Contained within the bold lines, bright colours and bizarre scenarios of Nada Hayek‘s artwork is a feeling of urgency and a twisted sense of humour that is distinctly, authentically PUNK. We just had to know more about this local artist, so we reached out for a quick Q&A.
Please explain your “Sloppy Johansson” Instagram pseudonym! There’s not much to it. It’s Scarlett Johansson, but sloppier. I think my friend came up with it in passing one night, and I guess I stole it.
Are you a big ScarJo fan? No, definitely not a big fan. Not a fan at all, really. She’s been saying some pretty questionable things and playing some pretty questionable roles. Not cool, ScarJo!
While I was scrolling through your Instagram feed, your artwork really resonated with me in large part because it references a lot of my favourite artists – Marcel Dzama, Ray Pettibon, Charles Burns – plus vintage cartoons and signage/advertisement. What are your points of reference and influence? You’re pretty much on the nose with this. I’m influenced by all those artists you listed. Especially Pettibon. I had to do a presentation on his life and work back in my first year of college, and I was completely enamoured by his aesthetic. My exposure to him, and Daniel Clowes, definitely influenced my style as a teen. I’m exposed to a lot of contemporary comics and zines. I’m also pretty into novelty toys, vintage advertisements, knick knacks and retro stuff in general.
What’s the piece of art that made the biggest impact on you? Seeing Pettibon’s work impacted my drawing style dramatically. I’d say his album cover for Sonic Youth’s album, Goo, was a game changer for me. I loved that piece.
Your influences seem very un-Vancouver…where are you from? What’s your background/education? I’m from Vancouver. I just spend a lot of time looking art from the around the world, on the internet. I’ve been through two fine art programs, only to decide I wanted to become a commercial artist. So that’s what I’m doing now.
Where did you complete your Fine Arts education? Capilano University, back when they still had a Studio Arts program. It was great, I’m sad it’s gone now.
“Sometimes I skip the pencil drawing and start with ink right off the bat. Because you can’t just erase a mistake in that medium, you have to work around it, or turn it into something else. Honestly, my better ideas come from drawings where I’ve had to work past a mess up.”
What was your biggest takeaway from art school? Art school made me realize how much I wanted to make art that was accessible and easy to connect to. I can appreciate conceptual ideas and abstract practices, but I could never see myself making that kind of art. I learnt a lot in art school, but I felt I was more suited for a career in illustration where I could be more direct with my ideas to communicate with my audience.
How about the talent/skill that you value most that you learned outside of the classroom? I erase and redraw a lot when I’m sketching out ideas. Sometimes, though, I skip the pencil drawing and start with ink right off the bat. Because you can’t just erase a mistake in that medium, you have to work around it, or turn it into something else. It’s taught me to look at mistakes as an opportunity to get creative rather than a reason to scrap a drawing. Honestly, my better ideas come from drawings where I’ve had to work past a mess up.
Tell me about your creative process. Staying exposed to art and music helps me generate ideas. I find that I get better ideas, and draw better when I’m up late at night, so I find myself doing that more than I should.
What has been the biggest learning curve in your art practice? Using traditional mediums has been a big learning curve. I haven’t been exercising those skills as often, so I know every time I give it another shot I’m going to be disappointed. It’s not so much a technical struggle, but rather a stylistic one. I’m just gonna have to keep experimenting and practicing until I get the results I want.
What’s your most invaluable tool? An eraser ’cause I mess up a lot.
A tool that you wished existed (but currently doesn’t)? Ctrl + Z for traditional mediums.
What’s your favourite material to work with? I do a lot of digital work. I like it because I can jump right into a piece with just my reference drawing from my sketchbook and make changes as I go. It’s fun to be able to change colours by clicking a couple buttons, and it helps me be more experimental. I used to do a lot of gouache and ink stuff. I think that’s my favourite medium, even though I don’t do it as often. I find it way more satisfying.
What was the first piece of art that you ever made? I can’t remember my very first stab at art. It was likely some Crayola scribbles of my family members. I do remember making paper mache sculptures though, and drawing the VHS covers of Disney movies when I was a little older.
I also used to draw Disney characters. I’d “sell” them to my lesser talented elementary school classmates, haha. What was your favourite Disney movie? Wow, genius! I should’ve thought of that. My favourite movie was either Toy Story or Mulan.
There’s definitely something creepy (in a good way!) about your aesthetic. What creeps you out? Nice! I’m glad you picked up a bit of creepiness from my work. Well, things like flies, spooky shadows and porcelain dolls creep me out in a fun way. Men in big white vans, and walking down quiet streets late at night creep me out in a way that makes me want to carry a pocket knife.
You’re an artist…and musician? Yep, I play guitar in a band called Necking with three close friends. We’ve been at it for about a year now. It works out really well for me because I can take a break from drawing when I feel uninspired, and focus instead on writing songs. When I get sick of one, I just do the other.
Do you do all of the artwork for Necking? What inspires your choice of imagery for your band and how much input do the other members give? Yeah, so far I have been. We have this EP illustration I did of a girl riding a horse that people always ask about. There’s no meaning behind it. It’s just something the band and I thought was dumb-looking and funny, so we used it. As far as input goes, I’m coming to the band with finished drawings, but they make suggestions on technical stuff and how we might use the image. We wouldn’t decide on something without getting everyone’s approval first. With the merch we’re making soon, we chose imagery that was a lot less goofy, and hopefully a lot more indicative of our sound.
How do you pay the bills? Right now I work at an engineering company doing manufacturing. The work itself isn’t artistic, I’m mostly just doing small soldering jobs, but the work environment is great and my co-workers are a bunch of visual artists and musicians. Apart from that, I’ve been busy with commissions.
“Thinking like a kid is good for art, I think. It’s lame when people criticize art pieces saying stuff like, ‘but why are the trees pink?’ Why not? Who cares.”
You’ve done some posters…how did you get into that? I think the first poster I did was for a bill my band was on. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of people in East Van’s music scene, and it’s typically people from that community that reach out to me for posters.
What is the key to an impactful poster, in your opinion? Paying as much attention to design – typography, composition, hierarchy, etc. – as you do to illustration.
What music puts you in the art-making mood? Lighthearted stuff like Beat Happening, the Vaselines and Shonen Knife make me want to be creative. They all have a naïve quality to their sound that makes you feel like a kid. Thinking like a kid is good for art, I think. It’s lame when people criticize art pieces saying stuff like, “but why are the trees pink?” Why not? Who cares.
What’s your karaoke song? I don’t even like Pearl Jam but my karaoke song is “Even Flow”, done in my best attempt at an Eddie Vedder impersonation.
If you could inhabit any era, past or present, when would it be? I’d go back in time with modern technology, play alien, and mess with people.
Who are your idols? Noel Fielding is a weirdo and I love him for it. He had this show for a while called Luxury Comedy. It’s super strange and colourful. Whenever I’m trying to let loose and be playful with my art, I think of him.
Your personal motto/slogan? I feel like I’m always telling myself to not fuck things up, so that might as well be my person motto.
What project do you have in the near future that you’re most excited about? I want to start screen printing onto clothing. Maybe make some fun patterns. Sometimes you really want a pair of creepy doll head printed pants and the world just doesn’t give it to you, so you have to make your own. That, and I’ve started to dedicate more time into making comics.