Shake It Out: An Introduction to the Art of Nick Nicholls

Nick’s story is unique. His youth in Ocean City, Maryland was never filled with premonitions of an artistic future. The closest he ever found himself to creating art was through simple doodles out of boredom; however, his youth was filled with individuality, and it was this that shook the art out of his bones.

It wasn’t until high school that Nick discovered his interest in art. He took introductory courses in photography and design and immediately learned that his photos took the back seat to his drawings. Nick got hooked on designing. He began pursuing it more seriously when he decided to concentrate on Fine Art at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Nick Nicholls Logo; three-block relief print; hand designed, hand carved, and hand printed

Nick Nicholls Logo; three-block relief print; hand designed, hand carved, and hand printed

Nick’s specialty is print making, specifically in the style of graffiti. His enjoyment is derived from knowing that he is the essence of his work. Since he is the creator of his work, he has control over what he produces. Moving his instinct, via art, is his form of connecting with others. The objective of his artwork is to impact others in someway, even if only in a minor way. The method of his production begins with listening to his individual voice; Nick pulls particular perceptions from his life. He then conceptualizes these details and combines them with collective themes, which become his avenues for relating to the people around him. Through this method, Nick conveys meaning; and although the meaning may be less than absolute to some, his style guarantees that the viewer of his work will, at the very least, be intrigued enough to consider a piece for its meaning. He uses colors set in graphics as a hook to draw one’s eyes, followed by one’s mind, to his work.

Left: Bruda; 8-color screen print // Right: Falcor; 6-color screen print

Left: Bruda; 8-color screen print // Right: Falcor; 6-color screen print

All of Nick’s prints featured in this issue are hand-drawn designs. Nick’s basic process is to scan a hand-drawn design into the computer, do some work on it through Photoshop, print it out, trace it on a light table, re-scan it, and gradually modify it multiple times before producing the final print.

Inspiration for Nick’s prints come from many places and serve various purposes. Bruda was designed for one of his good friends’ Virginia Beach-based clothing company. Falcor was first drawn out by Nick years ago for a friend’s tattoo design. The original drawing for the tattoo featured his friend riding Falcor, the luck dragon from the film The Neverending Story. Nick used the drawing for his own purposes during one of his early screen printing classes back in 2011, but modified the artwork by substituting his friend’s face with his own in the style of a semi-traditional Japanese tattoo demon. As a twist, he completed his look with Michael Jackson’s iconic red Thriller jacket.

Left: Buck the Naysayers // Right: Tiger’s Blood; single-block relief print

Left: Buck the Naysayers // Right: Tiger’s Blood; single-block relief print

Buck the Naysayers was based off of a concept that Nick says just came to him one day. The original image underwent many edits through the computer, but was eventually re-created by hand through the use of a light table. For the final layer, Nick converted the original image to a half-tone top layer to tighten up the composition as a whole while still allowing the colors of the earlier, more loosely applied layers to come through.

Pop culture also has a presence in Nick’s work. Tiger’s Blood was inspired by the infamous rants and quotes of Charlie Sheen back in 2011. Additionally, the two versions of Mt. Smushmore are a play on the slang term “smushing,” meaning to have sex, made famous by the cast of the popular MTV reality show Jersey Shore.

Left: Mt. Smushmore; intaglio print // Right: Mt. Smushmore; 6-color screen print

Left: Mt. Smushmore; intaglio print // Right: Mt. Smushmore; 6-color screen print

Overall, Nick believes his greatest inspiration as an artist is music. From Black Sabbath to Frank Ocean, Nick is driven to create through the music he listens to. He visualizes sound, which is a talent that has afforded him the ability to promote his work through custom gig posters for local bands.

Eventually, Nick aspires to start his own print shop, a place where he can collaborate with novice, creative people, as well as challenge them to discover their contributions to the art world. Regardless of his future endeavors, one standard he holds is that he continuously grow through reinvention to maintain his excitement about art. Be on the lookout for the debut of Nick’s artistic website in the near future!


Story by Victoria Riggio, artwork by Nick Nicholls.
This post originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of
V23 Creative Magazine.