so you went to University of Utah is that right? If im not mistaken Alex Nabaum went there - maybe you guys knew each other?

how was your university experience? did you feel ready for the real world upon graduating?
The experience was okay ... but I learned at ton more from traveling and online. I think it really depends on how a person learns. Some people learn better in a structured environment like university, while others learn better in non-traditional ways.

you currently live in Argentina, how did that come about?
I came to Argentina to learn Spanish ... I fell in love with the place and stayed. Now I have a son that was born here so I am here for the long haul :) ... luckily I love the place and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

have you done some extensive South America traveling?
I have traveled around South and Central America ... here are some pictures ... just click on the links at the top to see the various locations

how much has your environment had an effect on your work?
I think everything effects a persons work ... here is how my environment has affected mine... http://www.n8w.com/newweb/hola-amiga.php

how did Alexander Blue come about?
I created the alter ego Alexander Blue so I could do another style of illustration, but not confuse Nate Williams clients. I think every illustrator realizes you must have a strong consistent style, but struggles with committing to just one style. This is how I dealt with the struggle ... just created other personalities for other styles, problem solved.

why illustrate as an alter ego, why not just Nate Williams portfolio 1, portfolio 2?
I think that still confuses clients ...
The first step to a successful illustration career is to find your voice - a unique consistent style. A lot of artists have trouble committing to one style at first because it kind of goes against an artist’s nature of exploring and not limiting their expression - but as an illustrator, art directors hire you because they want to give a project a specific tone/feeling and they need to be able to count on your work being a certain way for their project, campaign, etc. Imagine if you bought a Metallica CD and it was full of acoustic Bolivian folk music ... wouldn't you would be kind of confused???
Art directors usually don’t want to play style roulette. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t do other styles, it just means when you present them to art directors you have to have consistency between the body of work. A number of illustrators, writers, and musicians work under various names for this particular reason. Here is a really good book to read regarding this subject:

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
by Al Ries and Laura Ries

do you prefer one style over the other?
I prefer Nate Williams over Alexander Blue .. but both are fun to work in .. I just feel the Nate Williams style is more unique than the Alexander Blue stuff.

what gave you the idea for illustrationmundo?
When I used to do more programming there were numerous web sites I frequented where I could discuss programming, get advice and find inspiration. When I decided to change my career path and become an illustrator I just assumed the same type of sites existed for illustrators, but when I looked for them I wasn’t able to find any web sites with the features I was looking for. So, I decided to create a site myself with the following objectives in mind:
  • Just Illustration - A place where ILLUSTRATION gets all the Love
  • Showcase all the great Illustrators in the world today and make it easier for Designers, Art directors and others to find them
  • Provide current information about the commercial illustration industry
  • Provide a central location where people can get inspired, share information and seek advice
  • Free!! - Participation is absolutely free- The only barrier to entry is that content submitted is relevant to illustration and of great quality

there are so many users doing so much updating, is it almost a full time job keeping the website (illustrationmundo) going?
I tried to design/program the site so it would be scalable. I programmed a custom content management system that could accommodate publishing articles, news, ranking illustrators, site registration, and have a searchable Question and Answer database. I also wanted to facilitate user submitted news, so I programmed a tool where registered users can upload images and submit their news regularly.
In order to manage all these submissions I created and programmed a custom approval and email auto responder system ... but at the end of the day there is still a human factor of approving content. Obviously editor's favorites and featured news are subjective, but I really tried to create a system that takes my opinion out of the equation. I created algorithms to float content to the top based on user behavior and give users a variety of ways to organize/search for content that makes sense to them. For example I think the favorites feature is pretty useful - if you like say Noah Woods there is a good chance you will like the illustrators he likes. Then you can sort those illustrator based on a variety of parameters.. newest, most clicks, most favorites, comments, etc.

you worked as an AD for a while, how much has that experience helped you appreciate the "other side" of the industry?
I think the biggest thing it taught me is how to market myself as an illustrator and how important it is to be easy to work with.

can you talk a bit about Art with Heart, specifically about your work with them?
In a nut shell Art with Heart reaches high-risk children, who have little or no control over their life circumstances and have the least access to mental health support. I was asked by Art with Heart to contribute to one of their projects. It was an honor. I think its extremely important to give back to society ... especially when you can encourage young people.

how could other illustrators get involved with that organization?
The creative director contacted me.

would you mind also talking about your work with "The Truth Anti-Tobacco campaign" as well?
Smoking is a personal decision. I have plenty of friends that smoke and I respect their decision to smoke, but when it comes to encouraging to people to smoke, especially young impressionable people - I don't want to be a part of that. I have been asked by numerous Tobacco companies to do work for big money, but I have always declined because I know they think my work resonates with young people and would be a great marketing tool to get young consumers.

is it ever crazy being Nate Williams? like, what i mean is that you're such a huge figurehead in the illustration community, is it weird to have a level of success that borders on fame...in the illustration community?
Haha ... thanks, but I guess I just don't think of myself as famous. I realize people know my work ... but I like to think of myself as very down to earth.
My top priorities are to feel good, make other people feel good, be an awesome dad, and enjoy life.

