Inside the Artist’s Studio:
Art is What You Can Get Away With: Nic Trent
“Making art is a necessary therapeutic experience. As a graphic designer at Encore Multimedia, I spend all day solving problems of how businesses can reach their target demographics. Creating art is when I can express myself and satisfy my own aesthetic instead of someone else’s,” states local artist Nic Trent. Nic makes colorful and sharp pop art images, typically on wood panels. His work has the unique ability to trigger both a familiar nostalgia and a captivating freshness simultaneously. The works are bright and playful in their form yet slightly subversive in content. They are eye candy and brain food. Nic explains, “Art is a powerful language. No matter the medium, it portrays and also influences the culture and ideas of those who experience it, even if only subconsciously.”
Nic Trent recounts his journey to becoming an artist: “I was an awkward kid who constantly doodled and had no idea what I wanted to do with my future. I would draw on school papers, church bulletins, or whatever was in front of me. It was an older woman in church who encouraged me to pursue a career using my creativity. She saw me drawing during church service and suggested I check out a nearby technical school for an art related program called graphic design. It seemed like a decent way to make a living as an artist so I attended Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology for graphic design without really knowing what graphic design was. However, design school was an invaluable experience where I learned how to create aesthetically while expressing ideas.”
“Some of the best things I learned were from my peers. I befriended two graffiti writers from Tulsa, Darshan Phillips and Aaron Whisner, who made gallery art. They built their own surfaces out of wood because it is cheap and designed their compositions on computers. This is the same process I still use today.” He continues, “My first art show was when a friend hosted an event in his loft and told me I was going to be one of the artists. I had never made any art before, but he already put my name on the flyer, so I had to. The experience was terrifying but also exhilarating. Afterwards, I was officially addicted to art.”
Nic Trent explains, “I’m excited to see interactive and digital media have more of a presence in local galleries. The Longview Museum of Fine Arts currently has an exhibit by Liz Hickok where you can hold an iPad up to the art and watch the art being created right in front of you. I can’t wait to see more video screens made available by local galleries for artists to utilize.” Writer’s note: Intimate Immensity with Liz Hickok is on view until September 21st. With glowing colors and shifts in scale, Hickok’s work calls into question what is real and what is imagined. She uses ephemeral materials such as liquid crystal solutions and constructs colorful, glowing architectural sculptures changing over time, morphing into fantastical worlds. She documents her processes with photography and video to catch fleeting moments in the continuously evolving scenes.
Nic Trent is also inspired and influenced by artists like Andy Warhol (pop art’s leading figure, painter, printmaker, director). Nic states, “Andy Warhol challenged the art world club. Warhol’s art paved the way for new voices of expression from Jean-Michel Basquiat (a graffiti/urban art sensation) and Keith Haring (pop art and graffiti artist) to Barbara Kruger (seditious conceptual artist) and innumerable other artists. Warhol also started as a graphic artist which, to me, makes it seem like the modern everyday man can achieve artistic success.” “Art is what you can get away with.” – Andy Warhol.
Nic has been around the local art scene for some time. I encountered his work in pop-up shows a decade ago. There have been previous attempts to get the regional art scene up and running at full force, but there is something different happening now not found in the efforts of the past, a new sense of collaboration and commitment. “One of my favorite things about art is community. I love trading work with other artists and learning about their processes. This is the reason why local illustrator, Jasey Beddingfield, and I created ArtParty (artpartytx.com). ArtParty is a hand-made zine (self-published mini-magazine), featuring East Texas artists. We do our best to make the zine a nicely crafted collectible by creating a limited number of 60, choosing nice paper, and screen-printing the covers,” explains Trent. He adds, “ArtParty gives local artists an opportunity to get their work out in a different way. Our latest issue featured a 16-year-old’s work alongside a well-known tattoo artist with thousands of followers and I love that. My favorite thing about this project is it might bring someone’s work to a whole new audience.”
Nic states, “I feel lucky to be included in one of the recent shows organized by the local art collective, etxcreatives. The quality of work in the exhibits they organize is extremely impressive. I had no idea this caliber of art existed here in East Texas and I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. They are raising the bar for the quality of work in our area.”
Speaking of raising quality, Nic advises, “Presentation is everything. There are so many great local artists who could do a much better job of presenting their work. I hope the recent uptick in the local art community will challenge more artists to learn from each other and step up their game. The biggest faux pas I see is really incredible work on paper with a cheap frame or no frame at all. Investing time in building a frame or buying a gallery style frame will transcend the art to a new level.”
Trent concludes, “There are plenty of opportunities for artists to get involved locally, but I’m not so sure about the supporters. For all the people reading this who drive to Dallas to buy art or even worse, shop at big box stores and behemoth hobby shops, please support your local artists. Just think about how much better a conversation piece an artwork by a local artist could be. It seems to be a rare individual who realizes the contribution they are making by supporting the local art community.”