Dominique Rattray also known by her artist name as Niquey just graduated from Central Connecticut State University with honors and a degree in biology! While Niquey is going to continue her education, getting her masters in engineering, she also has another trick up her sleeve: illustrating children's books. Not only is she a brilliant woman in STEM but she puts her creative side to work as well. I took the time to sit down with her and chat about her journey as an illustrator.
Niquey has been drawing since she was six years old, driven by her desire to improve. She has always loved art but for more practical reasons than some may think. For Niquey drawing was something she saw as a challenge to overcome and eventually better. She started teaching herself, and aside from taking the general art class, she took matters into her own hands. It was during this journey of becoming an artist that she found she really loved creating portraits.
When the opportunity to illustrate for Dr. John arose Niquey was eager to take on the new challenge. Now she has illustrated five books, two of which were for Lauren Simone: Olivia Travels and Proskater. When Dr. John reached out to her, Niquey was eager to try a hand at illustrating. Lauren Simone Publishing was just starting out so that gave Niquey the opportunity to really see what the process of illustrating was like. Aside from being given certain parameters regarding the characters, Niquey had a lot of creative freedom. Although it was a wonderful experience, Niquey felt uncertain of herself and wasn’t super happy with her work. She found herself pushing forward despite these feelings and felt satisfied at meeting the deadline while also checking off all the creative boxes that needed to be filled. Despite her feelings in the beginning she discovered how she could overcome these thoughts and really do this.
Niquey must be doing something right, although she admits there was a time before becoming an illustrator that she was really struggling. She even took a year off from art because she felt she was “studying” too much. Niquey was trying so hard to master different art forms to the point where she wasn’t improving and her love of art was fading. When she returned a year later she found her groove again through Twitch and creating pieces that she loved and now the best piece of advice she has for other artists: don’t overstudy. You can have artists you love like Niquey who’s current favorite artist is Loish (Lois Vanbarrle), but art is also more than studies and grinding. Sure, “you can learn technical things but don’t lose your love for art” she encourages.
Niquey seeks to follow her own advice but also the advice of an older woman she used to work for. When asked what her favorite piece of advice was she recalled a day when the older woman, Joanne, pulled her aside and told her to “be happy.” Her advice not only reminds her to find peace and happiness in life but also with regards to her artwork. Niquey said, “if I think I can be happy with what I do and myself then it doesn’t matter in the end. It won’t be a detriment to my self esteem if I can be happy with what I do.”
If you are interested in seeing Niquey’s art be sure to check out Proskater and Olivia Lauren: A Guide To Modes of Transportation. Can’t get enough? You can find more of her incredible work on her ArtStation.