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Chester illustrator places free art around the city

Nikki Pinder has distributed ‘quirky and elaborate free art parcels’ for 12 years

The free art can be found anywhere so keep your eyes peeled

When you’re next out and about in Chester keep your eyes peeled for something wonderfully out of the ordinary.

For the past 12 years freelance illustrator and designer Nikki Pinder, 34, has been placing colourful free art around the city.

Containing pin badges to paintings, the ‘quirky and elaborate free art parcels’ are hidden in Chester’s nooks and crannies.

The packages, marked with ‘Congratulations! You have found me and now I’m yours to keep,’ can also be found in shops, galleries and cafés.

Nikki Pinder has loved drawing since she was at infant school

Nikki’s love of drawing, making and fixing things began when she was just a child using paints on the windows in infant school.

“Creativity and art has always been an obsession and fascination for me. It’s relaxing and provides hours of fun. It feels like a kind of meditation,” she said.

“Art was always my favourite subject in school, so that’s where I began getting really interested in learning about different artists and techniques.”

She described ‘amazing and passionate teachers’ who gave her the confidence to pursue her love and to experiment with different mediums.

Illustrated children’s books acted as portals to other creative dimensions and led Nikki from Newton to imaginative places where she would create worlds of her own.

She describes her work as ‘abstract and quite surreal, experimental and fun’ and said inspiration comes from places she visits and people she meets.

Nikki likes to push boundaries with her colourful artwork

Nikki currently likes to use black fine-line pens to draw and then adds colour and texture to the scanned pictures on her computer in Photoshop.

“It’s pretty colourful these days and I love creating creatures, monsters, characters and environments.

“My work’s generally two-dimensional and becomes a print on paper, card or material. I also love working on canvas and in three-dimensional mediums as well.”

She draws on anything from a matchbox to a cotton-reel to enjoy the ‘newness and spontaneity objects and new materials bring’.

“I always want to push my boundaries and teach myself new skills and techniques and improve my style and methods.

“My ambition is to produce lots of books featuring my illustrations, as books are my main passion.”

Free art

Nikki Pinder places free art in locations across the city

Nikki explained that free art projects happen all over the world and have done since people could create and share images, or make things.

Her own version of free art started 12 years ago when she bought a plastic badge-making machine from Argos and made a handful of pin badges.

“I wanted it to be about the enjoyment of owning something creative, not whether or not you could afford to buy it,” she told the Chronicle.

“I wanted people to wear them and eventually they’d get scraped and bashed and sometimes just fall off.

“It was all about the enjoyment of having the thing, rather than it being an investment and display piece.”

She said the projects have allowed her to practise her art and find quicker and better ways to create, as well as improve her communication skills.

The hidden art could be placed high or low

The pin badges soon became small packets with bits of information and prints based around different ‘quirky and elaborate’ themes.

“Gradually I made all different types of badges, brooches, books, and drew on objects to share with anyone who wanted them,” Nikki said.

“I still create free art today and I probably will for the rest of my life as I love the experience of giving away something I’ve made, knowing it will be taken home and cherished without any worry about cost, or if it’s fashionable or cool. I just want people to enjoy my work.”

One of Nikki’s most elaborate free art projects involved her drawing and painting onto blank postcards which she posted photos of on social media.

She would send the postcard to the first person that requested it anywhere in the world and in return ask for a photo of it in that location.

Nikki's art is currently on display at Telford's Warehouse

“I enjoyed this project so much and gained so much interest and excitement from people living in all continents of the world.

“I posted them to Australia, Canada, Japan, France, Sweden, Italy, Indonesia, America, Ireland, Germany, and many other places.”

Nikki has also taken her free art across the country, dropping packages off in London on March 22 and Manchester on March 25.

Currently she is displaying several of her illustrations in a Scary Monsters exhibition at Telford’s Warehouse, on Raymond Street in Chester.

For more on Nikki and her art click here.

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