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Meet Our Preserve Illustrator: Chris Nickels

It is a tradition at CreativeMornings to work with an artist in our community to create an illustration for the monthly theme.

A monthly theme inspires new conversations and ideas that we otherwise wouldn’t think about. At our events, speakers are invited to share a story around the theme and what it means to them. After a month, we are excited to see the talks and inspiration that are born out of the theme.

The global theme for May is Preserve.

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Given that these monthly illustrations are at events all around the world, it’s only right that we get to know the illustrator.


Meet Chris Nickels


Chris Nickels is an Illustrator who lives and works in Charleston, South Carolina. Originally from Athens, Georgia, Chris attended the Savannah College of Art and Design where he earned his BFA in Illustration. He has worked with a number of publications on projects for both print and digital media, but still enjoys taking up a personal project or two in his spare time. When he puts down his pen he enjoys the outdoors, reading, old cameras, and jamming on some video games.

How did you get into illustration work?

I always loved drawing and painting as a kid. Around my junior or senior year of high school, I decided to take it more seriously and apply to art school to study Illustration. Once I got out, the hard work started: a lot of emailing, portfolio editing, and favorable coincidences.

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How has your work evolved over time and what were some influences that caused it?

The biggest growth in my work I’ve seen is from practicing observational drawing. The more I practice drawing from life and studying photos, the more I value certain design decisions over others. It slowly shapes the way you draw. As far as outside influences, I love cartoons and animation. Shows like Avatar the Last Airbender, Cowboy Bebop, and Steven Universe have all had a big impact on me.

I see from your work that you have a love for the outdoors. How does this month’s theme connect to you personally? Why is preservation important to you?

I lived on the coast for the last 10 years and got to see the best and the worst ways that we interact with nature, so much of our trash ends up in the waterways and ocean. It has huge consequences for the different natural environments that we all want to be able to enjoy.

A big hobby of mine is kayaking. I’m definitely encouraged to be more environmentally conscious because I want to preserve the environment I get to experience on my kayak. On the inspiring side, organizations like Charleston Waterkeepers (a recent CreativeMornings speaker) are doing amazing work to protect our natural resources and organize individuals for action.

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What are some projects or plans for this year? How do you personally want to grow?

In general, I really want to pursue animation more both in my personal work and as a collaborator. I’d love to sketch more too.

What’s something that you recently learned or was inspired by that’s influencing your work or life?

It’s certainly not a life changing event, but I just started drawing with fountain pens rather than felt tip pens and (🤯) I’m never going back.

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What does the future of illustration or graphic design look like to you?

There has been an explosion in resources for learning new drawing, design, and digital skills. I feel like this says a lot about the spirit of the design community and where it’s heading. There’s going to be more collaboration, more mixing of disciplines, and more resources than ever to help you create the work you want.

Tell us something about yourself that we can’t find on Google.

I have the two best dogs ever: Bishop and Midas. Anything that Google says to the contrary is a lie.

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Explore more of Chris’s work on his website, Behance, Instagram, and Twitter.

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