Every once in a while, you see an artistic style that just makes you smile. Someone has an ability to create a perspective that makes you stop and mutter "That's cool". Well, for us at Denik, Nicholas McPherson is one of those artists. We found him on Instagram and immediately knew that we wanted to get to know "NicholasDanger" (That's his handle on Insta FYI, check it out).
He was more than willing to speak with us and to work on this special limited-edition "Low-Class" notebook we are releasing today. He is one of the most laid-back, yet motivated people you could get to know and we're stoked to share some of his story with y'all so you can learn from the creator of "Family Poortraits".
Denik: What was your first gig in California?
Nick: I had a job for a day. I worked for a guy that made a fortune from inventing the locking mechanisms that go on dumpsters. I was his graphic designer for a day. Then I got an offer from a design studio and I asked myself if I wanted to make graphics for dumpster parts or work in a design setting, so the next day I accepted the offer and it’s the same studio where I am currently an art director. It’s a process, I did a lot of small jobs at first, then I started to get into the bigger and bigger stuff.
Denik: At what point in your life did you decide art could be your career?
Nick: Well I didn’t even know you could do art for a living until i was in high school. I always had sketchbooks growing up, drawing ninja turtles and pirates and stuff. In high school I needed a class to fill a hole in my day and I saw I could take art so I took it. The teacher saw my work and was like “Wow you need to do this, you need to work in art” and I was like “ok”.
I had always wanted to be an architect but then I realized how much math was involved and that was when I decided “Nah, I don’t want to do that”. Then I realized that with all the design I was learning to do, I could actually do that for a living!
Denik: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Nick: The best I'd received was when I was still in high school, a guy who had gone from my school to art school came back after a couple years to visit and he told us to make something new everyday. whether it’s a sketch, or a project, or whatever, always be drawing something new and making something new everyday. I still carry around sketchbooks and I still have every sketchbook I’ve used since I was 8. You have one little idea and that can turn into something big. Like what I do with my photos, I was just doodling while I was waiting for files to load on my computer or something. I had these old photos and I just started drawing on them and now it’s a whole thing. The little stuff you do on the side, those are the things that you’re passionate about because you don’t have to do them, but you want to. That passion can allow your work to turn into something cool.
Denik: On the flip side, what's the hardest or weirdest criticism you've ever received?
Nick: Well, I’m in my 30’s, and a lot of people look at my work and say its really childish. I grew up being influenced by different cartoons and different toys and you know, I still collect a lot of vinyl toys that I’ve been meaning to put away. I have girls come into my room and they're like “this looks like a little boys room” and I’m like “well, yes I have legos up”.
I’ve had a few people call my work very childish. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I have old people that love my work and young people that love my work so that’s what’s important to me because you’re never going to please everybody.
Denik: Most of our exposure to your work is through your Instagram, give us some details about how you started doing your Family Poortraits.
Nick: There are some really great swap meets & flea markets here in San Diego that I go to almost every week. On one of my trips a while ago I found tables of junk and I found this box of photos of a family at the beach. I’m always buying crap I don’t need because I think “I’m gonna make something with this," so I bought them. I think it was 7 for a dollar and I just thought “Alright, I’ll make something with them”. They were sitting on my desk and I thought maybe I’ll cut them up, but then I had this Japanese brush tip pen and I just began to draw on them. I would look at them and think “it would be funny if I did this” and I started posting them on Instagram and they just took off.
I ended up doing a show because I had all this art and I didn’t want to be sitting on it so I put them up for sale and it did really well. So it just started by drawing when I was waiting for something to load or for someone to return my call and it’s done really well.
Denik: That's pretty rad, tell us more about your gallery.
Nick: It was great because people would walk in and see some of the pieces and they would laugh. I thought that was awesome, they would just go down the wall and they could relate to it, and laugh at it…and then they bought it.
I haven’t had anybody come up and say “Hey that’s my grandma! or Hey that’s my aunt”. Sometimes I have people that are like “How can you ruin old photos?” and I’m like “Swap meet!” If someone cared about these they would have kept them. I actually don’t like drawing on people I know so I never use any photos of people that I know who they are, so I go through these random stacks of photos which I am always adding to. I just bought some more last weekend in fact.
Denik: Tell us a big about the design you used for our collaboration.
Nick: This picture was purchased at a swap meet, and I actually had it for a while before I did anything with it. It was sitting in a stack of papers, and I was not sure what I was going to do with it. This was before I really started drawing on photos. Growing up I remember a friend and I began drawing in our own yearbook. We drew on friends and teachers and just about everybody while laughing the whole time. We spent hours drawing on all these people we were going to forget. This class photo was forgotten, all the people are gone from school. Making it into something new with a sense of humor was a way to bring them back and make an old class photo, that was most likely going to be trashed, into something that the audience will remember.
Get "LOW-CLASS" Now at the Denik online store: Nick McPherson, Low-Class
Denik: Where would you like to see your art go in the future?
Nick: I just want to be creative. The drawing on the photos is just something I do on the side. I still have other projects, like I still paint sometimes, I have a line of backpacks I’m making, I’ve got ideas for books and computer games.
I know it’s a lot of work, but I just want to be creative. I want to make stuff that will make me laugh, like these photos. I just want to make new stuff. if it’s illustration, or backpacks, or jewelry, or socks, just making something new always is where I want to go. I don’t want to get burnt out from doing they same thing all the time.
Whatever I get passionate about, That is what I will do.
Denik: We love to see that attitude in an artist. To wrap up we want to hear your thoughts on how Art Can Change the World.
Nick: It’s like what I said about people coming in and seeing my gallery. I have this photo of an old guy, and I add horns or a third eye, and it makes someone laugh. I help them see it in a different light and give them a completely different perspective. I'm finding these things at a swap meet that have been completely forgotten about and I'm helping people see it in a way that actually makes them stop and think about it.
I get people coming up to me mad like “How could you draw on these old photos?” and I’m like "well why are you looking at them now?", if you’d seen these in a bin at a garage sale all you see are old photos, but now I’m getting a response. That’s the best thing art can accomplish, getting people to see something differently.