how long did it take for illustration to become your full time job? did your career have a "big break" - if so what was it?
It probably took about 2 years .. I think my first big break was doing a job for Converse http://www.n8w.com/image/art/elehemp
Instead of a company just needing an illustration, they were specifically seeking me out because I was known for creating that type of illustration.

your work is so playful, but you still provide work thats conceptually serious - how do you go about creating that balance as well as solving problems / coming up with ideas?
By living in a new environment it forces you to be aware of your surroundings and not live life on "auto-pilot" ... to do things out of desire instead of routine. Children have such a great state of mind. They think simple things are exciting, they are emotionally honest and they are extremely curious. When you move to a culture that is much different than your own culture you can achieve this state of mind as an adult. Mundane things become interesting because they are done differently than what you are accustomed to and everyday becomes filled with memorable experiences.

I think of “creativity” as a mixture of curiosity and appreciation for what’s around you. It’s a way to view the world. A creative person looks at something and wants to know how it works. Why it is the way it is? What is its history? Are there other things like it? We search for patterns to predict the future, etc. We don’t always have the answer when we want to know ... so we start to think of possible explanations ... in the process we not only answer our initial question but we think of possibilities that can be applied to other things.

The best ideas are drawn from your experiences. It's important to keep your subconscious well fed with information, history, nature, music, friends, family, conversations, emotions, physical activity, good food. One day all the info will enter the conscious mind in the form of a unique idea.

stylistically, how did you wind up where you are now?

I think we all start off imitating those we admire, but if you do something long enough you will be presented with problems you don't have the answers to. For example, you could imitate an artist's style, but at some point you will want to create something the artist has never created - say an airplane. The way you create that airplane will be unique ... this is when one creates something new. Overtime you have enough of these problems and solutions that you grow into your own style.

what are some major influences in your work?
From a visual standpoint I would say my influences come from typography, silkscreen art, low tech printing, children's drawings, folk art, Latin American and Asian cultures. After working for a number of years in high tech 3D rendered video game industry, I visually craved the opposite. I wanted to create things that were simplified to their essence, more organic, handmade, textured and incorporated the human touch .. such as accidents, mistakes and discoveries.
I really like doing hand drawn lettering because it combines something that is mechanical and adds a human touch. I like that mixture of mechanical and organic.

thoughts on working traditionally vs. working digitally?

Both have their advantages: digital is efficient and you can create things you could never create by hand. Whereas when I work traditionally, I discover a lot more by accident. Accidents are gold mines for ideas and innovation.

how important is getting out of the house and doing non illustration related activity - sports, movies etc.

Not only is personal work very important to me but also personal time. Having free time to discover and reflect in other areas of my life apart from art is extremely important (learning, thinking, inventing, exercising, being in nature, programming, eating, laughing, social interactions, relationships, relaxing, sleeping, etc). All these experiences influence my art and fuel my subconscious with information, ideas, and feelings that might eventually end up in my work. Personal work allows me to take risks, discover new things, talk about subjects that I might not be able to do when I am trying to complete a commissioned job on a tight deadline.

where do you see it going in the future?

I think in the future you will see me doing more products and projects. I have lots of ideas that are not art related ... more like inventions and it's just a matter of time before I figure out how to get these type of ideas to market.

anything in general you'd like to see get more hype
Twitter is amazing! I would definitely learn about it. Here you can find a ton of illustrators on twitter

advice for new / young illustrators
Well apart from having a unique consistent style and great concepts I think personality is key. When I was an art director for Microsoft Xbox I hired numerous agencies to create online marketing tactics for our games (web sites, windows media skins, viral campaigns, etc). Having great work is mandatory - but being easy, fun and flexible to work with can give you the edge. At the end of the day people are people and it's always nicer to work with someone that will make your job easier .. not harder.

Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing and services like Twitter, linkedin, and social networks are really starting to facilitate word of mouth ... so much so ... that sites like twitter are becoming a real threat to traditional search engines such as google, because instead of indexing web sites its indexing real conversations … it’s indexing word of mouth.

All this being said, every person you work with can have a positive or negative impression of working with you. This impression is passed on like a snowball and can help or hinder you. Value your relationships.

advice for established / old illustrators
I think it's important to embrace new ways of working and technologies like twitter, facebook, flickr and to be generous and encouraging with young artists.

All images copyright Nate Williams

Thanks Nate, you rule!!!


  1. Great Interview!

    Keep them going Pete!!

  2. Awesome Awesome Awesome. This weekend I told myself I would look deeper into Nate WIlliam's work, study it more, just cause culturally I feel very related to it. It has so much passion, life and just all those little intricate patterns combined with rough geometric figures make me go Crazy, I love it!

    Thanks Pete for getting this interview.

    Gracias Nate por contribuir, tu trabajo es fabuloso y ultimamente es una fuente de inspiracion para mi!!! Nos vemos por Illustrationmondo!!!

  3. Wow thanks!
    Nate Williams is one of my favourite illustrators.
    It's inspiring to hear from him.