1) Hey thanks for doing this interview, I really appreciate the chance to pick your brain about some important topics that I would like to learn about but also things that I think others can as well. I also hope that this helps your own kickstarter that goes live on 12/12/17, so this should be a win- win for everyone involved. So can we please start with you introducing yourself. Who are you and how long have you been doing the art thing? What is your educational background?
My name is Nate Hillyer. I am a writer and illustrator of monsters and myths in the sci-fi fantasy and horror genres. I live in Indianapolis, IN USA. I’ve been making art and writing stories for as long as I can remember. When I was a child we didn’t have much money so I spent most of my time in my imagination creating narratives for my toys and drawing. Additionally, growing up, I was introduced to religion, Christianity, which influenced me greatly. I grew up believing that angels were watching over me… protecting me all kinds of dark things… that God was pulling strings behind the scenes and the Devil was waging war for my soul. As an adult I look back, having contemplated and analyzed the rationality of these things, and can see a clear relation between religious myth and my present work.
I attended a private Christian university here in Indiana called Indiana Wesleyan University. I couldn’t afford art school so I decided to take advantage of some scholarships they offered. They also have one of the best art departments for private schools here in Indiana.
2) I look at your work and its amazing, the kind of art I would hope to put out there but it also strikes me as something that might be difficult to market. So i'm curious how did you get your started working full time? Are you living solely off of selling prints..etc. or are you doing book covers..etc. to make ends meat? Is it everything you ever dreamed it would be?
Thank you! It was a slow start for sure. When I graduated from college I kept working and trying my best to work jobs and do art. I contacted some professionals and got the advice that I should pay my dues, work for larger companies and then maybe I’d get to do art for me professionally… I didn’t like that answer. I attended conventions, read interviews and saw that a lot of pros were trying to become independent. I decided to start there. I focused all of my creative time on my projects and personal artworks. It wasn’t until a year ago that things began to pick up. Gaining a large amount of followers on instagram has a way of changing things for the better. I am currently working full time making most of my money from selling prints, originals and doing commissions. I take the odd job in the music industry (album art, tshirts, posters etc.) but prefer to work for myself. This income combined with my wife’s allows me to do this.
To answer the last part… in some ways. When you’re a kid you think that being a pro would allow you more time for drawing when in reality there’s much less… especially being independent. My time is divided between marketing, product design, customer service, graphic design, shipping, streaming, social media managing and more. I would say it is a dream getting to work for myself and do what I love but it’s different than most would think.
3) Looking back at your posts on instagram I see that you have made a lot of progress in the last few years in your sense of design. Your early posts have the same ideas in them as your current work but now you have really turned a corner where you are expressing your ideas very clearly. What was the turning point for you in terms of both skill and figuring out what you wanted this Nox Lucem project to be?
Turning points seem to come as a result of experimentation. At one point I decided that I loved to sketch, I was drawing to pen and ink and that portraiture fascinated me. I allowed myself to hone in on what I enjoyed rather than force myself to work in full color or large illustrations or whatever I thought I was supposed to be doing. I began posting my writing along with my monsters and that’s when things took a turn. Nox Lucem has been in my mind since college. I see it as a way to encompass all of my current projects and build a world of myths and monsters. My world Is Nox Lucem. I see myself as a mythmaker seated with others around a fire in this land of ceaseless night. Nox Lucem began as a way to deal with my own doubts, anxiety and depression. It was my search for light, for hope, when everything around me was dark.
4) What is Nox Lucem? What books, movies, myths..etc. inspired you to create this world?
This is a book you are kickstarting for correct?
Nox Lucem is a tale of light set in a land of eternal darkness. The central character, Nox, a descendent of nightfall survivors becomes the first person to witness light’s return to the land of ceaseless night. Nox Lucem is his account of Lux: a great being of light that collides with the consuming darkness to spark wildfires into existence, raise the dead and wake slumbering giants. The book I am Kickstarting this December is a Tome of creatures, characters and monsters that exist or have existed in the land of Nox Lucem. There will be an official Nox Lucem book in the future but this one is more of a compendium and isn’t part of the main narrative.
