On the surface, the world of abstract art may seem quite different than the world of illustration. Where one is completely about the exploration of colors, explosions, blurring of lines and structures, the other is about reoccurring characters, typically clean lines and traditional social commentary. However, the art form both carries forward the concept of freedom. In either genre the artist is free to create the universe that she/or is living. Whether that universe is randomly full of color or straight black and white, the artist guides the tempo, design, and ultimately the outcome.
One artist who has transitioned nicely into the realm of the abstract is Northern Illinois University graduate Nick Volkert. When Nick began the graduate program at NIU he was mainly focused on the school paper, and developing his numerous cartoon ideas. However, in 2005 Nick began to let the paint take over really explore different textures that he could create. Since graduating he has focused on this new found world, while also freelancing in the community. He is also the founder and operator of a website, Student Fine Art, that also the provides an outlet for the art community at NIU. He now prepares to share his personal creations with the public. On November 14th at The House Cafe in Dekalb, IL, Nick will unveal his current series of paintings, and this will be an event not to be missed.
Recently, Nick took some time out to answer a few of our questions.
Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your style of painting?
Nick Volkert (NV): Abstraction that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's as deep as you want it to be, but is accessible to anyone. I don't like to be filed away into any of the "ists or isms", but the way I paint is very aggressive and physical. If I amount to anything I'll let someone else come up with a cool name for it.
OA: While at NIU you developed your fascination with and ability to create abstract painting, what else did you take away from your time at NIU?
NV: Self sufficiency. Being filed away at the topmost farthest corner of the NIU art annex you have to take things in your own hands. It was also nice too because I'd have my solitude, and be able to crank some crazy metal and not have to worry about making my art neighbors mad. I also gained a level of defiance, I was told "no" a lot, and said I was somehow going about my work the wrong way. So through that I grew my artistic identity. No one's going to tell me no, and I'm going to paint what I want to paint. I got into abstract after some late night searches on the web; the voodoo land where the academics say you're not supposed to find anything artistically profound. I found an artist named Karen Jacobs who does these large fantastic abstracts. I began working similarly in very small sizes, and eventually my works grew in scale. After a night of crappy critiques, I painted, was venting some frustration, and stumbled upon the splatter technique I use; mixing tube acrylic with gesso, and then eventually hardware store grade latex house paint. The work I was doing previously was very illustration looking; rendering my work almost in a photoshop airbrush tool manner. I think the abstracts were the equivalent of taking those paintings and throwing them out the window. It was liberating. I was able to focus more on color. I was also a good stress reliever. Ha.
OA: Next month you have exhibit opening at the House Cafe in Dekalb. What can we expect to see at this opening?
NV: Being in limbo right now I really can't make guarantees. I will say that I put on a good show. Admittedly I don't have the luxury of time on my side, but I hope to have a little bit more work on display than a modest showing. Set your expectations low, and you'll always be surprised, I say. Ha.
OA: I really enjoy your comic "Gone Clean Wholesome Fun". What are you plans for this comic? Is there a collection in the works?
NV: Right now it's in the back of my mind and is definitely going to make a comeback. No collections in the works yet. I came to terms with the fact I that I have multiple artistic identities, and the comic is something that I just need to do to keep my sanity. I don't know if a physical collection will be around anytime soon, like I said, but I'm hoping to launch a website for the comic as soon as I get things to a point where I feel comfortable sharing it with the world again. There's so much more I can do with Scooter the two legged cat.
OA: Who are some of your biggest influence artistically?
NV: I love anything and everything comic books. Those are what originally brought me to the dance. I really wanted to be the next Jim Lee, or Dan Silvestri. I plan to get back to that. Right now I always check to see what James Jean is doing, I love his compositions, his ideas, and his use of extremely bizarre colors. If any other artist was given the ingredients he has, they'd definitely drop the ball, but he always manages to knock it out of the park, just awesome stuff. I also like looking at graffiti. I take trains a lot now, and used to drive by trains a lot on the way to school. I always have the rust vs. minty 1950's green color composition in my mind. The idea of the boxcar is great too. Once they exceed their use they are sent away in a yard somewhere, to become some graffiti artist's canvas. Just the odd but wonderful life for a railroad car.
OA: What's next for Nick Volkert?
NV: I want to get back to illustration really bad, and my comics. I have a comic book idea I've been knocking around for years that I'm willing to spend enough time on to really make it something. So, revisiting a lot of old ideas. I'm also learning web and flash, so I'm sure a flash animation authored by me will be coming around soon. Continuing to work though, in any form is a must for me. Finding time and getting ideas for new work while living a day to day life is like a fight, and I'm a fighter. I'm not going down for the count anytime soon.
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
NV: I've yet to find what's so great about coffee. I like cold drinks, so I'm a tea drinker. Fresh brewed tea, is the way to go. Mountain Dew is like my heroin. There's definitely an addictive chemical in that garbage.
OA: Do you listen to music while you painting? Who are some of your> favorites while painting and in general?
NV: Music definitely inspired a lot of my work. I rocked a lot of Nonpoint, Hurt, Black Crowes, Shinedown, and Death from Above 1979. I wish I could paint the sounds I hear instead of reacting to it. In general I like highs and lows, heavy parts and pretty parts. My taste in music tends to be very heavy with strong melody. I like the heavy rock bands that have singers that actually sing and do the occasional Cookie Monster voice. It's got to move you man, it's got to move you. I'm in debt to all the music that's inspired me.
For more information on Nick Volkert, please visit his website.