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Monday, 30 September 2013

GarconJon meets...Nas Abraham - GQ x GAP

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There are only a handful of illustrators in London whose work truly excites me. Nas Abraham is one of those talented people. As a member of superb style team Individualism, he's been producing some of the best work online in the menswear sphere and continues to raise the bar of quality.

As his work has recently been displayed as part of a group exhibit at Gallery Different, it felt right to introduce him as the first London subject in the GQ for GAP series. I sat down with him to photograph his free-hand illustration and chat about his opinions on current industry trends.

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Nasson Abraham, Multimedia Graphic Artist

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? Born and raised in London, currently residing in the West.

What's your star sign? Aquarius

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A Multimedia Graphic Artist, I had incredible foresight as a child. Ok, truthfully, Batman.

When did you realise illustration was your calling? Well, my father would encourage me to sit down quietly and draw as an alternative to running around after an energetic 5 year-old, so I naturally developed a love of drawing from an early age. I remember my overly critical 4th Grade teacher actually being impressed with a 3D drawing of a Christmas present that I had made up from my head. I think it's the little words of encouragement that I received over the years that made me realise I want to make a living out of this thing that I love to do.

How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Impatient, appreciative, passionate and an inspiration junky.

Who or what is the biggest influence on your work? God is genuinely the biggest influence. Most of my ideas get sent in the form of a dream or in a quick flash of an image. Whether that’s a concoction of things I’ve seen throughout my life conjured up in a specific instance, I don’t know, but what I do know is that there’s something up there abundantly supplying me with these visuals.

I have a great reaction to your watercolour illustrations but you use multiple mediums – do you have a preferred tool? That's tricky, each tool has it's own beautiful, unique effect and is used for a specific purpose. I think it depends on the piece I'm doing, but if I had to choose, I'd say a traditional pencil. It was the first tool I picked up and it's the tool I am most comfortable with. I haven't actually shown the public too much of my sketch work...

You've recently showed some pieces at a group exhibition at Gallery Different, how did that go? What was the response? Yes, that was amazing, huge thanks to Fashionstyleology for inviting me to take part in it. The response was better than I could have hoped for, to have people linger at my artwork was heartening to say the least.

You're a member of team Individualism. The site has such a consistent high level of quality – what do you think it's strengths are? How is it working with such a talented bunch of young Londoners? We produce purely original content with a range of different concepts; I think that's a huge strength of ours. Individualism houses a team of incredibly skilled people in different areas of the industry from stylists, photographers, to videographers and writers etc, we all compliment each other very well. I'm inspired by a lot of what my team members do and it's encouraging being around such hard workers.

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Many of my friends who do illustration comment on how under appreciated it is as an art form – particularly in fashion as it used to be so prominent. Do you agree? This is the part where I rant. I completely agree. Illustration is seen more as 'commercial fine art', usually because of the misconception that illustrations can be churned out in high volumes from the illustrator, usually that it lacks concept and is purely for aesthetics and therefore devalues the artwork. I think that’s just down to a lack of proper research. Also, to most people, Illustration= drawings. Again that is not correct. I am adamant that if the industry knew that the modern definition of fashion illustration encompasses moving image, photography, graphic design, print design and almost anything visual, they would involve more fashion illustrators for their general art direction and campaigns.

Are there any trends within illustration you've noticed? I think the original use of fashion illustrations - to mockup of outfits and garment designs - is being replaced by using them for advertisements and campaigns. The advancement of technology has worked in our favour and not just because social media allows us to publicise our artwork, but because we now have access to digital printers that can replicate the most complex of print designs and illustrations onto fabric, at a relatively affordable price. I predict this will be future of a Fashion Illustrator's career, more surface design and print rather than traditional fashion illustration.

What illustrators influenced you to move into the art form? Originally, it was two Japanese illustrators that influenced me greatly. Yohji Shinkawa is the lead character designer for the popular video game franchise ‘Metal Gear Solid’. His effortless brushwork and accuracy in form is beautiful. Takeshi Murakami- though more of an artist, his illustrations for Louis Vuitton, I felt captured the essence of the Japanese ‘kawaii’ animation style, which I was a huge fan of at the time.

