Hailing from the prairie region of central Canada, Nick was raised in the country surrounded by nature. His passion for art started at a very young age with countless hours spent scribbling pictures and getting lost in his works.
“I remember vividly drawing silly hand art with little characters battling it out on a battlefield which was constructed from my hand outline. I’d get lost in my own world and even go as far as creating sound effects. I was a strange little boy….”
Early childhood for Nick was spent mostly outdoors. Fishing with his father, playing in the mud, collecting insects, the sad part of Nick’s day was coming in for dinner and washing his filthy hands. His passion for the outdoors was etched into Nick’s life at a very young age from his parents.
“I’m eternally grateful for the way my parents raised me. I absolutely love the outdoors and will one day pass this on to my future children.”
Many of his hours were spent tracing birds and animals from library books. Eventually he’d traced so many birds that he no longer needed to trace them.
“I can remember begging my mom to take me to the library so I could get some fresh new books to draw from, always leaving with more books than I could carry! I couldn’t wait to get home and get to work! I would not only draw birds and animals but I’d also read everything I could about each one. At a very young age I could name nearly every bird in North America and identify many by just their songs.”
With no formal training in art, Nick learned through trial and error and discovered techniques on his own that best allowed him to achieve the outcomes he desired.
“I had applied for Art School and got accepted and it was one of my art mentors, Owen Garrett, who convinced me otherwise. He stressed the value of being able to say that I am a self-taught artist and that having a piece of paper saying that I’m qualified to be a professional artist isn’t worth the time or money.”
Although Nick has tried all forms of mediums, his passion lies with pencils, both graphite and watercolour.
“I’ve tried painting, it was ok, but I always found greater joy out of drawing with pencils. I find I have better control and I don’t even have to think about what I’m doing, my hands know what to do on their own when a pencil is present.”
Recently, Nick has been inspired to pick up paint brushes once again with a piece he calls “Running the Gauntlet”, inspired by his fishing experiences in the interior of British Columbia.
“My first go at acrylic painting in a long time, inspired by my late grandfather, Jack Sutherland. I inherited painting supplies and decided to build a frame and dedicate this piece to my grandpa. I’ve really enjoyed working on this piece and I’ll pitter patter at it everyday for a few minutes. It’s nice for a change not having a deadline and to be able to just let the creativity flow naturally. When we first moved out to British Columbia, it was incredible to see the bright crimson Kokanee Salmon in the rivers and their nemesis, Bull Trout, lurking in the shadows waiting to pick them off. This piece is inspired by the experiences in the local glacial fed rivers.”
Nick has always been passionate about fishing but it wasn’t until he took up fly fishing that he found his niche in drawing fish. He started out by drawing fish in scientific illustrative form. Later, his artwork evolved into natural, swimming poses with great attention to detail.
“One of the first fish I ever drew was a rock bass in Grade 5. It was a heck of a challenge and I didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t until a few years later when I got into fly fishing that I took another stab at drawing fish. This go around I found it very rewarding and I strived for a challenge. Fish are unique subjects because they have a lot of detail and well, they live in water. Their movement is very fluid and it can be a real challenge to draw a fish in a natural pose and get it anatomically correct.”
Now, Nick is a full-time, self-employed artist.
“I have a unique opportunity as an artist to display my works on fishing and hunting apparel. It’s very rewarding to see people walking around with my artwork on them. I told my mom years ago that my goal in life was to cover the world in graphite. At the time I didn’t know what I was saying or how I’d achieve this. I absolutely love designing fishing apparel and combining both of my passions.”
Nick has developed a unique style of fish skeleton art that is available through Fishwreck Australia. This unique style is unlike any other artwork out there and he was a pioneer in developing fish skeletons with attitude, combining skeletal features and features from live fish.
“I really have fun with doing fish skeletons as it allows me to break the rules and use creative license. If you were to boil a trout head (yes I’ve done this) you’d find that the head is comprised of many plates and you don’t end up with a skull so to speak. Unlike other animals, fish have very complex jaw and head structures that are mostly made of cartilage, tendons, and flesh. Only primitive fish like bowfin or gar have a bony skull. So knowing that, I’ve had to use my imagination to make it look like a skull and still be recognizable as a specific species.”