Nick Baxter is well known for his distinct hyper-realistic style of painting and tattooing. When it comes to his art his main focus has always been on learning and growing as much as possible in order to create a truly refined and unique work of art. Whether he’s working in oils or in ink, his complete dedication and passion for his craft reveals itself in every minute detail of his work. As a result, he’s inspired a myriad of artists and tattooers and has garnered countless fans and admirers. Despite all of his success and attention, he remains humble and genuine and we were fortunate enough to spend some time and talk with him recently.
B:So Nick, what’s new? What have you been up to?
N: It’s been a busy summer, artistically. I’ve been taking some painting workshops and just doing the usual tattoo work but I’ve really been trying out some new techniques and some new genres of painting that I’m enjoying.
B: I saw that you did a Dutch Masters kind of still life painting workshop? Is that right?
N: Yes. I took a 17th century Dutch still life workshop in New York City at the Grand Central Atelier. It was basically just painting in the manner and the technique of the Dutch realist painters from around the Renaissance Period.
B:Was that challenging?
N:Yea, the most challenging aspect really is the foundation step of drawing, just seeing accurately and drawing. I’ve been painting now for over a decade so my painting technique and what I know about oil paint was already at a proficient level. I took the workshop but what I don’t practice every single day is just the fundamentals of life drawing by observing three dimensional objects in front of you and recording them accurately.
B:So stylistically, is the Dutch painting style as precise as your normal painting style? How does it differ from the way you normally paint?
N: The Dutch are known to be very precise in their realism so it was perfectly suited to how I already paint, which is a very precise, kind of technical, clinical approach. I took to the painting aspect very easily. It was all about honing my drawing and observational skills and making sure I’m creating form accurately and matching color accurately.
B: Do you think you’re going to be able to apply that Dutch style to the kind of painting that you do now?
N: Yes. The techniques directly cross over but obviously the subject matter is different and I actually took another workshop this summer before that one. It was a plein air landscape painting workshop up in New Hampshire in the mountains, through the Hudson River Fellowship. Those skills and everything I worked on there, even more so than the still life workshop, is going to help me moving forward. That’s a whole new area, a whole new genre, a whole new subject matter and a whole new process and technique of painting that I’ve never delved into. So a lot of that information, a lot of those techniques are going to directly influence my work moving forward.
B: Do you think you’ll keep striving to try different art techniques and increase your knowledge and learn throughout your life? Do you think you’ll keep taking courses and exploring new aspects of art?
N: Yes, and if not new ones then deeper aspects of existing ones, if that makes sense. That’s just a fundamental aspect of my personality. I am driven to do that so I’m the type of person that can’t be content in that way. And I believe that the artist’s work is never finished. Art is kind of one of the unique pursuits in life where you’re learning and your work is just never done. As soon as you’ve painted or tattooed something you can do the next painting or the next tattoo and you can do it even better.
B: You also teach seminars. What motivates you to teach?
N: I feel a sense of obligation and sincere desire to give back to the tattoo world that’s given so much to me. Probably every single good thing in my life today is directly derived from tattooing, from the tattoo world and from other people in the tattoo world who have been generous to me so I just want to be generous back. I feel like I’ve done enough learning and have enough experience at this point in my career where I do have something to share and give back that could be valuable for some people and it’s fun and very gratifying to share knowledge with people and have it be appreciated. And having to teach something also makes you learn it even deeper because obviously you can’t teach something you don’t understand yet yourself, so when I want to teach something I have to understand it deeply enough to convey it in my own words to other people so that actually helps me grow and helps me learn just by teaching my own material. So it’s good for all those reasons.
B: Can we talk a little bit about your experiences at the World Wide Tattoo Conference? You’ve taught seminars at a couple, right?
N: Well, firstly, it is terrifying. It’s incredibly scary to get up in front of so many people and reveal the inner workings of your mind and I’m not the best public speaker so it is absolutely terrifying. But besides the abject terror there’s always the great experience of networking with great artists. It’s great to network and share information and get inspired and re-energized by all these talented artists that are there. And of course it is really great to talk to a lot of the audience members, too, as they might give me some interesting feedback on what they heard me present in my seminar that helps me think about it in a different way.
B: Do you think you’d ever consider teaching a different format other than a group seminar? Would you ever do a one on one or small groups?
N: I much prefer small groups. I feel like my personality and the way I like to interact with other humans is more tailored towards a more intimate setting. In large groups I tend to just want to be a wallflower so yea, smaller workshops would be fun.
B: One final question for you. Do you think the world of tattooing is going to keep expanding or do you think we’re going to see it shrink back down to a smaller level?
N: My theory, which I’ve had for the past few years as I observe the changes happening, is that it is just going to splinter and you’re going to have different subsets of tattooing that have little to no interaction with each other. So in a way, to answer your question, I think both are going to happen. Overall, it’s going to keep growing and growing but on a smaller group level you’re going to see groups start to splinter within that growth. You’re going to have, for instance, your biomech guys, your more underground artists who don’t care about the flashy tv shows, and you’re going to have the more fame seeking crowd. And these people are going to start to know each other less and less and less as we just get so many new tattooers and so many new tattoo fans involved.
INTERVIEW by Ben Licata and transcribed byKellsey Mull, both from Off the Map Tattoo !
Read Nick’s full bio story & see tons more of his art and tattoos in Tattoo Artist Magazine #37
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