Below is a wonderful Q&A that Kathryn Adebayo (@KATHRYNADEBAYO) conducted with Nyrryl. They discuss her life as an illustrator and what has motivated her to jump over obstacles to get to where she is now. You may recognize the art Nyrryl's shared on the SVS Forum, often lit with soft but brilliant light, portraying characters in a uniquely relatable way.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from the Philippines and I’m 22. If you’re wondering, my name is pronounced like ‘peril’. I’m self-taught and never attended any traditional art class. I wanted to take Animation in college but my family couldn’t afford it so my mother opted not to send me there. Back then, I didn’t even know Illustration was even a thing (not that there was any school in the Philippines offering Illustration anyway lol). So instead, I took up Civil Engineering. It was a bad decision. It was not for me. I felt I was trapped with no avenue to stretch my creative muscles. At the beginning, I did well but as the years went by, I sort of fell into a depression. I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to get out of bed, it was terrible. Luckily though, I pulled through and I’m proud to say that I graduated just last March. I feel more pumped than ever to study art but I still have to study for my CE Licensure Exam ( it’s a national exam in the Philippines where if I pass, I’d be a licensed Engineer). The review takes about 5 months but it’s nice knowing that if things don’t pan out in illustration, I still have a back-up. So wish me luck guys.
On your website, you wrote about being a young girl and passionate about art but not having any role models or professional artists in your small town to look up to. How did this affect your path, and how did you end up where you are today as an artist?
It was not easy. My grandfather was a photographer and he painted in his spare time but he didn’t technically draw for a living. Since no one I knew did art for a living, I assumed that it’s not a real job. I grew up thinking art is just a hobby and so I didn’t really give it much of a thought career-wise. I never really practiced/studied it seriously. It’s only recently that I learned that you can actually make a decent living drawing. I had to sort of find my own way and teach myself art. I scoured the internet for resources, watching tutorials and imitating speed paints. That’s how I found Will Terry’s YouTube channel and eventually SVS.
What are your ultimate goals and dreams when it comes to what your art can contribute to the world of children’s literature?
Wow, this is such a heavy question. I don’t believe my art can change the world any time soon but I do hope that it would help people’s lives even in small things. I want to make them smile when they’re sad. I want to remind them that there is always hope even in the darkest times. I want to help encourage kindness and understanding when all you can think of is hate. I want to spread goodness and positivity.
Though winning an award is great, I want to make a book that when children read it, will always stick with them even as they grow older. (Now that’s sappy)
Could you share with us three illustrations that you’ve done? Feel free to share any details about why you made these pieces.
These images are all milestone pieces in my art journey. They mark the various stages and the progress of my skills and style. The first image is my first “successful” digital illustration. I inked it traditionally and then colored it on Photoshop using my Wacom Intuos small. This piece was made when I was first starting digitally. I didn’t know much about painting and color theory. And as you can see my work is still really flat looking.
The second image is the first illustration I posted on SVS for feedback. First I sketched and shaded that traditionally with a pencil and then colored it in Photoshop. Around this time, I’ve started experimenting with Photoshop and traditional media. This style was inspired by Jake Parker’s Little Bot and Sparrow look which I believe was also done in pencils and Photoshop. I really like this style. I LOVE the texture. I was even planning to do the shading with watercolors. Perhaps I can try that in the future. I set this style aside though because it took too much time, at least for me, to shade by hand and scan it properly into Photoshop.
The third image, is my first ever entry to win a place in SVS’s monthly art contests. I did that one fully digital using my Ipad and Procreate. This is the time I decided to go full digital as opposed to my previous mixed media works. I’m really proud of this piece. For me this a huge validation. As someone who has never gone to art school, I always have this insecurity that I’ll never be as good as those who did. This piece made me believe that perhaps, I do have a chance. Plus, this is also my first piece that I tried to render the heck out of.
You did the illustrations for a book published in 2018 called Hal’s Worst Wednesday. Congratulations! It looks like an awesome book! Is this your first book or have you done others?
Thanks! It’s actually my second book from the same publisher but the first book is currently having some publishing issues. I’m not sure when it will be released. Other than that, I’ve done about 4 books before for independent authors and I guess about 1 of them is on amazon. LOL. Hal’s Worst Wednesday didn’t really pay much compared to deals I hear other illustrators are getting but it was certainly a lot for a starting illustrator who’s still at school like me.
My first “published” book was a project I did for my mother’s class. It was then and there that I realized that you can actually make a living drawing books. From there I started looking for jobs in places such as Upwork and Fiverr. I found menial gigs and projects but they were very low paying and most of the clients were... to put it nicely... not the best. It’s alright though. I learned a lot on how to deal with nightmare clients that way. Just this December, I finished a book for a client I met on a Facebook children’s writer-illustrator group. The pay was relatively small as expected but the schedule was very loose and the client was very nice to work with so that’s a plus. It’s coming out later this year. I might share an update on that soon.
How did you get the job for Hal’s Worst Wednesday? What was the most unexpected thing you learned from the project?
Well, I did that book a couple of years ago. Back then, I was cold emailing agents with no success. My work back then wasn’t that great so maybe that’s why. I got tired of it all so I decided to just email all the publishers/agents that I found on the internet. Luckily enough, a small publisher responded to me and we did 2 books. Again, the first book is still in the works. I think they’ve hired a new illustrator for that project because they needed to change the main character’s design because my design didn’t fit the trademark of the institution they’re using it from and I didn’t have enough time to work on it. I don’t know if I’ll still be credited as illustrator. That whole project is a mess.
Anyway, what I learned from that whole process is that you’ll never be fully ready. There will never be that right moment for you to reach out to publishers and agents and start working. There will never be that moment when your art will be at its best because it will always be changing. I’m seeing a lot of artists taking their chances, though they profess that they’re not fully prepared, and making it big. There will never be a right time to chase opportunities. Instead, you make your own opportunities today. My portfolio was crap back then and my style lack-luster, but if I didn’t reached out to that publisher, I would have never gotten that opportunity no matter how small it was.
Moving forward, what are your needs as an illustrator, and is there anything we can do as fellow SVS artists to support you?
Well, moving forward, I’m hoping to further improve and diversify my skills. Since I can’t actively look for art jobs because of my current commitments, I’m aiming to further beef up my portfolio, adding at least a piece each month such that come June, assuming I passed my licensure exam, I can go looking for an agent. I think SVS is the best community to help me with this. The people in the forum are always willing to share their knowledge and give critiques. What I really need is a second pair of eyes on my work to point out things that I did wrong and SVS has provided me with so much more. I can’t thank everyone enough. Thank you.
Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!
If you would be interested in sharing your work for a chance to be featured for April head over to the SVS Forum and post your best work before March 10th.