Illustrator and Artist Nicole Rifkin creates work unique and beautiful illustrations, taking inspiration from popular culture and the world around her.
Hey! Please introduce yourself and what you do!
Hello! My name’s Nicole Rifkin and I’m a freelance illustrator. I live and work in Brooklyn and am an MFA candidate in the Illustration as a Visual Essay graduate program at School of Visual Arts.
Tell me a little bit about your current project.
Currently, I’m working on a book project about death that challenges myself and the audience by not including classic imagery of death (skulls, graveyards, ghosts etc) while working on abstraction, emotion, and generally just pushing my work into a weirder place.
I’m also in the beginning stages of painting a mural at a great DIY venue in Brooklyn, doing a show poster marathon (seeing how many show posters I can do in three months, designing merch for Aspiga, and working on a collaborative riso zine with the amazingly talented Kristen Liu Wong! All very exciting stuff!!
Well, first of all, I think sleep deprivation and unhealthy amounts of coffee would be a definite health con. However, the pros are innumerable, I love what I do and the field I work and study in. I like working collaboratively, and deadlines make me challenge myself so it’s kind of perfect for me!
When is the best time to work to get those creative juices going?
8pm-7am; I work non-stop until a project is done unless there’s a specific design element to the project that requires more that muscle memory drawing. Honestly, I don’t sleep very much haha.
What is it about your practice that you find so exciting and keeps you hooked?
I got into illustration because when I was 18 I had nothing to say artistically (6 years later I have a definite wheelhouse of things I like to talk about in my work). I knew I liked to draw but I’m not very political and I definitely like to keep my opinions mostly to myself.
When I realised that Illustration was a thing that you could do, I fell in love with the communications aspect of the art. I love narratives and strong emotional stories with great humanity and depth; and honestly, I feel like other peoples’ stories are so interesting (even ones you might consider mundane) and I get to give back a little bit of that by illustrating it for them when asked.
Also, I’m always genuinely happy and excited whenever I get assigned a job. It never gets old, every art director I’ve worked with is amazing and have helped me grow and change as an illustrator.
If you could experiment with any other medium, what would you choose?
Oh dear. Printmaking for sure, I did a lot of it when I attended Pratt for my undergrad. But I’d love to explore that again. Also, I’d love to do more stuff printed offset; I think the slight registration errors and colours are amazing.
Where do you get your daily inspiration?
This is going to sound sad but I kind of just want to capture this weird sense of limbo that I felt when I was a kid. Daily I lead a really boring life and see sad and mundane things regularly but I truly think there’s beauty in that.
My inspiration happens when I see something that makes a weird alarm in my head go off with a million ideas for images that captures that glimpse of emotion I saw in something or someone. Also coffee is a major inspiration.
What makes you wake up each morning feeling pumped to create some new work?
My friends, classmates, and family. And just wanting to make something, I can do it so why not do it? Are there any artists/photographers/writers/filmmakers or musicians where you have in mind when looking at creating new works?
Well, you just opened a can of worms there, but I love the work of Patrick Leger, Daniel Zender, Adrian Tomine, Jordan Crane,Jon Han, Kenichi Hoshine… The list is almost endless there.
As for writing: Chuck Klosterman, hands down, filmmaking: Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch, my love knows no bounds.
Music got me working in communicative art (I understand that in retrospect), so my current favourite bands are: Pile, Ovlov, Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, Beat Happening, Pavement, Polvo, Shellshag, and Teenage Halloween (they need a full length). Honestly, most bands on Exploding In Sound, Merge, and Don Giovanni make me feel like I need to work WAY harder. I like that.
What are you currently working on that you just can’t get enough of?
Show posters. They make me so incredibly happy.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make a career out of your given practice?
If this is what you love, work hard and keep working. It should always make you happy: and you should always push yourself and be cool with change (stylistically or conceptually)