IT is God, says Nick Deakin, who he has to thank for the position he finds himself in today.
The illustrator – who is now paid thousands of pounds for his creations and who this summer will have his work flashed across the US as part of a new Coca-Cola advert – was struggling in a call centre job unable to get anyone interested in his drawings when, one day, out the blue, he received a most unusual email.
It was from a Christian outlook group based in America’s deep south.
“They wanted me to illustrate this Christian youth group book,” the 36-year-old smiles today in his Kelham Island, Sheffield, studio.
“I’m not a religious man but it felt like a miracle.
“They’d seen my work on a website I’d set up – no idea how they stumbled on it – but that changed everything for me really. It proved I could make a living out of what I loved doing.”
Certainly he has done just that ever since.
For since leaving that call centre eight years ago, the fine art graduate has not only been creating his own line of T-shirts and posters, he’s also worked on projects for some of the world’s biggest companies including Nike, Shell, Orange and Virgin.
And now Coca-Cola.
“They saw my work in London and asked me to pitch for them,” he explains. “They wanted a hip hop dog and I sort of based it around Spike Lee, gave it some glasses and a kind of geeky quality, and they loved it straight away. It was really simple, actually.”
That dog has now been transformed into animation for an advert which sees him enjoying a Coke. It is currently showing around US cinemas.
“I have a friend living in New York,” says Nick who grew up in Barnburgh, Doncaster, but now lives in Goldthorpe, Barnsley. “He texted me and said he’d seen it - that was a thrill. It can blow your mind when you think so many people will be seeing something you’ve created.”
Just like, he says it blew his mind when he took a workshop for Sheffield Futures, a city charity helping disadvantaged young people.
“I was showing my art to them,” he recalls. “And this girl suddenly said ‘I’ve seen that before, I’ve got it on my wall’.
“She said she liked it, so she’d printed it off and put it up in her room. That was a pretty massive moment, just seeing this moody teenager suddenly light up.”
Chances are you might have seen his work too.
His pictures adorns the walls of several Sheffield bars, including The Great Gatsby and The Bowery, both in Division Street, and fashion shops like Size on the same road.
“The problem with that is I’m my own worst critic so sometimes I’ll be having a drink looking at them, thinking I could have done that better,” laughs Nick.
He might be a critic but the rest of the world, it seems, is fast falling for Nick Deakin. Thank the Lord for that.