Drawing by Nate Kadlac
This is the first of an ongoing interview series that focuses on creators who live at the intersection of writing and art. The goal is to provide inspiration and practical tips for anyone looking to add more visuals to their work.
To kick things off with style, I caught up with Nate Kadlac over email about the excellent newsletter he creates called Plan Your Next, which has delightful illustrations and fantastic thoughts about creativity.
Tell us about the creative work you do.
By day, I’m a product designer for a real estate startup. Most of my work there involves designing user experiences across a number of platforms, like mobile and web apps.
Outside of that, I write a weekly newsletter called Plan Your Next, which explores how to find creative inspiration to pursue your next thing. I also write longer-form articles on my site, and I love to help non-designers learn how to apply design in their own life, personally and professionally.
How long have you been visually creative?
Ever since I can remember! I grew up in an artistic environment. My dad is a creative OG, a multi-disciplinary artist in the truest sense of the word. He built our house and would finger paint creatures like butterflies and snails into the ceiling paint, and I would often catch myself seeing a new figure throughout my childhood.
I grew up painting, drawing, and using photography to explore my creative interests. During college, I wanted to explore how I could apply design to the web, and was dissatisfied with the speed at which I was learning that. I ended up quitting college and learning how to code and design websites through a mentor of mine at the time, which launched me into a new chapter.
What was your thought process for incorporating original visuals into your work?
To make email less boring! I rarely draw unless it’s aligned with a goal, and having a newsletter to combine my writing with a visual element felt like a natural fit.
When I relaunched my newsletter, I wanted to make the experience more interesting for my readers. Adding an audio component, a visual component, and a written component is rarely found in combination amongst the noise. This is my attempt at creating more signal vs more noise.
What tools do you like to use for creation and publishing?
It’s very simple. My 12” iPad Pro, an Apple Pencil, and Procreate. Some other tools that I use to get creative would be my iPhone, which I use to take reference images and then bring them into Procreate to illustrate in my own style.
After I’m done illustrating, I export my illustrations and drop them into Figma to resize and export for different use cases.
Most of my note-taking happens in Roam. My writing takes place in IA Writer. I publish my newsletter using Substack, use Twitter for signaling, and Webflow for my own blog.
Is there one image you are particularly proud of? What was your process?
The illustration for my article, KonMari your creative life.
When I draw, I often use reference images. I do this because I aim to do an illustration in 30 minutes or less.
For this particular illustration, I looked to harness the feeling of tidying up your digital life. Since this article is based on the techniques Marie Kondo uses, I came up with the idea to use a set of open hands, which visually mimics the care she takes in tidying.
To get a good reference image for perspective, I had my wife take a photo of my hands, and I used that to illustrate the idea.
The meaning behind this image is to care for the things you love and remove the unnecessary. I added small illustrations representing social networks and media that we might consume on a daily basis and added some joy sparks to bring it all together.
In Procreate, I use just two tools to stay consistent. HB pencil for outlines and a gouache brush for coloring.
Are there any creators who work at the intersection of writing and art that inspire and motivate you?
This is tough as I don’t see too many creating original art with their writing. But one I am inspired by is Salman, who writes a newsletter called Quick Brown Fox.
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