We talk shop with the legendary Portland based illustrator, Nathan Paul Rice. Nathan tells us what advice he would give his sixteen year old self, the biggest disasters he has encountered so far on his creative journey along with some of his highlights!
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
I grew up in San Fran, CA. I was really into skateboarding during the 90s when SF was a hub for street skating. Skateboard graphics were always an influence for me. I loved the mix of borrowed images and original art. Additionally, the fact that you essentially have a work of art on your board that gets completely trashed has always appealed to me. I still find a lot inspiration from old and new skateboard graphics. Also my parents took me to museums when I was younger. I hated it at the time, but now I find that that early exposure to art has shaped the way I approach projects. I always think about drawings and illustration from a fine art perspective.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
Right now I work from home in my own studio space. I have two kids. My oldest goes to school, and my youngest stays home with me. He takes solid naps in the morning and afternoon and those are my times to get work done during the day. Then I continue after they go to bed for the evening. I find that my urge to draw is strongest in the morning, so I reserve that time for creative projects. And in the afternoon and night I usually work on emails, updating my website, or working on upcoming shows.
A lot of people are surprised at how I am able to work while having a toddler to look after, but I find that knowing my time is limited motivates me to get stuff done right now because I don’t have the luxury to take care of it later. This rigid work day has really helped me focus and stay on task.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?
I would tell my 16 year old self to relax! I think that it’s easy to constantly compare yourself to others and think that everyone is better and more talented than you. Keep a sketch book with you at all times. Draw everyday. Reach out to people whose work you like and respect. Don’t expect everything to happen right away. Make long term goals. The reality is that the best things you can do are focus on what you find interesting and pursue your skills and talents through that lens.
What has been some of your biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it?
The biggest disaster was one I brought upon myself, but since it was self inflicted I was able to grow and learn from it. There was a period when I was living and working in San Fran, and I was not involved in the art/design/creative community as much as I needed to be for my own growth and well being. I felt unmotivated and empty, and my work suffered. What I learned was to pay attention to what is important to me. My goals and values became solidified. I think it is important to know that everyone has a low experience like this during their career and not to give up completely.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
Seeing my work evolve over time has been incredibly satisfying. Because I had that low point in my career, when I felt I had abandoned my path, seeing the quality and quantity of my output grow and evolve has been immensely gratifying.
Moving to Portland, where I have the space and time to work, was a turn around for me. There are so many talented people who live and work here. Creativity and talent are really valued, and the art community is accessible and open to collaboration and feedback. I learn from creative people from all sorts of mediums and disciplines.
What’s the big goal in the next five years?
My goal is to have my work seen and enjoyed by as many people as possible in whatever form that may be. I want to continue my work on paper while building my online presence. Creatively, I would like to take some of my ink wash designs and translate them to textiles. This is a field that I am eager to explore, and I am looking forward to breaking out of my comfort zone to make this happen