Luke Nicol is a soft-spoken professional artist with talent, commitment and courage, who has achieved financial stability for the last seven years with his art, an unusual feat in Thunder Bay. Most artists consider leaving the city for greener opportunities and galleries. It turns out that there are many here who appreciate local artists and original art, enough that a few artists can call themselves professionals.
Most of Luke’s income comes from his many commissions, many garnered as a result of a solo show he had at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery back in 2009. He is represented by the Waters of Superior Gallery in Canal Park in Duluth and his work is currently on display at The Growing Season on Algoma. He paints primarily landscapes and surrealistic works where landscape and human figures are a jumping off point for free painting. Often the paintings have a spontaneous-sketch look, created with a stream of consciousness approach. They can be seen on his website, www.lukenicol.com.
The site is great. It’s clean, direct and image based. Nicol has sold a few works as a result of having the website. The layout allows for immediate access to his consistent years of production.
Currently, backed with a Northern Ontario Arts grant, Nicol is focusing on a series of drawings that is a thematic exploration of a kind of landscape stillness applied to the human figure. Nicol is dealing with subtleties of human activity - daily life where there is less of dramatic statement compared to his previous works which are a mix of low brow art and a 1940s American Expressionist style, a style reworked successfully by Richard Attila Lukacs. Nicol also has a great sense of humour. Heard of Dogs Playing Poker? Nicol’s own Chimpanzee’s Jamming depicts chimps sitting sedately working a tune while human rockers are trapped in a painting on the wall wondering what happened. This and many other works can be seen on his website.
Drawings are considered a harder sell, primarily because they lack colour, and the subjects are more personal. From a collector’s standpoint, drawings are of great interest as they are the most immediate expression of an artist’s thoughts. Unfettered by the complications of colour, composition, depth, etc. they can be awkward, but shine as dramatic signature works. Also, the artist doesn’t expect anyone to see the drawings, so the artist feels more free to play with the subject matter.
The funding relieves Nicol from having to worry about selling the final product, or taking on a part time job while he creates the work. He is free to experiment without fear of the future or worrying about family obligations. (He and his wife have two children.) Nicol has enough talent to accomplish whatever he sets out to do, and what he is working towards is the philosophical aspect to art that allows for more interpretation than his usual work. Not that there is anything at all wrong with landscapes. Nicol’s landscapes are beautiful and great representations of the area, but some artists occasionally need a change of direction once in a while. It’s a direction that may also be beneficial to an audience who get to see and ponder a subject from a unique perspective. Nicol is certainly thoughtful and knowledgeable. His future work is sure to generate worthwhile results.
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Luke sells many prints through his website and whenever he takes part in home shows or walkabouts like the October Studio Walkabout or the Regent Street Art Show. He has a show coming up at the Pictograph gallery in Atikokan in May. He has a hard time building up enough works for a show as most of his painting is dedicated to commissions. But it’s not a bad situation to be in for an artist.
Influences come from all over. He’s a big fan of Ingres, Durer, Rembrandt, and at the same time the lowbrow art you might find in Juxtapoz Magazine, by the likes of Robert Williams and Gary Baseman. He is a big gallery goer. He’s traveled to Europe and in the U.S., primarily California. He’s a big fan of the low brow galleries. See: www.laluzdejesus.com
Like many artist in their youth, he had the desire to reach that one big breakthrough show that put his name on a map - or at least in the mind of collectors and galleries. This kind of event is very rare, and what Luke has learned is that being consistent and taking lots of little steps will get you there - to be a success which is now a matter of making a living, doing what he loves to do.