Member Spotlight: Meet Nora Patterson, Illustrator, Musician, and Designer

New Orleans-based Skillshare student Nora Patterson is a musician, illustrator and designer who has channeled her multiple talents into a wide range of creative projects. She illustrates portraits, designs logos and creates patterns, has collaborated with Louisiana-based companies like Swamp Pop Soda and Krewe, and designs her own animations, posters and merchandise, all while touring the country as a full-time member of the band Royal Teeth. We talked with Nora about her creative work, how she balances her many interests, and how curiosity has guided her professional and personal life.

Royal Teeth Screen Print by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Royal Teeth Screen Print by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Hi Nora! Thanks for chatting with us. You have so many creative interests: you majored in interior design, you sing and write for a band, and now you illustrate posters and portraits, create animations, craft invitations, design apparel...the list goes on and on. How do you choose what to work on?

I don’t think I would be able to limit my creative interests if I tried! I really love to do work that challenges me. It keeps life interesting and keeps me motivated. I chose to join my band, Royal Teeth, because It was something I’d never done before and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I even got a husband out of it. These days, I try not to pass up any opportunity to jump into a new creative outlet, because I never know what it might lead to.

Swamp Pop Soda poster by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Swamp Pop Soda poster by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

What inspires you to create?

Other creative people. There is so much diversity in the creative world and I love hearing about different people’s processes and goals. It motivates me to do good work. I’m lucky to be around creative people a lot at my day job and when I’m playing music, so it’s not hard to find inspiration.

You write that moved to New Orleans the same year that you joined your band. Which came first, the move or the band? And what prompted those decisions?

I moved to New Orleans after graduating college so that I could work my way into the Interior Design world. About a month after I moved, I got a Facebook message from one of the band members (the one I eventually married!) asking if I’d consider joining the band. I thought it would be fun to try something new, so I said yes. We had our first show a week later and we quit our jobs a year after that to pursue the band full time. It was a scary decision, but one I would never take back. It’s been eight years now and a lot has changed, but we are still writing music and playing shows all over the country.

You talk about discovering a love of illustration well after you finished college. What was that process like? What inspired you to begin drawing?

Studying Interior Design in college required me to learn the basics of Adobe programs and to take a few art classes, but It wasn’t until I joined the band and they asked me to create posters and design some merch until I realized how much I loved illustration. I became obsessed with drawing while we were on tour. I drew while we were in the van, and watched documentaries about illustrators and designers to get inspired.

Pattern design by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Pattern design by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

I think the fact that people were actually seeing and buying designs I made sparked something in me. It fueled my desire to get better. That’s when I, thankfully, discovered Skillshare. When I wanted to create a new merch design, I would look for a Skillshare class that could help me out.  Having all of these creative classes at my disposal was so exciting to me. Now the satisfaction of learning a new skill or getting better at something creative is a feeling I can’t live without.

We’re spending this month talking a lot about curiosity at Skillshare. What role, if any, has curiosity played in your professional and personal life?

Curiosity has been the foundation of all of my creative pursuits. Being curious about what it would be like to be in a band lead to my curiosity about how to design band merchandise, which lead to my love for illustration. Being curious has opened so many doors for me and has helped me to discover so much about myself.

Hey Red ‘Zine by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Hey Red ‘Zine by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Skillshare has become the first place I go when I’m curious about learning a new creative skill or just brushing up on technique. Having all of these lessons available at anytime is really invaluable to me. I completed Yuko Shimizu’s Ink Drawing Techniques: Brush, Nib and Pen Style last year because I was curious about drawing with brush and ink. I had never tried it before and now it’s one of my favorite illustrating techniques. The Summer Spoonbill Project I completed for that class actually lead to a great opportunity for me to work with Swamp Pop Sodas. I was asked to create 6 posters to bring awareness to wetland and coastal restoration in Louisiana. It is my favorite freelance project to date.

I also really enjoy Christine Nishiyama’s classes. Her lessons are very organized and detailed, which I appreciate and I had a lot of fun with the Scientific Illustration: Conveying Information with Charm course (I learned so much about narwhals!). Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Inspiring Visual Stories was also a favorite; Marte Marie Forsberg is a joy to listen to and her photography is stunning. Seeing what she creates inspires me to develop my photography skills.

Nora at work (image courtesy of the artist)

Nora at work (image courtesy of the artist)

What are you curious about now?

Photography and lettering are at the top of my list right now. I have over 200 Skillshare classes saved and have made a resolution for the new year to complete them all. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’m going to try!

What do you wish you knew when you were first launching your creative career?

I wish I knew that developing your style can sometimes take a lifetime. I was so determined to find “my style” that it would prevent me from doing any work because I was worried It wasn’t going to make sense with anything else I had created.

I learned to let that go pretty quickly and just drew anything and everything. I found the techniques and tools I liked, and used those the most and eventually my style found itself. I’m sure it will continue to change and develop and I’m okay with that.

Finish the sentence: “Curiosity drives my __”

Curiosity drives my creativity!

Swamp Pop Soda poster designs by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)

Swamp Pop Soda poster designs by Nora Patterson (image courtesy of the artist)


Want to learn more about Nora Patterson? Check out her Skillshare member page, her website or follow her on Instagram.