Illustrator and musician, Ning Ning Li is the creator behind Atlas's latest album and tour artwork. She told Town Hall Symphony Hall's Graphic Designer how designing a music poster was different from other illustration work she has previously worked on.
What was your key inspiration for this illustration?
Contemporary jazz pianist, Rebecca Nash shared the ideas behind the composition of the tracks which were really lovely stories relating to her life experiences and family. I was given a sense of etherealness when learning about these, along with the individual track titles. The name ‘Peaceful King’ is inspired by Rebecca’s father, and his love of birds, (including Kingfishers) and this dedication made me want to emulate his presence within the album, whilst also telling the story of all the other influences that shape Rebecca’s music. Rebecca’s music is rooted in such diverse and colourful origins, so I knew it needed to be all-encompassing including many different elements and colours that represented all these sources of inspiration!
How is designing a music poster different from other illustration work you have done?
Design work isn’t something I’m experienced in much. I class myself as an illustrator and not really a designer, usually providing illustrations for designers to work with. But I enjoy designing, so I used my personal knowledge of design software and reliance on my visual taste to create the poster, keeping it in theme with the album artwork.
Which medium did you use for this illustration?
I worked digitally, using my iPad and Pencil with an app called Procreate. It’s ridiculously cheap if anyone's interested, and the variety of possibilities with it are endless! I absolutely love it. The base of the picture is a face-painted profile photo, that I then worked over in the app with different brushes, patterns and alterations. In fact, I experimented a lot with techniques I’d never used before, so the process has actually helped challenge and grow my skills in working digitally.
Are these your preferred way of working?
I’ve worked in ink and watercolour for many years, and although I still do work in this medium I sometimes, I now favour working digitally, as it simplifies some aspects of my drawing process, and I also love the visual aesthetics of how I can produce my drawings through digitalisation. Working digitally has really helped me grow as a professional artist, enhancing aspects of my working process, and generating more ease where there used to be concerns or stresses.
Who are your favourite illustrators?
Quentin Blake, Hayao Miyazaki, Tony Ross, Marcia Williams (in particular her Greek Myth and Shakespeare picture books), E H Shepherd, Rebecca Greene, Marc Martinillo, Alexis Deacon, Robert Hunter, Lauren Child… to name just a few! With the accessibility of illustrators and their work online, it’s an incredibly infinite world to discover!
Rebecca Nash and her band Atlas perform as part of the Jazzlines programme. Town Hall and Symphony Hall regularly host jazz performances and talent development workshops as part of a thriving Jazzlines programme, connecting thousands of children and young people to jazz music.