“The process of writing has taught me how to visualize images in my mind,” says young illustrator and designer Nathan Pashley, whose dreamy, ephemeral, and strangely philosophical moving images captured my imagination the moment I saw them. They’re little haikus spun in the mind of their maker, poems transformed into vivid visual impressions that dance on the page.
Until recently, Pashley was studying public communications at the University of Technology in Sydney, focusing on advertising and learning to write copy. It wasn’t advertising that most fascinated him, however; he was taken in by evocative graphic design by the likes of Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, and Kenya Hara that he encountered in his daily lectures.
Outside of classes, Pashley began to write stories and draw fictional scenarios in notebooks. “The process for writing is always to build an image in the mind and then try—through some kind of alchemy—to turn that image into words. Some images didn’t want to be turned into stories though, and that’s why I taught myself to draw,” Pashley explains. “Eventually, that led to enrolling into a graphic design course eight months ago.”
Although so new to the discipline, Pashley is evidently a natural when it comes to distilling complex thoughts into crisp visual signs. Simple line drawings, often in black and white, evoke networks of emotions and internal thought processes in a whimsical way. You can tell he’s been informed by the simple, surreal, and intensely transformative doodles of master image creator Saul Steinberg, that and reading non-fiction books like The Little Book of Life and Death by D.E. Harding, which are illustrated with vague visual explanations that detail philosophical exercises to the reader.
“I now use drawing to understand shape and form,” says Pashley. “I figure the best way to do this is to keep things restrained, especially if I want to try to communicate any kind of concept.”
Communicating the things that words cannot led Pashley to drawing, and now drawing has created a desire to communicate with even fewer, simpler shapes and forms using graphic design. Currently, his primary focus is on book design, where he can elegantly bring together the words and pictures that he admires when laying out forms on a page. Pashley has just finished a book that brings together a collection of avant-garde work by the cult ’60s and ’70s comic book artist Seiichi Hayashi. Print is the medium that he’s “most sentimental about,” as Pashley relishes how design and abstract narrative can work in harmonious tandem.