Interview with Daniel Nyari, graphic designer and illustrator, about art and soccer

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One of the aspects of soccer that truly makes it the Beautiful Game is the subset of artists, graphic designers and illustrators who create remarkable pieces of art that permeate the sport we love and consume. One such artist is the talented Daniel Nyari, who has added a fresh perspective to the global game through his unique illustrations.

Discover more about Nyari, his perspective on the art of soccer and what makes him strive to continue to be one of the best.

Bo McMillan (Bo): You typically post pictures of your daily warmups to Twitter. Why is it important for you to warm up each day? What does a normal day look like for you?

Daniel Nyari (Daniel): I have a very structured and often rigid aesthetic that’s largely based on an existing grid, so it’s important when I sketch out ideas that I train my hand up to follow that grid as precisely as possible to prevent any deadlock in the ideation process. A normal working day generally consists of coffee, quickly browsing the morning’s news and immersing myself on some inspiration from tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. I get out the sketchbook and immediately start drawing anything that’s on my mind. Generally with physical exercise it’s important to do as much movement within the first half hour of waking up to tell your body that you are kickstarting the metabolic process. There are days when my work is largely monotonous, either doing a lot of paperwork or constructing an existing sketch digitally, but on days when I have to be more creative, these early sketch sessions make it easier for me to get integrated into a long work day.

Bo: You have a very unique style. How did you develop that and who influenced you as an artist?

Daniel: I like to think I’ve really come into something I feel totally comfortable with only about a year ago, so summer of 2014 to be honest. Any work before that was largely searching for something I wanted but couldn’t articulate in any particularly tangible way. Cultivating “style” is different with each person. I can randomly throw out a group of names but it wouldn’t really say anything uniquely revealing about what they mean to where I am now.

I also think style is less so a combination of a series of influences over time than how you attribute your aesthetic sensibilities to your own psyche. For the most part it was a series of revelatory moments for me throughout my creative career that led to any clear style cultivation. For one, it was learning Photoshop and Illustrator; digital programs that allowed me to think completely differently about my own drawing process which up to that point was largely traditional, photo-realistic and academically safe, for the lack of a better word.

My work in graphic and web design allowed me to attribute my neurosis and compulsive behavior to a very structured and clean way to work. Logo Design in particular was revelatory and I began to fantasize about what it would be like to merge illustration with the visual language of logo and web design that I found so appealing. It felt new, unexplored and right up my alley, so that really kickstarted the process of where I am now. More specifically of course, I like tilted or flattened perspective found in old 16 bit games or Cezanne paintings. Matisse’s flat bold colors always appealed to me and Picasso’s late portraits completely redefined the way I think of portraiture, which have become a large part of my workload now.

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Bo: What did your early days of getting your stuff out there look like? What encouragement/advice can you give to readers who are up-and-coming artists?

Daniel: My early days largely just consisted of sitting back, observing and taking notes before I ever decided I would publish great bodies of work. Nevertheless, admittedly some of my early published work was naive, sometimes publishing unrefined work or work that was still too experimental and derivative but I just didn’t know any better when I entered illustration.

I didn’t have any of the networks illustrators have graduating art school since I never attended it. I knew though that information sharing and reception had rules. Any kind of content with in-built audiences would fare much better than simple personal work so I consciously posted pop culture related illustrations in hopes to raise my profile rapidly. It’s one way to go about it, even today.

Fortunately for me I am passionate about soccer and it’s been part of my personal work ever since I was four years old. It still makes up the bulk of interest of a lot of my followers. I’d be lying if I said that’s not totally preferable and that I generally don’t like to be labeled a “soccer artist”. I feel like today’s young artists care maybe too much about a large following or a particular number of likes and followers, much more than about evolving as an artist.

The lines are even more blurred by “hobby” creatives, people who have access to Photoshop and Illustrators and who consciously recycle and steal existing art to gain large following. It just creates an odd tension and unrealistic set of expectations to meet in a market where you have to be very ruthless and loud to get your work noticed. As a result it’s easy to fall into the trap of fan service. My best advice is, if a large following is all you want, pick a niche and go with it until the end or until it’s feasible to transition into something else, albeit it will be much harder. Long term, it’s still more beneficial to post what you love and spend time evolving your voice above all. If it’s good enough, people will come.

Bo: Ok, favorite clubs? How did you become a fan of them?

Daniel: I moved around quite a bit through my life, Romania, Hungary, Austria, New York, so I can’t convincingly say I have a specific allegiance. Maybe that’s what also allows me to just love soccer as a whole above any particular team. I look at soccer and its history much like I view films or art. As great segments that deserve their own level of interest. With that, I can love a particularly great team. Like Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona a few years ago that captured my imagination. With that come its own narratives. Right now for example I am obsessed with Borussia Dortmund’s state of affairs and Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Having said that, the first league I fell in love with was the Bundesliga while I was living in Austria. The domestic league was rather dull and we received Bundesliga coverage from Germany regularly. On that note, I began to love and follow the German National Team and I created an illusory, but probably necessary, parallel between its collapse towards the end of the 90’s/early 2000’s and its subsequent rise with my own progression as an artist. On that note I also cheer for Bundesliga clubs in the Champions League when I can.

Bo:  Do you do work outside of soccer? What other passions do you focus your art on?

Daniel: Yes. And I would be remiss of me not to share that. It’s dangerous and creatively claustrophobic to just stay within soccer. Although it’s a large passion of mine, it’s important to me to establish my voice outside of soccer because my predominant love for art is based on my over-arching philosophy and application of, within design and illustration not just based on any particular subject. Luckily half of my work for clients like GQ, Microsoft, Universal Pictures, Wired, and National Geographic still allow me to take on non-soccer related work.

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Bo: What are some of your bigger career goals? Where do you want to be in the next 20 years?

Daniel: Ideally I’d love to work in more advertising.

I’ve had the chance this past summer with Hyundai and ESPN, and it’s an area I feel I can contribute a lot more and would be creatively freeing. On a similar note, a very large part of my output is portraiture, which I would like to move away from gradually. Not terminate, but decrease the amount of it as it’s something I feel like I can easily burn out on.

Professionally I would like to continue evolving my role as Art Director. Over the past year and a half I’ve had the chance to be Creative Director of FutbolArtistNetwork and work on projects with MLS and Microsoft within the U.S. market. It’s a deviation from my job as a freelance illustrator but it’s a totally natural fit for me and allows me to flex my other existing creative muscles.

I am determined to be a large part of growing soccer in the U.S. and I think art has a very large and important role to play. I would love to be at the head of this development.

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