the verge of disaster can become a huge success.

A sketchbook is a liberating, yet chaotic experience. It’s a vehicle for discovery, not a victory lap. The beauty of a sketchbook is that it’s meant to be a place to process, mess up, and experiment. Sketchbooks are for the artist what a punching bag is for a boxer. This is why I urge my students to get into the habit early. I stress the personal practice of sketching as well as the benefit of sketching before making a final piece. Like I said, sketching is how an artist stays in shape.

I tend to use two types of sketchbooks. First, is the small horizontal format from Moleskine. These I fill up with experimental drawings, and I like the size because they’re portable. When I get the time to draw for myself, I take one of these with me, and I’ll draw typography, creatures, and unsuspecting people across the pages. Sometimes I draw from my head in these notebooks as well. It’s usually a fine ink pen or pencil on paper, but also washes, collage, and stickers to give it some texture. There’s no hard, fast rule for what goes on each page. Sometimes I’ll fill a whole page in one sitting, other times I’ll draw something on several different pages, and then I’ll go back and fill them in later. Most of the pages are densely detailed, like my drawings, but sometimes I’ll break that pattern with a single iconic image or word.

I have stacks of the black Moleskines from years and years of drawing. Each one is like a time capsule and flipping through the pages takes me back to where I was or what I was inspired by over the years. Some people say smell is the sense most associated with memory, but finding something you made a long time ago re-ignites something very visceral about when you created it. My Moleskine notebooks have traveled with me to the gothic archways of Westminister Abby and deep into the forests of Banff National Park. I take them with me to local coffee shops and on road trips, and if I find myself waiting on something, I always have a way to keep myself occupied.

The second kind of sketchbook I use is a larger vertical format Moleskin. These are the books I use for my process sketches for commissioned work. When I get an illustration job, whether it’s for a spot illustration in a magazine, or twelve book covers for Penguin Classics I always do sketches before digging into the final piece. I use the larger pages to do four to six pencil sketches on each page. Sometimes I’ll do twenty or thirty sketches before sending a selection to the art director or author I’m working with. Because so much of my work accompanies writing, I always begin by reading the piece, the article or the book itself. When I do this, I’ll write down words that strike me, especially visual words and descriptions on Post-It notes, and then I’ll stick those nearby when I do my sketches.

Both sketch practices are important—one is more professional and the other is more personal. The small experiments I do in the personal sketchbooks, whether with technique or material, often inspire new ways of working for my commissions. What’s more, I’ve gotten lots of jobs from people who’ve seen my sketchbooks on my website or social feeds. The personal work often brings in the professional work.

Eric Nyquist is an American artist working in Los Angeles. After graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, he began a career as a working artist and illustrator. His body of work includes meticulous drawings, paintings, and collages that merge the organic and the industrial.

Nyquist chooses the line as his tool in creating dense narratives so detailed they straddle the representative and the abstract. His work disrupts stereotypes and forces the viewer to go beyond simply “looking” at things. Each drawing asks us to see analytically and not just physically.

In a technological age of rapid image making, Nyquist uses classical methods to create contemporary results. From etching to lithography, he upholds the craft of print-making while expanding the possibilities of the medium. The printing process informs his drawings—as he arranges layers and screens of color and texture into each piece.

His work has been commissioned by institutions including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and The New York Times. He has also collaborated with fellow artists including Beck, Doug Aitken, and Jakob Dylan. His illustrations have been published all over the world in magazines, books, and newspapers including the 2014 best-selling Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.
Instagram: ericbnyquist
Twitter: @EBnyquist



More on Eric in DART




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