The magic hands behind Wales’ Futuristic Romeo and Juliet
Wales gets its own version of Romeo and Juliet in a futuristic romance drawn by Kat Nicholson, a multi-skilled artist who uses her work to get important messages across.
At first, it’s always a blob. A boring, lonely looking blob in the middle of a huge blank page, but then it all changes. Quick hands that confidently hold a pen take over and draw circles that transform into eyes and then a smiling face. After colour is added and there is no empty space left on the page, the initial splodge has been replaced by a superhero.
Kat Nicholson’s hands can bring any character to life, no matter how different they are. From working on Transformers cartoons, painting portraits, doodling kittens on cards, illustrating Shakespeare classics and modernizing them in robot filled comic books, this Welsh-artist shows that with passion creativity never ends.
Sitting in the middle of a crowded coffee shop with her chunky pencil case close by, Kat’s happy to show off her skills. “If I was a comic superhero, I would do some kind of shape-shifting because one of my strengths is my ability to take on different styles,” says Kat after deciding to draw herself as a cartoon surrounded by magical pens.
Kat is fast and it takes little time for her make-believe self to be looking defiant on paper, with a flowy cape and her hands on her hips. Kat’s speed comes from years of practice. “I’ve drawn since I’ve been able to hold a pencil. When I was younger, people would ask ‘Would you like to be an artist when you grow up?’ and I would always say ‘I already am an artist!”
Nowadays, armed with a traditional 2D art degree to back-up her claims, the Welsh illustrator tries to use her art to promote important messages. She hopes Silicon Heart, her newest comic-collaboration with author Sam Road, spurs debate despite being science-fiction set 30 years into the future of the Welsh Valleys.
“It follows star-crossed lovers Jan, a bullied overweight teenage girl and Rho a robot who’s moved down the road. Neither are accepted by their peers and they find solace in each other, although the closed-minded community they live in is not ready to accept their relationship. It’s very a-la Romeo and Juliet, but tackles important issues around prejudice, belonging and what it means to be human,” explains Kat. “I’m not usually attracted to futuristic or romance stories, bus this story is so much more than either of these things. Sam’s characters are lovable and relatable.”
Slicon Heart is fan-funded through Kickstarter, an online crowdsourcing platform. “Luckily Sam had run a successful Kickstarter campaign for his previous graphic novel, so he had a lot of experience which we relied on. Combining that with the wonderful support of our fans, friends and even families, we managed to get a great deal of support for the project,” says Kat.
Despite the hard-work, Kat thinks running the campaign was rewarding: “To know people out there care about your project enough to put their money behind is wonderful. I’m not sure I could have existed as an independent artist in the same way in a pre-internet age.”
The web also allowed Kat to raise money for charity after the November terror attacks in Paris through an art piece she auctioned on eBay. “Art is more than just a hobby for me. When something deeply saddening and desperate such as the Paris attacks happens, art is the only way I can process and deal,” says Kat.
The title of her tribute piece is Liberté, egalité, fraternité, the motto of the French revolution meaning freedom, equality, and fraternity. It shows the French’s Republic Symbol, a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty named Marianne, standing firm.
Initially the piece was just to show solidarity for France as a whole, but soon Kat realized her art could be used in a fundraiser for a worthy organization such as MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders).
But while the purpose of Kat’s work is clear, the form it will take in the future is not. Kat avoids planning any ‘art missions’ and sees being adventurous and open minded as the keys to success: “The freelance life-style is very fluid. You have to go with the flow and think on your feet,” advises Kat while closing her pencil box “Whatever awaits me, I hope it will be a worth-while challenge.”