Neryl Walker truly is a jack of all trades. Artist, musician, graphic designer, and vintage connoisseur, she has an eye for the nostalgic, and skillfully captures the bubbling playfulness missing from modern day design. The Melbourne based artists’ 50’s inspired girls exude an effortless confidence and flirtatiousness that instantly intrigued me when I came across her work. Her art not only transported me back to an era I have only ever experienced from watching films like Grease and American Graffiti, but it just made me happy to look at it. The girls are bright, colorful, and joyously fun while also being super sexy, and finding genuine joy in art that captures female sexuality is often hard to come by. Being able to interview her was an absolute honor, as she’s incredibly talented, successful, and spectacularly cool in general, and I’m excited for what is to come for her!
BB.) How did you first get into drawing?
N.) My mother’s love of drawing and painting was passed on to my three sisters and I. I’m the baby of the family so I guess I learnt by osmosis. I particularly remember copying my closest sister’s drawings (much to her annoyance).
BB.) Have you always been inspired by vintage aesthetics and artwork?
N.) I have fond memories of my Nanna’s house which had lot’s of 50’s features; Pastel colored kitchen cabinets, glass doors etched with palm trees, 50’s pouffes, and blonde-wood chairs covered in 50’s fabric (which I still own today). I really began to develop my vintage aesthetic in my university years. As a student, I op shopped out of necessity. This in turn sparked my interest in researching different periods in time particularly the 50’s and 60’s. I loved the design, the fashion, product packaging, record and book covers, etc.
BB.) When you create a new character, is her physical appearance/color scheme the first thing that comes to mind or her persona?
N.) For commercial work it depends what my brief is. With some personal work like ‘China Girl’ I had quite a clear idea of what I wanted. Other times I might an idea in mind but that can sometimes evolve during the process to create something completely different.
BB.) What are the essential aspects of your girls that you are trying to convey (Confidence, sexuality, playfulness etc)? Are these girls real to you or are they types of caricatures?
N.) I like my girls to exude confidence, playfulness and fun. I think these girls would be fun to hang out with.
BB.) You have a background in graphic design, does that influence the way you orchestrate your work?
N.) Understanding the principles of Graphic Design really helps in my commercial work – where the type should be placed on a book cover for example. I love typography and hand drawn type regularly features in my commercial work and paintings. It’s always upsetting if I see bad design placed over my images and I am always super happy to be working with a great designer or art director!
BB.) You designed the Buxom Bare essentials line, which features your beautiful artwork! How did that come about, and did that experience provide a kind of artistic validation and more collaborative opportunities?
N.) That opportunity came about through my US agent. The first brief was just four girls and it grew from there. I have now produced over 100 girls for the brand. It was a perfect job for me. Previously I had drawn the characters for Bloom Cosmetics, that was early in my career and I guess that gave me validation as a full time artist.
BB.) My favorite piece by you is “Down Time,” which has very sexual overtones, as does a lot of your work. Do you think it’s important to depict women embracing their sexuality? Do you consciously try to send sex positive messages through your art, and if so, how?
N.) Thanks! I am not necessarily trying to send sex positive messages but sometimes I might be taking a little dig at how women are portrayed in society. I guess I am more interested in empowerment. My girls are just happily doing their own thing. Interestingly, my 6 year old daughter has grown up with paintings of my girls everywhere and is confused when she sees overtly sexual women in advertising. She always asks ‘Why aren’t they smiling?’ It’s that whole notion of being overtly sexual to sell a product.
BB.) You expressed yourself after David Bowie’s passing with your stunningly beautiful painting, “China Girl.” Did he and his music affect your artistic life? Which musicians and bands inspire you most?
N.) That idea just came to me one day after he passed. He was such an amazing talent right to the end. Always independent, striking his own path. Inspirational. Music and art always seem linked to me. Songs influence me and song titles often appear in some of my work. I also play in a band. I love 60’s garage music, Australian punk rock, and regularly go to live rock ‘n’ roll gigs.
BB.) You are extremely talented and have been able to showcase your art with various companies. What is your advice for people who want to make their art a part of a brand or expand their reach?
N.) Times have changed since I first entered the industry, there are so many new platforms to reach prospective clients. Instagram is an amazing tool for connecting with brands. There are so many people creating art now, you just have to find your niche and try to stand out from the rest.
Check out Neryl and her artwork on her social media platforms!
Interview conducted by Veronica Brevik
Twitter: @VeronicaBrevik (x)