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Niki Pilkington

Yesterday I announced my arrival on the blogging scene & asked you to comment on my instagram with what topics you’d like me to cover, so I’m going to slowly work my way through them. 

First up, @elyijan asked:

“Love your blog so far! 🌸request🌸 Please can you tell us about your journey from quiet wales to the big city? How was it funded and how did you get there! It’s always been my dream to jet off and create art, but I just don’t know how. I would love to hear your story”

So grab yourself a snack, this is going to be a long one..

I’m welsh, I think most of you know that by now. I’m from a quiet but truly beautiful part of the world in North Wales (which I miss every single day). It’s incredible, but I always knew if I wanted to wholeheartedly follow my career goals then I’d need to spread my neon wings *I wish*. I studied art in school, college & art foundation all in Wales (it was always by far my fave subject, so I threw everything into it), then look a leap of faith & went to London to study Fashion Promotion & Illustration at Ravensbourne. That was where I really started to find my own style & learned the ins & outs of the fashion illustration industry - skills I truly believe helped me massively in my career today. Even though social media wasn’t really a thing (I think Facebook came out in my first year of uni..remember taking a digital camera on a night out & uploading basically 60 versions of the same photo? Yep that era) but I learnt about fashion marketing, trend forecasting, how to brand myself & software which I still use to this day. I graduated with a 1st class BA hons degree in 2009. (sorry, I'm including that braggy part just cuz I can. No-one asks me my grades anymore, so here's my one chance, I worked bloody hard for that 1st!!..)

So what’s next? Well basically I fell in love in my final year (shout out to my partner in crime @johnnybudden). We graduated, stayed in London for a year where I worked at the 'Rankin Live' event over the summer, then both moved to Wales for about a year to save some $$$. I worked in a gallery (@orielplasglynyweddw - who have supported me ever since by making me a gallery artist. I still exhibit work there & they stock a ton of my prints). Whilst working there I was starting to build my site & broaden my portfolio & was quickly picked up by a few agencies & started officially creating artwork as a freelance illustrator for brands, magazines, adverts as well as doing some fun live events & exhibitions. It all seemed to happen quite quickly at the time, but looking back, these were lots of illustration jobs I did for free to get my name out there & endless hours of emails & dead ends. Perseverance & hard work is always going to pay off in the end, so if you're in that situation right now, just keep at it. If you love it enough, it will shine through in your work.

Johnny, who at the time was a graphic designer (now a group creative director #proud) was offered a role at an agency in Paris, so because I can more or less work from anywhere, I said ‘I’m in’ & we said bon voyage to Wales.

I spilt my time between Paris & Wales for a couple of years *thanks easyjet for the £29 flights* because I was building a name for myself at home with exhibitions & private commissions & setting up my online shop.  I’m not going to pretend it was all perfect - I found Paris H A R D. I had hardly any friends, couldn’t speak the language & we lived in a teeny weeny apartment that made working from home super challenging. On top of that I was struggling with my own issues & my Dad was slowly being stolen away by the horrible disease that is Alzheimer's (that’s a whole post in itself).

I’d always wanted to live in New York (but who hasn’t, right?) so luckily, after a LOT of paperwork and visa shenanigans, Johnny was able to transfer to his agencies NYC office *yasss* so I said 'I'm in' once again.

(There's a whole year missing here between Paris & New York where Johnny trained like an action hero & ran from John o'groats at the very top of Scotland all the way to Paris - over 2,000 miles & I was the support driver / chef / navigator / nurse / moral bringer. It was all to raise money for Motoneuron Disease.. #proud again, think the total raised was about £15k!)

We got married in Vegas (again, another whole blog post in itself) & had four & a half magical years in New York. Like I said, being freelance really means that I can take my work anywhere so my routine didn’t change a whole heap. It just included a lot more brunch dates now & I had to be super smart with my time to be able to juggle US & UK clients on different time zones.

I was lucky enough to work with some incredible New York / US based brands & agencies & built both work & personal relationships I hope will last a lifetime. Social media really helped at this point, by now the days of calling offices to speak to the ‘talent section’ & sending off a portfolio & waiting forever for a response was long gone. So I built lots of contacts through Instagram & Facebook because they could see what I did pretty effortlessly & I didn’t have to spend hours tailoring individual PDF’s for each brand I wanted to work with, so *phew* to that!

So after four & a half unforgettable years that really did feel like a New York minute, it was time for us to spread our wings a little more, so here we are in sunny LA.

I'll leave the NYC to LA story for another post. I have so many ‘moving’ tips I’d like to share for anyone else who’s moving or wanting to go through that whole process, so I’ll do that as soon as the dust settles here, because I'm still learning so much as we hunt for the perfect home.

I hope that answers your question - guess I’m not going to be a ‘short & sweet’ type of blogger, turns out I have a lot to say..sorry!!

I hope you’re enjoying - please leave a question or comment below if there’s anything I’ve missed & why not pop over to Instagram & keep sending me the topics you’d like me to cover? Huge thank you to everyone that's taken the time to contribute so far, this is going to be funnn.

Here’s some throwback shots of events I've done, products I've illustrated and campaigns I've been lucky enough to be a part of so you can see just how far I’ve come and how much neon I’ve added along the way.. (inc Topshop Oxford St window display & pop up book, very early exhibitions, Ted Baker's live drawing room & a few others..)