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POW Chats: Everything you Need to Know About Illustrator and King of Wit, Nick Gazin

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Nick Gazin is a genuinely funny guy; quick-witted with all the sense of an amusing comic, but instead of doing stand-up, he delivers his quips with clever art banter, markers, paint brushes and pens. In honor of his first POW release, we chat with Nick about drawing sleeping subway riders, how he should be the definitive plug for porn star merch and why his mother is his biggest influence.

Nick, can you tell me about your creative background, your style influences and why you draw what you draw?

I guess it all began with my mother. She’s a painter and she’s very good. I encourage everyone to checkout TaniConrad.com. My mom is my biggest influence; she’s a Yale educated painter. She’s a really great painter. Her mark making is beautiful. She paints a lot of teenage girls who are my sister.

I come from a long line of people who attended Yale and were art majors or painters or became professional artists or writers-- on my mom’s side anyway.

My mom would always give me art supplies as a kid and take me to classes. She’d just give me stuff and I’d sit down and draw for hours. She took me to figure drawing classes starting at a young age. As far as this constant presence who’s always been drawing with me and painting with me and taking classes with me, my mom is my biggest influence, but beyond that: comic books growing up, a lot of stuff in the 90s, David Lapham, Mike Allred, Sam Keith.

Beyond comics, I got into fine arts around middle school with Warhol and Gustav Klimt, and David Hockney.

As far as what I draw, it’s hard to say where it comes from. It all kind of varies from moment to moment. It depends how I’m feeling. Lately, what I’ve been doing is I’ve got these stacks of papers with markers, and I draw with these markers that bleed through the pages and then I’ll look at all these pages with the bled through shapes and marks on them, and try to make them make sense-- kind of like when you’re looking at clouds and you try to make them into things.

How do you get started with a work typically? Are you the type of person who opens up shop anywhere, or do you have a set routine, place or atmosphere?

Some people might say -- at least I think the most common ones are -- people wanna be alone or smoke a joint or put on a certain record to put them in the right head space. For me, I think I learned a lot from drawing people on the subway. I‘d wait for people to fall asleep on the subway and then I’d start drawing them. Or drawing people while you’re having dinner with them. Just drawing people that aren’t holding still while you’re hanging out and constantly getting in the habit of having a sketchbook with you and drawing all the time is really important for learning how to draw and being comfortable. With drawing as a thing you do, you kind of have to do it all the time in order to get good at it usually and that involves just constantly doing it and not having a ritual so much. You just start. And you keep going until you’re hungry or tired or someone comes over or something.

But there’s certainly times where it’s easy to get blocked. But I like to drawing in diners, I like drawing at home, in the car or wherever. It’s less like a ritual. I think different people work different’y,, For certain people, making the work is a struggle and it’s not something that naturally happens, but for other people it’s more of an OCD compulsive thing and I think that’s where I’m at. I want to always be drawing or at least making marks cause it feels good and has a calming effect. It helps me focus more. It just feels right.

Can you tell me about the print you have available through POW titled “Don’t Look Back in Anger?” What’s going on in that image?

Well, I’m not totally sure because I painted it two years ago [laughs]. It’s pretty loosely based on a photo and I guess I—let’s see, what the hell is going on in that image? Like, if you look at her head, the right half of her head is hair and the other half are like these parallel lines where it seems like it’s her exposed brain or something. I think that’s suppose to be her soul or personality coming through visibly. Then there’s the weird psychedelic patters on her back, then there’s the hand where there are  all these fingers and it’s kind of supposed to be about movement and the connection between the hand and the brain which is kind of what art’s like; you connect your hand and your brain and you try to make your hand do what your brain is telling you or maybe it’s the other way around sometimes, you let your hand lead and just do what feels good as you draw and just enjoy the act of mark-making. It’s sort of about that for me: the activity of the hand, the activity of the brain.

The fact that she’s naked is more about vulnerability and less about sexuality or pin-up stuff. But I mean if people want to get really horny looking at that thing, they can do it if they want, but that’s not the goal.

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I have no idea how to pose this question, but I remember reading an interview and you mentioned you would be happy to work in the porn industry doing illustrations.

I’ve been drawing the nude figure since I was like 8 or 9. The first time you start drawing someone nude you might be like ‘Oh my God, there’s a naked person in the room.' And also I’m 9, and they’re an adult, that’s weird. But it fades away real quick. You learn to appreciate the human body for how gross or pretty it is.

I used to do watercolor paintings based on pornography. I just love to draw people whether it’s in a sexualized or non-sexualized way. The human body is endlessly great to draw and it’s what I learned to draw with.

Drawing people doing it is kind of fun. In a way that is sort of titillating or whether it’s in a way that’s kind of supposed to be outside of the experience and objectifying it-– not objectifying it in like a misogynistic way, but just like objectifying the act of sexuality as this weird thing that people do that’s kind of pretty and strange and intense.

So if porn stars want me to design their merch to sell at like porno conventions, I’m down to draw your shirts and stickers or whatever. I got ideas.

You’re the plug. Perfect. It’s the New Year, what do you have planned for 2016 now that we’re in the first few days?

I try and take it one day at a time. Being a partially freelance illustrator and artist is a real terrifying experience where there’s no security really. At any moment, everything could all collapse. But I want to try and oil paint more and do large paintings. I’d like to try and work on pitches for TV shows. Supposedley, I’m going to have a designer spraycan with my art on it for the Spanish Montana company. I’m working hard on it-- the official Nick Gazin spray paint can.

Right now, I’m trying to review all the comics I forgot to review and put stuff together for VICE. I do a lot of stuff for Wavves and I might do more. I did the tour poster for this upcoming Summer is Forever tour that Wavves and Best Coast are doing together. I drew them as wrestlers.

I’ve been really trying to learn how to cook. I might have some art shows. Who can really say?

Plus I have no memory so I can never remember what I’ve agreed to. There’s probably a lot of stuff coming up that I’ll remember when I get off the phone.

I’d like to have a TV show though.

Wanna throw some pitches at me?

There’s one about a bunch of space aliens crashed to earth on a large hippie commune and the hippies don’t realize they’re aliens. There’s this other one and it’s about cars that turn into boats. Like transformers, but they’re not robots, they’re not smart, they can just turn into boats.

There’s another show called “Rap Cops.” Remember the show “Cop Rock?” Same idea, but different entirely, because this time they rap instead of rock. I think the kids will really dig it. It’s a show that kind of speaks to a generation that really wants to see some hip young cops rappin.’ Then I got one more that I’ll share with you, it’s called “Catrobats,” it’s about cats who are acrobats in a circus and there’s like an old guy acrobat who’s kind of crumugingly who remembers cats circuses when they were treated as kings; and then there’s this young like cat daughter who dreams of a normal life, and then the cat parents Tom and Janey who are just trying to keep it together.

*24 hours later I shoot a text to Nick Gazin*

So, you were totally making up those shows off the top of your head yesterday, huh?

Yes. There is no catrobats. I just love to laugh.

Thank you Nick.

Nick Gazin's "Don't Look Back in Anger" is available now, through January 13th. You can learn more about the print and make your purchase by clicking here!