Brushstrokes: Interview with CoCo Artist Nick L.

CoCo Artist Nick L. approaches his subject matter primarily through abstraction — to evoke rather than illustrate the intersections of society and nature. His works organically creating diagrammatic structures and planes of flat color reminiscent of the built environment. Commissioning a big, striking work by him would be perfect to fill in that large empty wall in your home, especially because his colors and lines will definitely bring together all your aesthetic preferences. We interviewed him before Affordable Art Fair NYC where he painted in front of a live audience.

CoCo: How would you describe your artwork?
Nick: My artwork ranges widely in subject matter and medium, from completely abstract oil paintings, to highly rendered realistic graphite drawings, to multi-media installation art. The constant that ties everything together is my interest in the natural world and the connections between society and nature. All of my work, whether abstract or representational, relates in some way to my experience of the real world…in other words, whether there is a recognizable reference in a work or not, my inspiration for the things I make always comes from actual experience.

CoCo: Tell us about your training as an artist.
Nick: I’ve always kept a sketchbook, even as a young kid. But art was never a part of my academic life until after college. I was an environmental science and biology major. After graduating, I spent several years living in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada where I taught ecology and geology for the Yosemite Institute. It was during that period living in the mountains that I decided to put all my energy into my artwork and to make it my life pursuit. I moved to New York in 1996 and attended the New York Studio School for a couple years while I built a portfolio that I needed to apply to graduate school. I wanted to study with the British painter John Walker, and was fortunate to be accepted into his graduate program at Boston University. I finished an MFA in painting there in 2000 and then returned to NYC where I’ve lived and worked ever since.

CoCo: Describe one of your favorite collectors/clients.
Nick: My favorite collectors are people who were initially drawn to my artwork on its aesthetic merits alone, but with whom I’ve also developed strong friendships over time. As we get to know one another more and more, they trust in what I do, regardless of style or subject matter. It is fantastic to know I have the enthusiasm and support of sharp-eyed, intelligent and informed people who are interested in each new stage of my development as an artist. 

Coyote ; 60"x70", oil on canvas

Coyote; 60"x70", oil on canvas

CoCo: What does your work of art bring to its environment?
Nick: I strive to make my artwork interesting and dramatic enough to catch people’s attention, but it is also important to me that, once they look at it, it also inspires them to think more deeply about the world around them. Put simply, my artwork doesn’t pass muster until it has both graphic punch and deeper evocative appeal.

CoCo: What type of media do you use and why?
Nick: I use all kinds of media and techniques, often mixing them in unconventional ways. I believe that being open to all possibilities of expression, especially modes that are unfamiliar to me, can be an important key to unlocking new imagery and new creative territory.

Image courtesy AAF NYC

Image courtesy AAF NYC

Coco: What are you working on now?
Nick: I’m having a fantastic time doing live drawings at the Affordable Art Fair in New York City. I’ve never worked in front of a crowd this way and the performative aspect of the experience has been fun and invigorating.

CoCo: What is your favorite thing about doing a commission?
Nick: I love the collaborative aspect of working on commissions. It is thrilling to meet with clients, see the space for which they envision an artwork and then work together with them to come up with something that excites them as much as it does me.

CoCo: Tell us about your favorite commission.
Nick: It’s difficult to single out one commission as a favorite above all others, but one of the most exciting commissioning experiences I’ve had was working on some site-specific works for the lobby and media room at Richard Meier building at Grand Army plaza in Brooklyn. It was fantastic to respond to his architecture and to speak with the enthusiastic building residents who came through the space over the course of the painting and installation process.

If you are interested in learning more about Nick's work, contact