An Interview with Nik Daum

I was recently introduced to the art of Nik Daum when he kindly dropped me an email with a link to his work. And, I am so glad that he did! What followed was hours spent pouring over his quirky art. I enjoyed his “dordles” which he describes as “not quite a drawing and not quite a doodle and not quite bad”. These dordles range from cute to (really, really) creepy and are”recorded in the margins of advertising briefs, discarded printouts, or the company stationary”.

Nik’s sheer volue of art work is certainly enough to impress anyone. He seems like an especially busy fellow which is why I was thrilled that he agreed to an interview. Take a look at what Nik has to say about his art:

Where do you currently live? Where have you lived in the past? Has this had an effect on your art?
I’m currently living in Shanghai, China for a six month+ work opportunity. Prior to that I lived on the west coast in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. All of these places have had an effect on my creative thinking, mostly through the variety of scenery and people. San Francisco felt the artiest and weirdest place to live, but a lot of my upbringing in Texas was far from normal.

What inspires you?
Daydreaming to music, walking around both city and wilderness, riding a scooter or bike, seeing new countries. Even a little sadness is inspiring sometimes.

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?
I’ve never been able to force inspiration, so I either accept that it’s not going to happen that day or I try something to compensate. Such simple diversions could be a tweak to my website, a blog post, a doodle, practice guitar, go on a walk. I find it weird that when I’m at my happiest, I’m also at my most uninspired artistically. I might feel like anything is possible, but I’m least inclined to follow through. I guess I save all that motivation for rainy days.

What sort of mood do you wish to portray in your artwork?
Childlike curiosity. Even if the subject matter is weird or dark, it can still feel innocent. I hope some of my art makes people smile too.

What materials do you use to create your pieces? Any reason why you choose this particular medium?
I haven’t been doing much art recently except for an on-going series I call Dordles. Those are mostly drawn with pen, pencil and ink on scraps of paper. Then I color, compose, and enhance them on computer. It’s the worst of both worlds! I kind of decided that I don’t like paint as it’s too messy. I love how it looks though.

Did you attend any sort of formal art school training or are you self-taught?
I went to school for illustration and got a BFA. I remember most of what I was taught, but my hand skills are gone now. I’m scared to think how poorly I would do at figure drawing these days. I used to be okay at it. In art school, I learned that I don’t really like to draw. It was an expensive lesson, but a good one.

What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Go on walks, play computer games, eat weird/delicious foods.

What artist(s) do you admire right now?
In no particular order: David Shrigley, Brad Neely, Marc Johns, Jon Klassen, Dan Santat.

Where do you hope to see yourself going as an artist in the future?
I would love to get a book published of my Dordles and eventually get the motivation to finish the story I’ve been working on lazily for years. Someday, it would be neat if that story made it to the big screen, but that’s a distant possibility. I don’t ever intend to make money from art. For me, that puts too much pressure on it.

What advice would you give to new artists that are trying to establish themselves?
First, seriously consider if you want to make your living from art or not. I think when money and creativity mix, all sorts of craziness can happen. For me, having some kind of steady creative job that gives me money and keeps my brain flowing. The artwork comes after hours (or even while bored at work). From the sidelines, I’ve watched many friends achieve varying levels of artistic fame. Besides doing great work, they all networked like mad. Getting shows, features on the internet, making friends. For me, as I’ve taken the less social approach with my Dordles. I’ve contacted blogs, sent out little inquiries here and there to sites that might be interested in them. For a lot of effort on my end, a few people have gotten to see them. They’ve made it into two magazines also. Someday, I’ll have a real show of them. That, and the book.

Be sure to check out the rest of Nik’s wonderful art & projects. You can also keep up with him on his blog where he posts great pictures of his daily adventures while living in Shanghai. Thanks, Nik!

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3 thoughts on “An Interview with Nik Daum

  1. I love this: “In art school, I learned that I don’t really like to draw. It was an expensive lesson, but a good one.”

    I like his attitude to art – something to enjoy and maybe make money off, and not necessarily something to aggressively pursue as a career.

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