Behind the Scenes with Illustrator Shaw Nielsen

This time around, the Self-Promotion & Marketing issue of HOW magazine features an entirely hand drawn illustration from illustrator Shaw Nielsen, who has kindly obliged us with this Q&A.

September 2012 ISSUE (get the PDF) | INDIVIDUAL ARTICLES

In an old warehouse turned studio near railroad tracks in Denver, CO, Nielsen and his dog are the sole proprietors of the design studio that has produced works for many big name publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Parenting Magazine, and, of course, HOW Magazine.

Tell me the story of how/when your studio/firm started?

I guess you could say that I’ve always been illustrating because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had an overactive imagination and a passion for storytelling via doodling. On a more practical level, though, I’ve been illustrating
professionally for about five years
and started hustling the minute I
got out of art school.

How many folks work at your studio?

I work alone, but usually take my dog into the studio to keep me company.

Did you pick this location for a specific reason?

The nice part about being an illustrator on this side of the 21st century is that you can live anywhere you want. So did I pick Denver for a specific reason? Yup — because I could. I love the great beer here, the sunshine, the mountains. I even love our crummy baseball team and can’t see myself living anywhere else anytime soon.

Who is your typical client?

I’m pretty lucky to have a wide variety of clients all over the world. I would say I work mostly with magazines and newspapers but that I also do a fair amount of work for advertising agencies and publishers.

What have been some of your most notable projects?

I just finished up a project with IBM that they are animating and that was/is a great experience. I’ve also been churning out a personal series of public service announcements. This is my way of reminding people to be nice, lighten up and live a life worth living.

What would you say is a distinguishing feature of the work you churn out?

General snazzy-ness and a look at the half-glass-full side of things. I enjoy bringing a bit of sunshine into peoples lives, instead of the doom and gloom that can so easily fill up our days.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Doodlin’ away.

Do you have any illustrators that you would say influence your work/style?

Too many to list, I’m a big fan of most of my contemporaries (you name em’ and I probably love their work) and so many illustrators that came before me. Though, if I had to pick my greatest influence in life/illustration, I’d say that the work and life of JC Leyendecker greatly influences the thinking behind my approach to illustration and how I live my life outside of my studio.

Being Shaw Nielsen

On the off chance you do not find a portal through your office that lets you into the mind of Mr. Nielsen, here are some tools you can use to get as close as you can.