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Nykolai Aleksander was born in Germany in 1978 where she spent the first 16 years of her life. At 17 she went to England to do her A-Levels in Music and Theatre Studies. After a year, and without finishing her A-Levels, she moved back to Germany and started working in catering for film sets. A little later she landed a job as a set assistant on a TV series. But in1999 she decided she had enough of it all and moved to the UK for good first to London, and two years ago to Scarborough where she currently works as a full time freelance artist.
Nykolai Aleksander: I’ve always been creative in some way or another but I didn’t begin painting until 2002. I was helping to write the novel Convivium by Andrew E. Maugham and really wanted to illustrate some of the characters from the book. That kind of started it all. And with my discovery of the Wacom Tablet, pencil and papers gave way to Photoshop.
Until a couple of years ago it was all more of a hobby to me than anything else. That all changed when Paul Hellard from Ballistic Publishing asked me to submit some of my paintings for the book EXOTIQUE 2. More publications followed and with that came increased interest in my work from potential clients.
The composer Justin Lassen also played a great part in it all. Ever since I got to know him he has been very encouraging (something that goes both ways; I absolutely admire the man’s talent), as well as using some of my work for of his “Synaethesia” project.
I don’t think that without one or the other I’d be doing what I am doing now, which is working as a freelance artist full time, usually for private clients, doing book illustrations and the like. On the side I’ve also been doing jewelry work, designing and making my own little collection. But I can only really do that upon request due to time constraints and the cost of the materials I like to use.
IA: You seem to be very eclectic in your choices in subject matter, can you speak about the different themes you've worked on?
NA: I guess I just paint what appeals to me at any given point in time. I don’t care if it’s a subject matter that I’ve covered before, or if it absolutely doesn’t appear to fit into the rest of my portfolio.
My latest commission really plays on that trait of mine: A dozen or more paintings all linked into one story with one common thread, but all so very different that it makes the whole thing very entertaining as well as challenging for me. I like that. I like having to think while working, doing research, historical or otherwise.
Going even further back, several years ago I was approached by the fine art gallery Washington Green to do some traditional paintings for them of my cartoon character Little Nikki. The whole thing was called off in the end, and although I liked the idea of also doing traditional work, I wasn’t too fond of doing only cartoon oil paintings. When the mood takes me I still pick up real brushes and canvas every now and then, but I stick to portraits in black-and-white rather than anything cute and colorful.
IA: What do you find to be the best and worst parts of traditional and digital painting?
NA: With digital painting I like the freedom it gives me. I can play around and try new things without having to be afraid that it will ruin the painting; if I screw up there’s always the benefit of the undo button. It’s also a lot cleaner and you don’t need much space at all to work. On the downside, the tools needed are very expensive computer, painting programs, tablet and there is never an original, unless you print your painting and then destroy all existing files of it. Even then, it still is different from any traditional painting.
With oil being my preferred traditional medium, I like the smells associated with it (though getting high on turps is anything but pleasant) and I like getting my fingers dirty. I like the hands-on aspect of it and feeling the texture of the dried paint on the canvas. A downside for me personally would be that it’s a lot harder to go into extreme detail, unless you are working on a massive surface. Then again, it also gives you a different perspective of the things you paint, as you need to concentrate on what’s truly important. I think what really gets to me most of the time is waiting for the paint to dry. I get impatient, and after a while lose interest. Not a good thing.