At six years old, artist Nina Palomba received her very first drawing book on cartooning. Ever since, the Chicago-based, Wyoming-raised talent has been doodling and drawing her way through life, inspired and supported by friends and teachers along the way. Delighted by her whimsical, cartoon-style aesthetic, Threadless invited her to introduce her colorful sense of whimsy to our very own warehouse. Read on to learn more about Nina, her work, and the exciting reveal her Threadless piece presents.
Hi Nina! We’re so thrilled with the awesome piece you created for Threadless. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A bit about me… well, I grew up in Jackson, Wyoming and am currently based out of Chicago. I strive to create work that is positive and lighthearted. As a swoony toon, lots of what I make is about love or friendship. I like making things that spread my light in hopes to inspire others!
What are your earliest memories of art, and in what ways did your childhood encourage this discovery?
Art has always been a big part of my life. My family is extremely creative and has always encouraged me to make things since my love for art became apparent. At six I received my first drawing book, on cartooning. I’ve been doodling and drawing toons ever since.
You studied art in both Maryland and at the Art Institute in Chicago. How did these environments and the people you met influence your work?
In both Chicago and Baltimore, I had great friends and teachers that truly pushed me to be a better painter, creator, and person. This all added up to me discovering what I loved making most, but also helped me gain serious technical skill along the way. SAIC truly opened me up to the art world and showed me that I can create so much. This all made me really want to master what I loved doing most.
In what ways has Chicago culture specifically played a part in your art?
Chicago has absolutely been the main reason I started painting murals. I didn’t know too much about that world until I moved here, and started paying attention to it towards the end of my SAIC education. It opened up my eyes to a whole new way of creating, and has taught me to create things that speak louder than the work I have made previously.
Have you always tended toward a cartoon aesthetic, or did you experiment with other styles along the way?
Cartoons have always been a part of what I love to do, ever since I was a kid. I’ve always drawn comics and characters, but that passion tended to remain something I did on the side. In school I focused on scientific illustration and digital fabrication, but at the same time devoted all my out-of-class energy towards creating zines and comics. This took up more of my time and started to leak into other classes. Somehow the toon world completely took over and became what I do 24/7. It took me a while to realize that my passion for cartoons didn’t have to be on the back burner, but could in fact be what I do full time.
You have such a rich, vibrant sense of color. When concepting a piece, do you consider color as much as you do the design?
Both color and design are always thought out before starting a piece, sometimes not as intensely as others. I love color! But am also really picky about it. I’ve created my own “Nina World” color pallet of sorts. I tend to mix and match the colors I love most from piece to piece. It has actually sped things up for me and has allowed me to spend more time of the design aspects of making verses the rendering.
Why is the expression of color through your art important to you?
I think my use of color is so important to me because it expresses simply how I feel about things. Through the use of colors, It’s easier for me to tell stories. It express specific energies, brightness and emotion. It’s exciting to see big bright colors, and also can be over whelming, but hopefully in my work, always in a great way.
Besides bold color, are there are any motifs or elements that often show up in your pieces? Or is each unique?
I definitely have significant elements that travel between pieces. My lead characters are little variations of me, and my fiancé shows up a lot. There is always a little “N” hat, pencils, yellow, bouncing balls, hearts, wallpaper, flowers. I like that everything I make is tied together visually somehow.
Tell us about the piece you created for Threadless and what inspired it.
The piece I made for Threadless was simply inspired by my fiancé. We recently got engaged, so it’s all about this new chapter we are about to have together. It ended up being a subtle merge of her world and my style. Just a fun mural about our love, and a swoony reveal once it was finished.
What’s your typical process like when creating large-scale murals?
Typically I do a basic sketch, thinking about what kind of image I want to put up depending on where it is. Then I pick out my colors, making sure I’ve got everything I need in my van from tape to ladders. Then I simply start sketching it out on the wall, making sure the under layer is as close to what I want it to be without color so my imagery doesn’t get skewed. The piece evolves once I begin painting, and usually results in a surprise. I set a base foundation and choose to let my intuition guide the piece rather than focusing on perfection and rendering. I always have the most fun this way.
What is it about street art that you find most appealing, and why is it the ideal outlet for your work?
The most appealing aspect of street art is the scale. I love seeing people stop in their tracks as they become completely physically overcome by the size of the piece and are enamored by what they are seeing. It is an amazing outlet for my work, simply because I want to make art for everyone. Painting murals has given me a big voice in a lot of ways. Through color and imagery, I have been able to share my voice with everyone who passes by my murals. This has been an amazing thing so far!
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
If I wasn’t an artist, I would absolutely be a competitive skeet shooter.