Nina Cosford Discusses Social Media, Believing In Yourself and Young Womanhood
The Debrief: 'Online habits are tricky to break, but once you stop comparing yourself to others and worry less, you discover your own relevance which isn't just determined by likes and followers.' Amen to that Nina
I’m sure you’re all well aware of Nina Cosford’s illustrations. We’ve been lucky enough to work with her in the past; she’s illustrated everything from our TV reviews of Girls to our feature on Dark Triads (fuck boys to you and me). So naturally, when her new book My Name Is Girl landed on our desk (click to pre-order a signed copy of the book) we squealed with joy and promptly asked her to chat to us about it and the idea behind it. Here, somewhat like Clarissa, she explains it all…
Hey Nina, thanks for speaking to us today. So excited for you, the book is amazing! Tell us a little bit about it.
I've been working towards this kind of project for the last three years or so, when I begun responding to Lena Dunham's TV show GIRLS. Many things spun off from my Girls Illustrated work and I felt that I suddenly had a lot to say about being a girl and the sorts of thoughts that fill our heads. I was approached by a publisher who wanted to turn my everyday drawings into a structured book about girlhood. Though a huge, daunting task, making the book from scratch has been an enlightening and rewarding project and has more of "me" in it than any work I've done before.
You can definitely tell from the book that you have a lot to say on being a young woman, if you don’t mind me asking how old are you? You seem to nail the feeling of lost mid/ late twenty year olds perfectly, is that something you have struggled with as much as the rest of us?
I'm 27. I definitely think I'm living through all the issues I've explored in the book and that has been kind of cathartic in a way. It's helped me to process my thoughts and feelings in trying to reflect them back on the main character (Girl) in the hope of others relating to her. She is only one example of a girl, but I feel many people will be able to see some of themselves in her and identify with the struggles of working out who the hell you are, or more importantly, who you want to be. At the moment, I feel like that will be a lifelong question, but at least it's something I can keep on exploring through my work and maybe have some fun with, along the way.
You’ve also thoroughly explored the idea of identity when you’re a young female.. I actually laughed out loud when I came across the “Find Yourself” word search. Do you feel like you have an identity now? Do you flit between different ones and if so is that something you’re ok with now?
It changes everyday. One minute I get a glimpse of who I think I might be and the next it's gone. It depends on where I'm at really. I have a tendency to see myself through everyone's eyes but my own, but I'm hoping that's something that will change with age. I wish I didn't feel such a need to categorise and define everything (including myself) because most of the time it's not even relevant or important to do so.
I love your social media sins page. Is the envy and anxiety surrounding social media still apparent to you? Do you have any coping mechanisms in dealing with social media anxiety?
I think I'm a lot better than I used to be. I would spend hours and hours trawling through various people's profiles and comparing myself to them way too much. It's so unhealthy! Then I realised that an online presence is only a tiny filtered fraction of someone and everyone has their own issues which are not always apparent. So I just decided to save that time and use it elsewhere, like on my work and my own responses to things. Online habits are tricky to break, but once you stop comparing yourself to others and worry less, you discover your own relevance which isn't just determined by likes and followers.
How are the "New Me" resolutions going? Have you stuck to them?
Errmmm……I still write a silly amount of lists and am amazingly good at making excuses, but slowly I am making my way through some of those goals. There are always next year's new year resolutions to focus on….
You have such distinctive style, how did you develop it? Do you look to anyone for inspiration?
When I was younger, I used to copy the work of great artists and thought that an accurate representation of a subject was what defined good work. It was only half way through my degree when I realised the only good thing about my work was my quickness to make marks and respond to things. So I started to focus more on capturing the essence of a subject rather than labour over accuracy. My way of drawing totally loosened up after that and I started to enjoy it so much more. I love working on the move, so travelling was a great way to respond to things spontaneously and instinctively, without too much analysis or self-consciousness.
For anyone looking to get into illustration or to even publish some kind of book do you have any advice?
I guess the most important thing is to make sure you have a strong sense of purpose and conviction. Without that confidence it can be hard to sell your work and ideas to others. Even if you have to fake it at first, the confidence in yourself will come if you take your work seriously enough. Just keep busy and stay in tune with what's around you (in healthy amounts) whilst developing your own niche.
What are your favourite parts of the book?
I think the 'Embrace Yourself' page in the last chapter is one of my favourite parts of the book. I nearly cried whilst making it because it made me think of all the girls out there who so often give themselves a hard time. My other favourite page is the 'Coolest Girl Gang in History'. It was lots of fun researching various women through the ages and imagining them all together in one room hanging out and using hashtags on their selfies.
Lastly, could you give our readers some wise words and tips to help with the struggles of young woman hood?
Crumbs! That's hard seeing as I could do with some tips myself. I guess just allowing yourself to be yourself, without caring too much about what others may think is a good place to start. Once those niggles of self-doubt fade away, I think the path ahead can be so much clearer and loads more opportunities to explore and succeed can become apparent - if you let them!
Follow Natalia on Instagram: @Natal22
Follow Nina on Instagram: @NinaCosford
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