Here’s yet another art crush that we are swooning over. San Francisco-based illustrator Nicomi Nix Turner has got our heart skipping beats with her naturalistic drawings that hint toward esoteric influences. The radiant artist was kind enough to give us a tour of the studio space she shares with her husband and let us in on some of her artistic musings. Join us as photographer Abby Wilcox steps into the world of Nicomi Nix Turner.
LF: When you start with a blank canvas, what is your thought process?
NNT: Most of my work comes from weird dreams or false recollections… Once I have an idea, I end up drawing it a few times until I feel its comes together just right. Because I use graphite and white paper, any mistake or imperfection is easily seen but I don’t use erasers. Once a line is down, its down. Interesting results happen when you take away the ability to re-do something.
LF: Who are the women in your work? Do you have a muse / muses? Tell us about the symbolism you incorporate into your artwork.
NNT: The women in my work have long been women who have returned to the forest to regain things they may have lost: strength, courage, resilience… They form their own tribes or go at it alone. For me, the forest is a place of resurgence. Last year, I read about the “Asgarda”, the Ukrainian women seeking complete autonomy from men while living in the Carpathian Mountains. I guess I feel a connection to stories like this when I work on the females in my art.
I like to hide a lot of symbolism in my works to deepen a story or hide secrets. I get asked a lot why the women in my piece have a line tattooed over their face. The short answer is that it is their “Celestial Equator”- the projection of their ‘center’ out into space.
LF: How did all these little critters make their way into your aesthetic?
NNT: Growing up in a rural area of Oregon, I spent a lot of time playing with insects, snakes and wild animals. After moving away from the woods, I felt like I lost that saturation of wilderness and I wanted to find a way that I could slip back into a world filled with that. I’ve been drawing insects for quite a long time as almost an homage to their fortitude. It fascinates me that there are more species of insects on the earth than any other species.
LF: Did your recent travels influence your current body of work?
NNT: Last year I traveled to Munich, Prague and Belgium for no real reason other than to see art. Surrounding yourself with the likes of Rubens, Mucha, Bosch, Bruegal and Ensor leaves you with a feeling that you have really not achieved anything yet. I left so saturated with stunning examples of skill and dedication that I spent a lot of time thinking about how to push myself further. Statues have really helped me to push the feeling of still-motion or suspended motion in my current works.
LF: You once said you were raised in Southern Oregon with “no friends” – do you feel your upbringing affected your technique and your body of work in general?
NNT: There really weren’t any kids around where I grew up so I spent a lot of time by myself getting dirty, getting in trouble and drawing. My childhood definitely has affected my works. I suppose I am trying to get back to the woods when I draw.
LF: How does it work for you and your husband to share your creative space? Do you feed off of each other a lot?
NNT: My husband and I share our creative spaces in our loft and it has been an interesting experience to be in a space with someone who understands the way you work and why you create certain things. Its like being part of a secret society to witness another artists rituals on a daily basis. We often feed off of each others drive.
LF: You are both collectors, what’s your favorite thing you’ve acquired together? Who are some of the artists you collect?
NNT: My husband and I have been collecting art together for years now. Its invigorating to be surrounded by the hard work and talents of others. Some of our favorite pieces come from artist friends and talents such as: Henry Lewis, Korin Faught, Don Ed Hardy, Henrik Uldalen, Dan Quintana, Brandi Milne and Ferris Plock.
Out of the whole collection, our most treasured paintings comes from our friend Henry Lewis. It is a painting of a Romanesque Soldier waiting in the rain. The piece for both of us creates an overwhelming feeling of perseverance – to keep soldiering onward. It is the first thing we see when we fall asleep and the first thing we see when we wake up.
LF: What’s the most important thing you learned from your commercial stint as the creative director for Emily The Strange?
NNT: Emily the Strange was the first job I had and it was a hell of a lot of fun. I was hired right after I dropped out of a short stint at art school at age 19. I worked as graphic designer/jane-of-all-trades and worked my way up to Art Director of the globally licensed character brand. I learned a lot from the job but the most important things I learned was to always stay creative and do what you love. My 6 years with Emily was good to me and I am still not tired of drawing cats.
LF: What’s your take on the current art scene in Oakland / Bay Area?
NNT: The art scene in Oakland and the Bay Area is interesting at the moment. With rising cost of living, a lot of great artists are forced to leave the Bay for cheaper pastures but those who stay have really had an impact of the “scene”. San Francisco seems like it will always be the mecca of well-known artists in the Bay but there are so many underappreciated galleries in Oakland showing some pretty great underappreciated artists.
LF: What’s next for you? Any exciting project you want to share?
NNT: Although I am working on building out a larger body of work at the moment, there have been a lot of collaboration opportunities that have come up and I’m super stoked to work with such great projects and companies. On the horizon are collabs with Etnies Skateboards and Burton as well as a project with Pangea Seed which I am thrilled to be a part of. I have stopped making prints of my works and hopefully in the future will create limited runs of select piece with the profits going to organizations such as No More Org, WWF and the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
LF: If you were not an artist, what do you think you would do with your days?
NNT: I was all set to go off to college to study biology until my high school art teacher pushed for me to pursue the arts professionally. If I was not doing what I’m doing now, I might have pursued biology or maybe I would have become a florist/professional beach bum.
LF: If you could give women artists one piece of advice, what would it be?
NNT: You don’t have to slut it out to make it in the this realm. If you got it, flaunt it, by all means but don’t let that be your hustle. Make something amazing and amazing things will follow.
LF: What gets you off, literally or figuratively?
NNT: (Messy Hair…) Making art that makes people stare, question and feel something. That gets me off.
LF: What is perfection?
NNT: Perfection is a unicorn. It might exist, but a horse is still just as amazing.
LF: How FAST do you live?
NNT: Life is to short not to indulge. I live fast so life will feel long.