Meet Nick Blazey. Nick is a New Zealand-based artist who graduated from the AUT University in Auckland in 2010. He is currently working as a Graphic Designer at Periscope Design. And although he is a designer by trade, Nick is skilled in many mediums, including drawing, watercolors, painting, and illustration. His work is absolutely captivating- containing extreme detail, care, and breathtaking subjects.
Nick has participated in several past Light Grey exhibitions, including Rolemodels, Macro + Micro, and the current Animystics Exhibition. It is always a pleasure to include Nick in the exhibitions and see his process along the way. In this interview, you can read about Nick's work, his subjects, working habits, and surrounding creative community.
Nick, can you tell me more about your studio practice and your work?
My true passion is my art. I mostly create illustrative and fantasy-based work in graphite and watercolor. I work from my bedroom studio, which is a sunny room with a tiny glimpse of the sea. There are piles of books, animal bones, driftwood, and feathers that surround my desk. This is my haven where my art and illustrations happen. I also regularly get together with fellow artists for a group drawing sessions in a studio space in the city.
For three days a week, I work at Periscope Design where I am one of the twelve designers. It’s a commercial design studio in a lively open plan environment with music and banter. The majority of work we do is point of sale and packaging design.
Your work seem to recall ideas of mysticism, poetry, and decay. Can you talk about the inspirations behind the work?
The outdoors completely inspires me to draw. As a child, I did a lot of sailing around the Hauraki Gulf, and I spent many hours up trees wishing I had a tail. Nowadays, I try to get out of the city as much as possible doing whatever is going to immerse myself in the natural world like hiking, sailing, surfing, etc. These experiences are the core of my inspiration and give ideas to my work and understanding of the natural world.
One of the most consistent themes throughout my work is the supernatural. I often take something natural and enhance its features and qualities- giving it a body and a force beyond the understanding of science and the laws of nature. To achieve this, I try to add mystery and an untamed, wild feeling to my paintings.
Sulvan Pteropodidae by Nick Blazey
Your work walks the line of science and study. Could you talk about the research side of art making?
When I am planning out an image, I like to find out as much as I can about the subject. This involves hours of trawling through the internet and a trip to the library. If possible, I’ll try to get a specimen from nature. I will do a number of studies that gives me a better understanding of what I’m about to paint. Doing this amount of research usually leads to finishing a painting with ideas for several more.
For the Animystics Exhibition, you made an original watercolor painting, Pangolin. Could you talk about your process in making this piece and the mystical properties you were trying to convey?
After drawing dozens of loose thumbnail sketches and a few tonal studies, I needed some decent references photos because drawing people climbing is hard. I dragged a tree stump into my room, climbed on top of it and took a bunch of photos using the self-timer. Next, I drew the final sketch and transferred it onto stretched watercolor paper and started painting.
Pangolin by Nick Blazey
The Pangolin painting was about mediating between man and nature, a symbol of our connection to the natural world. I did this by visually combining the essence of nature (through the Pangolin animal) with man. I was trying to make a human in a state of metamorphosis, with armor-like scales growing out of his skin. It is a sort of wingless tree fairy, half human and half animal.
What are some of the biggest differences for you in the variety of work that you do? From graphic design, to illustration, to fine arts? Do you maintain a different style or approach for each type of making?
The biggest differences are timing and the level of creative freedom I have over a project. Graphic design is how I make a living- it is very fast paced and commercial. I give it my own edge where I can, but most jobs require a pre-determined look and feel. With my personal work, I can let loose, try new things, and be as creative as I want. It’s nice to have full control over a project without it being influenced by someone else’s direction and deadlines, whereas illustration is a mix of the two. Generally someone will come to me wanting my style, which I will have to alter according to the job, and I usually end up working overtime to make sure it has the look I’m after.
Do you have any resources, books, artist, or media that you would recommend to other creatives?
Gustave Dore and Ivan Solyaev are two of my favorite artists, particularly through their use of tone. I’ve been reading a lot of Algernon Blackwood lately who has some amazing fantasy horror stories. Also I am a contributor to a group inspiration blog called Something For your Atelophobia, which is run by some other New Zealand artists that I have drawn with all my life.
Thanks, Nick! It is great to hear about your practice and all of the ways you make artwork! You can find Nick Blazey's work for the Animsytics Exhibition on the Light Grey Shop or online archive here. You can also see more of his work on his portfolio and website.