I live in the San Francisco bay area, and I began my artistic pursuits as a musician, studying and playing classical music when I was 7 years old. Of course by the time I was a teenager those interests turned to drumming, and to hard rock and heavy metal. I spent years playing in the 80’s & 90’s bay area metal scene and by the mid 90’s rolled around I suddenly began to paint.
As a kid I had always loved to draw, but my artistic endeavors never really progressed beyond what most kids do at that age. By the time I was nearing 30 I began to have all of these random thoughts about making art, and various ideas began to float around in my head. It probably took me a year or so, but eventually I began to make my first paintings with absolutely no idea of what I was doing. I read a few books on color theory, composition, etc., but I realized fairly quickly what many aspiring artists learn, and that is painting instructors more often than not want to teach you how THEY paint.
With that realization I just began painting whatever I felt like painting, just working intuitively. My impatience with creative authority was probably also a factor. Even as a kid taking music lessons, I had no problem learning scales and various exercises, but when it came to creating music, better to just leave me alone in a room by myself, and I will come up with something.
I painted for about 2 years and then everything fell by the wayside due to “life” issues, too tedious and boring to mention, and just recently have I finally been compelled to pick up the brush again. Aside
from that, I still spend a bit of time playing and listening to music and spending time with my wife and our ridiculous dog and cat. My wife is a concert photographer and has been traveling the world recently, shooting every heavy metal band you can think of, and I like to join her on some of those adventures when I can. I haven’t been to so many concerts since I was a teenager. Also, I love all things related to astronomy and cosmology and have even tried my hand at some very crude astrophotography (clamping a cheap digital camera to the eyepiece). I would love to get into this a bit more, but there are only so many hours in the day and I already feel as though there isn’t enough time for painting, let alone anything else.
At this point I just want to develop my skills as a painter, finding better and more direct or more effective ways to take whats inside of me and put it onto the canvas. I have some commissioned pieces that are nearly complete and will have several of my pieces hung in a public space for the first time within the next month or so. Life is good.
Nikko, welcome and thank you for doing this. Let’s get right to it!
No. 1) What is art to and for you? (personally and generally)
I guess that would depend on the specific work of art, but for me, when I am working it seems to represent some sort of quest. I always have a sense that I am searching for something when I am making a painting. It’s always there, but it’s also ever elusive. I can sense it but never really grab hold of it. I guess you could say there’s some sort of emotional or spiritual journey that takes place. It seems to me to be one of the greatest factors in my experience of any kind of art, be it painting or music or what have you. I want to be transported to another world where all of existence is simultaneous. Where there is no time. Perhaps this is merely a lack of focus on my part as I tend to see, and hear everything all at the same time, and there is never a second when music is not playing in my head. I have been listening to the same song the whole time I have been writing this. It’s a pretty good tune too.
No. 2) What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. It can really be anything. The color or texture or movement of a random object I may encounter. Sometimes a certain piece of music will spawn an idea, the texture or layers in a melody can remind me of something I was working on or just give me an idea about how to develop an idea. I have been a musician my whole life as well, so I tend to see music in a very visual way. Often times, I can play a piece of music without actually having to learn it (as long as it’s not too complex) because I can just see how it is supposed to be played, but this is probably true for many musicians. Melodies and rhythms are always sort of floating around in my mind in a very spacial three dimensional fashion. I nearly always play music when I am working as well.
No. 3) When you are painting, creating, where does it take you? I mean where does your mind (spirit) travel?
I guess the easiest way to describe this would be to say that it’s a meditation of sorts. I usually travel deep within myself, often getting lost in images and memories and thoughts. It’s very similar to being in a dream-like state (daydreaming, as it were). It doesn’t happen every single moment I am working, but when it does, I guess you could say that’s when everything is flowing as it should. When hours go by without me noticing I know I’m in the right space.
No. 4) Do you think visual arts, music and health are related and if so, how?
I definitely think this is the case. I haven’t read much on the science that relates to this, but for me, having any outlet for creative energy is good for my general well being. I have always known from a very young age that this was something of great importance to me, and in the brief periods in my life where I was not actively involved in some sort of creative endeavor, my life has suffered for it, emotionally and physically. Even the thought of giving that up creates the type of stress that can be damaging.