For Nox Lucem, I am inspired by religious texts, namely, Ecclesiastes in the Bible or a gospel in the New Testament. I was also inspired by dante’s inferno, the wizard of oz and the lord of the rings to name a few.
5) As artists I think we have a lot of ideas that compete for our time and energy, but for you it looks like you have been working on this project for what looks like at least a couple of years. What is it about the project that you liked so much? Was it the world building that attracted you to this idea? Was there any other project you considered pursuing before this one?
You are correct in saying that as artists we have lots of ideas. I currently have a log of around 10 projects for the next several years. Nox Lucem took root in college and I decided to work on it first because it mirrors my journey through faith and doubt as well as my interest in death and the afterlife. There are a few projects that compete for my attention. I actually do children’s illustration and am working on some books at the same time as all of this. I’m also working on a comic hybrid called Autumn that is a myth in the world of Nox Lucem.
6) what I'm most impressed with is that you have what looks like to me a very niche art style but you have a very considerable following of people on instagram. I'm curious if their are any tips or suggestions you can give artists who are looking to promote themselves online? For example do you advertise through instagram or do you have a business account with them? Was there any strategy you had when approaching social media?
I have a business account, which is free, and is super useful. I have tried doing a couple promotions but it’s not really for me. I try to just let everything be organic and let people share with friends or find it by chance or see my work somewhere else. My strategy on social media is pretty simple… make great work and make it easy to find. As far as tips… hashtag appropriately (related tags), try not to use tags with too many entries (think 50-100k entries instead of millions) when starting out, and think about how your gallery looks all together.
7) I also see that you sell prints through your website, are you using a third party to print and distribute them or are you doing all of this work? If you don't mind, I'd like to ask how well selling prints has worked for you and if you have a particular strategy or thoughts on selling prints online. I know there are a lot of people who attempt to sell them online but not many people are able to.
I do all of the work for my prints here in my studio. I offer prints up to 8.5x11”. Anything larger I would utilize a contact to create the prints. Selling prints has been great. I like my prints because they look near identical to the original drawings and I take pride in knowing that people really enjoy them. Selling online is hard at the start. If you don’t have a large following consider sites that provide traffic such as Etsy. If you lack the ability to make prints consider using a local printer or use Inprnt or another site like redbubble or society6. I prefer to print and process on my own so I can sign and control the quality.
8) Do you currently attend any conventions with your art for sale? Do you plan to once this book is released?
I will be at Indiana Comic Con 2018 and am still waiting to hear back from some others but currently shows I attend are in driving distance. I am planning on increasing the amount of conventions I attend. I have many people requesting me to attend some on the west coast and overseas. We’ll see what happens as things progress in the next few years.
9) What kind of tools do you use?
Anything and everything. I love to experiment. My go to tools are Kuretake brush Markers, White Uniball Signo Pens, Bic Ballpoint pens and LePen Felt tip Markers. I also use Copics and Staedtlers. The paper I use is either Canson Mixed media sketch paper or Bristol Board.
10) Who are your artistic heroes and when you were coming up was there any kind of training you put yourself through on how to learn from these artists? How do you get better technically these days, and how do you study other artists?
Oh man, lots. But to name a few… Mike Mignola, Gerald Brom, Jeffrey Alan Love, Paul Pope. Junji Ito, Stephen Gammell, Tim Burton, Edward Gorey, John Kenn Mortensen, Guillermo Del Toro, Zdzislaw Beksinski and more. I would study their work religiously. I would make master copies, buy their books, read and re-read and actually study the images. I wanted to know how what they did worked, why it evoked the emotion it did, what rules they used or broke and which techniques they utilized. Nowadays I still do the same. I study, read, research and explore. To grow I experiment and allow myself to make ‘bad drawings’. I’m actually currently working on a master study of some of Brom’s paintings. I love to learn and grow as an artist.
11) Any last words? Where can people follow your work?
Thanks for having me in your blog. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @natehillyer. The Kickstarter for Nox Lucem: Tome of the Mythmaker has launched and you can read more about it and view my work at NOXLUCEM.COM