Do you have any secret spots in London you'll share? The Unit London, is one of the most inspiring and best curated galleries I have ever visited, housing a consistent family of incredible artists from Jonny Burt to Carne Griffiths. There’s also small Korean supermarket named 'Duri' in Ealing Common which I’m quite fond of. The owners always make me feel like a (distant) relative they haven’t seen in a while, not to mention the authentic Korean delicacies they stock.

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You're a big user of social media – who are your top 3 instagram accounts to follow right now? @_johnjarrett, @orchlondon and @maison_abdiel. Three very inspiring mens' fashion, style and art accounts.

How has digital media enabled you to do what you do? Because of tools like Photoshop, I can confidently say I can bring any image I have in my mind, into reality. That’s quite a bold statement to make, but when you understand the potential of some of these programs, you begin to realise that there’s almost a visual that can’t be achieved if you were to spend some serious time on it. You can imagine how liberating that is.

And what about social media? It is a godsend; it's never been easier to publicly express myself. It's opened up a lot of doors for collaborations with companies, artists and musicians. I think the most beneficial aspect of digital media has ensured that I never get artists’ block because of the constant stream of inspiring work I can view at my fingertips.

The London Collections have brought a huge amount of attention to our city – for you, what is the menswear scene in London like? The menswear scene in London at the moment is quite close-knit, but not exclusive. I feel it's becoming less and less about status and more about the individual's work (which should speak for itself), and I love that. I always see the same friendly faces at events, which of creates quite the harmonious atmosphere. I think having such a positive attitude and being mutually supportive of one another will encourage more collaborative projects and really make an impact in the industry.

What designers should we be looking at in the coming seasons? Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Rav Matharu of Clothsurgeon and Lee Sedman of Sons of Heroes. All 3 have a consistent, beautiful aesthetic and pay great attention to detail.

If money were no object, who would you buy clothes from? Again, Givenchy. Not because it's been overhyped and I'm following a trend, I have a genuine appreciation for their striking and intelligent aesthetic.

And in reality, where do you shop? Ah, reality, such a contrast from the previous question. I shop all over really, from Religion, All Saints, H&M, GAP, Kurt Geiger. I stick with the middle- tiered price ranges; spending £400 for a pair of shoes when I’m just about to launch business seems kind of redundant.

Who are your style influencers? I'd say Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Sam Lambert, Shaka Maidoh and Nick Wooster. They all have impeccable style and make it look so effortless.

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What blogs are you currently reading? I like blogs that cover a range of subjects, art, fashion, technology etc. Raatfashion.tumblr.com is a beautifully curated blog owned by a very talented photographer. The visuals on there are stunning, a real pleasure to scroll through when looking for inspiration. Another is Hypebeast.com, the content is great, and the comment section is pure entertainment. Basically, if you want to find the most critical and hilarious bunch of avid early adopters, just scroll down in any Hypebeast blog post and prepare to either laugh or be disgusted by humanity. Overdeauxis.tumblr.com is another purely visual blog housing an incredible collection of urban/street lux menswear, a great source of visual inspiration and well curated.

What’s an average day like for you? Day? I do most of my work at night (less distractions), so I sleep until about mid-day, straight on the Mac, scroll through some blogs, check some emails (boring). I might have a meeting with someone in Shoreditch or the West End - it’s NEVER anywhere else for some reason - and usually meet up with whoever’s in the area. Then come back home, I could start on some artwork or plan a project, make a few phone calls. Whatever I do, I rarely finish before 5am.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job? The constant internal battle of sacrificing quality for the sake of adhering to a deadline is probably the hardest thing. I’m quite the perfectionist, so I always have to plan far ahead to make sure I have enough time to do a piece properly. Anything falling below a standard I’ve set for myself will result in me pushing back a deadline, but that rarely happens.

What do you like most about your job? Having a project materialise from an original thought in my head is probably the most gratifying thing. Also the freedom. Because i'm freelance, being able to go at my own pace is a blessing.

What's on the horizon for you? I should be taking part in more gallery exhibitions and working with more labels soon, I'm also setting up a design agency with another talented designer. But what I’ve have secretly been focusing the majority of my energy is my menswear label… I can’t wait for everyone to see it!

Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom... “Earn it honestly, keep your integrity, ensure longevity.” That’s what my motto for most things, relationships, business, work, pretty much all aspects!

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