Naomi is a founder of Survival Techniques - optimistic and colourful street art project that you might have spotted across London. Naomi went from being a professional skier to an award winning artists. Here is her story!
As far as I know, you went from being a professional skier to now being an artist. Can you please tell me about your journey?
I decided to stop skiing because I had a lot of injuries at the end of the season. Several in a row and that changed what skiing was for me. I was scared most of the time, instead of enjoying it. So, I decided to quit, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I basically had a quarter-life crisis, so I decided to move to London, as I didn’t know what to do. I applied for some foundation courses, as I always enjoyed art and design, but I didn’t know for sure if I wanted to do it. Hence, one year course made sense.
It was a very long process, as I didn’t get anywhere. I had to make a whole portfolio and go back next year. At the same time, I was applying for places I really wanted to go to, rather than a place where I thought I would be accepted . I applied for the best places. In the end, I got into my dream college – London College of Communication. I did my foundation there, completely loved it, so I carried on and did a BA in Graphics and Media Design there too.
Whiles, I was still studying I started working for a book publishers, doing one day a week as a junior designer. When I graduated I stepped that up a bit, but I felt that I wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted something more dynamic and creative for me. So eventually I came up with the idea of Survival Techniques!
How did the project ‘Survival Techniques’ come about?
It started as a list of things which, I had to remember to do when I was feeling rubbish.
Number one was: Leave the house
Number two: Talk to someone, anyone, about anything. Which was me going to the shop, to buy some milk and talking to the guy there for 5 minutes. And really feeling better after that.
I guess, eventually, I narrowed down a lot of ideas that I had. I remember, I started sharing this list with a few people. Funny enough, everyone could relate and felt like they needed their own list. I was quite surprised! The more people I told about it, the more people liked it. Eventually, I collected survival techniques from all of my friends and family.
I realized what I wanted to do, when I saw Camille Walala painting Splice building in Old Street. Large-scale made sense to me, and I wanted to share survival techniques that I have collected with other people. Street felt like the most democratic place to do so! It is non-commercial l and doesn’t have anything associated with it, it is just what it is, and it is there for the people - for free! Also, I have always liked the hand-drawn type. Quite a lot of my projects at university included hand-drawn type. Eventually, all these things came together!
'The difference between having an idea and actually doing it was massive! It was massive for me, but also for everybody else. Then everyone understood exactly what I was talking about.'
Where do you find inspiration?
Well, in terms of the word, I am still collecting words from everybody. For example, if I have an exhibition, I would have a box where people can post their own survival techniques. On my website, you can submit survival techniques. I find that very inspiring! I go to exhibitions, but not too often. I always seem to be too busy, but it is definitely inspiring when I go to see other people's work.
Your phrases are very catchy. How do you develop them?
Yes – I work on them, I will write those. The best thing is when people send me a general description of what they do and then I can distil it down into a few words.
For example, the first wall that I painted was 'Hide less, chat more'. That was my friend basically saying when she is feeling down she wants to hide away in her room and not see anyone. But instead, she goes out, sees a friend, has a chat and then she feels loads better. It took me a while to put this phrase together in order to reflect on what my friend has told me. Coming up with the words takes me ages! Even though they look really simple, they take a lot of effort and sometimes I really struggle. Sometimes I really like what the person is saying, but I can’t get the words to describe it without sounding cheesy. I really don’t want it to be a cliché or a phrase that already exists. It just doesn't work, I feel like it won't have any meaning in this case. It has to be something new.
How important was it for you to develop your own font for this project?
Very important! I spent quite a while trying to work out exactly what I wanted my first wall to look like. I kept it quite simple. I was trying to have more going on in the design but it kind of detracted from the words, I felt. Eventually, I came up with this very stripped back, one big background colour and fairly limited pallet for the text. Initially, I had a thought that I might vary it a bit more, across the walls. But in general, it has been consistent and became the ST font. Now people can identify and recognize that it is my work.
How do you come up with the pallete?
I work out all the colours before. It really depends on the environment where the painting is going to be and words. I come up with words when I know where it is going to go.
Sometimes I have some phrases, but it is very much about matching the phrase to the place.
It is the colours, words and place - it all goes together!
What is your typical day in the studio like?
It varies a lot, as I am obviously not here if I am out painting a wall. When I am here I tend to paint a board (rather than a mural) and I organize all of my paintings from here. I do all my designing and emails from here too. I am here all the time really. Working out all my measurements for the wall, ordering my paints. A lot of admin work. Also setting out a wall takes ages, it is kind of crazy. If I have an exhibition then I work out what work goes in it etc.
What is your ideal working environment?
Well, I love being outside and that was one of the motivations for painting the first wall. I always loved being outside, it is a bit like skiing as well. The thing that I loved the most about being a skier was just been outside all day. I guess the ideal environment would be when it is summer, to paint something and just being outside all day. Also making something physical, I don’t really like working on a computer very much. If I am out and about and I am not painting the wall it is also nice when lots of different people are around and you get to chat to people and you get inspired by them because you are talking about what they are doing and you are telling them about your project. It is much better than working from home. Strictly speaking, I don’t really need this desk space, I could do this work from home, but it would be miserable!
For how many years Survival Techniques have been around?
It was 3 years in June, in June I painted my first wall. I decided that I will try and make it a thing a few months before that. So I was doing some designing, working out phrases, thinking how it is going to work.
What was the most rewarding moment of your career as an artist so far?
That’s quite difficult ... I think the painting : 'Love them? Tell them' which I think, is my favorite one. Best moment was when I got a message from someone. This lady sent me a message on Facebook, saying 'I really love the painting! It is really near where I live and walk past it every day when I take kids to school, and every time I walk past it, I tell them, that I love them.'
That was so perfect and it meant that the project was doing what I hope it would do. It was connecting with people!
Do you think you will try yourself in any other creative fields?
I would love to. I really want to start a clothing brand called 'Snazzy Lady' – I like the word 'snazzy', I find it really funny and this is something my dad used to say and I still use it now. ( Hmmm, I'm not really sure, if I should be telling you my unique idea, Kristina ) - so basically it will be snazzy shirts for ladies! The rest is a secret ;) So yeah, I think that will be really fun!
I really like working with type, but at the same time, it is a little bit restricted. It is very detailed and precise.
I would like to do something, which is more abstract and with more colours. So yeah, that is something I would love to do, which is weird because I was always terrified of fashion.
You can see more of Naomi's work at New Brewery Arts until 17 March 2019, or at her website here.
This blog post was written by Kristina Reingoldt, and originally published on www.ontheinside.club. Thank you Kristina for allowing us to republish it here.