No. 5) How do you feel when you are painting?
This is tough to answer. I feel connected to the universe, literally. This may come off sounding like some sappy poetic rambling, but I am truly speaking in physical terms. The idea that my existence is connected to physical processes that have been occurring in the universe for the last 13 billion or so years is something I think of often. In fact, it’s an underlying narrative in my work. Stellar and galactic evolution, the fact that our bodies are made from elements that were formed when stars reached the end of there lives and shed there materials into space. The battle between order and chaos that exists in all physical systems. The fact that the universe is not something “out there”, but that we are the universe.
No. 6) When do you do your best work?
I seem to do my best work in the evening. Since I was very young I have always burned the candle at both ends, working or going to school during the day, and pursuing my other interests at night. I don’t know if I have now programmed myself to operate in this manner, or if it is just an interesting coincidence that I have been able to effectively divide my time this way. It’s not unusual to find me in my studio at 2am painting away while listening to any one of a hundred Death Metal albums loaded into my iTunes.
No. 7) Do you identify with your subject and if so, on what level?
Since the work that I do is purely intuitive I don’t know if I have any one specific subject with which to identify. My identification I would say resides in the process, the very act of painting itself, and the materials that I use. This is similar, perhaps conceptually, although not aesthetically, to abstract expressionism in that I am in a constant state of making marks on the canvas, and then responding to those marks. If I plan any sort of specific subject matter in advance, it usually turns out badly for me. I recently saw an artist interview where the artist stated that some people tend to “fetishize” their materials. I definitely think I am one of those people. I love
to be in the studio squeezing paint out of tubes, setting up my palette, picking out brushes, all that fun stuff. It helps to physically connect me to my work I think.
No. 8) Does painting help you connect with your higher self?
I think that painting, or creating music (which I don’t do as much these days) certainly helps me connect with myself, and it helps me to connect myself, higher and lower with the rest of the universe. How strange would it seem to some other beings looking down on the earth. “Look at those strange beings, and look at that one there. He has some stick thing in his hand, and he is rubbing it around on that flat surface, making colors and shapes, huh.” I hope they would choose to spend their time eaves dropping on that sort of activity as opposed to some of the things that humans do. It seems certain to me that they would have some kind of artistic awareness and opinion of what they were witnessing, since the capacity for abstract and symbolic thought, which leads to art, would be needed in order for them to develop the technology to travel to our neck of the universe, or to even have the desire to do so in the first place. With that said, I guess that the very act of painting itself is one manifestation of our higher selves.
No. 9) How do you feel about creativity in the public school systems?
I believe that creativity needs to be emphasized in all systems, beginning at home, then school, and continuing into whatever you choose to pursue in life, be it personally or professionally. There are some who feel as though creativity and the arts are nothing more than a frivolity that can only be indulged when all other “important” issues have been solved. The irony, of course, is that when it comes to solving any problem, creativity is the most valuable tool that you can posses. I know this is a much overused quote, but I just can’t resist. From Albert Einstein, “I believe in intuition and
inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”I won’t bother getting into a discussion about the politics related to the struggle for the funding of arts programs. I can feel the fury rising up inside just by writing that last sentence. Perhaps I should head to my studio and leave the next question for a bit later.
No. 10) What could be a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school systems?
This is such a complicated question to answer. I’m not very familiar with current standards, not to mention how much they vary depending on region. I guess one factor would be how much latitude teachers have in their classes. I do feel that rote memorization is not any way to foster creativity, so any system that would limit this kind of learning would be a positive thing. One thing that I feel needs to be addressed is the misconception that creativity and discipline are diametrically opposed. Putting creativity to use requires a tremendous amount of discipline. Sitting around eating Cheetos all day while waiting for “inspiration” is not going to get you very far in life, although I do love some tasty Cheetos. But seriously, the more you work the more inspired moments you are bound to have. The key is to recognize when that is happening, and run with it.
Thank you so much for a most interesting and enlightening article. You have been most generous in sharing your thoughts and talent with us. Until we work together again, I wish you all the best in all your endeavours. Be blessed!
TO THE READER:
To see more of Nikko’s wonderful art, you are invited to visit the links below as well as commenting this article. ENJOY!