Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 12 seconds
Everyone has a story. Meet Nick Jobbings who started his career learning how toÂ draw and create buildings, but after switching to illustration has a portfolio that includes graphic novels andÂ the white walls of Finsbury Park. Interview by Nicola Baird.
â€śI came to London from Leeds in 2005. Iâ€™d fallen in love with architecture after visiting Glasgow and seeing Charles Rennie Macintosh when I was doing my A levels. So I studied architecture and was doing a postgrad at Westminster University. But despite all that studying â€“ five of the six years – I decided I didnâ€™t want to be an architect. I began studying architecture just as computer aided design (CAD) was coming in. You donâ€™t need to be able to draw to do architecture now…â€ť Nick Jobbingâ€™s doesnâ€™t say this glumly, quickly pointing out that, â€śthe skills are transferableâ€¦â€ť
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Those early years in Islington must have been a tough time for Nick as he was living above the now closed George Orwell* pub on Essex Road. It famously had â€ślots of noisy lock insâ€ť and (this was before the smoking ban) such inadequate insulation that cigarette smoke would curl its way through the pubâ€™s ceiling so that Nickâ€™s room looked as if it was steaming. Sleep wasnâ€™t easy.
Shared work space
Now 34 heâ€™s living just over the Islington border â€“ in Wilberforce Road, N4 – and spends his days at Blighty cafĂ© in the upstairs shared office space used by a mix of permanent renters and hot deskers.
â€śI tried having a studio at the Print Club, Stoke Newington, but it was quite expensive. Then I worked at home but got cabin fever on my own, so I came here when it was just opening and worked. I got talking to Chris Evans who runs Blighty â€“ heâ€™s a great one for reciprocity,â€ť he says finishing a latte, â€śso I started doing some design work here and also do some part time as a barista.â€ť
This design work includes flyers and menus, but also the striking V-for victory portrait of Winston Churchill on Blightyâ€™s exterior which helps brighten up Finsbury Park or ‘krapy rub snif’* as Nick jokes.
Places Nick Jobbings likes in Islington (or close)
- Cass ArtÂ is really great for paper and sketch books. Cowling & Wilcox on Holloway Road is good too â€“ theyâ€™re chains but very affordable. Jacksons is a good independent art supplier near Shacklewell.
- I go to the Comic Forum at North Library, Manor Gardens aimed at people who read graphic novels. Claire runs it and has a feminist take on graphic novels. I like the way Islington libraries stocks graphic novels, because they are expensive.
- Atom is a gallery that has just opened on Stroud Green Road. Itâ€™s got a screen printing room at the back.
- Finsbury Park is becoming an arts hub with the Park Theatre, John Jones and the still-being-built University of the Arts accommodation. Weâ€™ll soon have lots of arty students hanging around! And thereâ€™s Blighty too â€“Iâ€™m applying for Arts Council grants to run workshops for poster and book/comic/zine design.
- Union Chapel, by Highbury Corner does a daylight music series on weekends â€“ they are free concerts, often experimental music.
- Camden Collective has created a mini market off Camden Road. Iâ€™m interested in pop ups and meanwhile occupancy*.
It’s all about drawing
NickÂ also set up Blightyâ€™s life drawing sessions back in 2013, which are still held every Thursday. â€śDrawing is so enjoyable when it just flows. The life drawing is three hours, with a break, so you can really get into it. And thereâ€™s healthy competitiveness among the 15-20 people who come.â€ť
Throughout the interview Nickâ€™s holding a pen, which he moves around as if trying to capture the conversation. On the tube he always carries a pencil and A6 brown pocket-sized book to capture people travelling, just in case he needs a pose for projects heâ€™s working on. Recent big jobs have included a series of portraits celebrating ping pong players at the Brunswick Centre. And while making an illustration of Jaegerâ€™s flagship Chelsea store a passer-by asked him to make a portrait of her Belgravia home and then another as a wedding present.
Heâ€™s also been enjoying researching architect Edward Lutyens World War 1 for a crowdfunded book, To Arms published by Limehouse Comics, run by two of his friends.
â€śItâ€™s stories you might not have come across,â€ť explains Nick who has an absolute passion for graphicÂ novels. The war theme is being continued thanks to his involvement with a Rowan Arts project collecting commonwealth stories from WW1 during the 100 year anniversary.* Turns out Nick grew up near RAF Menwith Hill airbase, not far from Harrogate, and still enjoys hearing stories of derring do from his 90-year-old Grandad who flew planes from base to base in WW2. â€śThose pilots didnâ€™t have any training. They just watched, learnt and went,â€ť says Nick in genuine awe.
Itâ€™s my turn to be impressed: Nick shows me some of his work on the laptop and gives me a peek into his series of on-the-tube pencil sketches. Nick is so versatile â€“ as able to spray paint a vast Clementine (Churchillâ€™s wife) on the Blighty office wall as create an Urban Fox motif for a fashion label or comic frames for a graphic novel. Definitely an illustrator to watch – do follow NickÂ using the links below.
Blighty, 35-37 Blackstock Road, N4, is open weekdays 7.30am-7pm, weekends 8.30am-5pm. Life drawing on alternate Thursdays costs ÂŁ5 see the website events section. Portrait drawing (also held on Thursdays) is free. Call in and ask the cafĂ© staff for more details.
You can also read an interview with Blighty’s founder, social entrepreneur Chris Evans here.
George Orwell rented in Canonbury Square, N1 while writing Nineteen Eighty-Four and as Animal Farm was published. The George Orwell pub at 382 Essex Road has closed, but the venue is still a pub. Itâ€™s now the Hop and Glory â€“ a glorious craft beer pub with a very relaxed vibe. Read more about George Orwell in Islington at this Islington Faces interview with George Orwell walk leader and history expert Andy Gardner.
- Krapy rub snif â€“ is of course Finsbury Park spelt backwards.
- World War One (WW1) â€“ 1914-1918.
- meanwhile occupancy – temporary use of emptyÂ shops or land, often for creative purposes (similar to a pop up) while the owners sort out finance/planning/schedules. Boxpark and the Filling Station in Shoreditch are well-known examples. See article here.
Over to you
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This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.
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