Interview: Dreamlike Illustrations Come To Life With Nick Sheehy
One of the most unique voice's in illustration today!
Mad Love 5m

Nick Sheehy’s work exists somewhere between two worlds, steadily tip toeing the line between realism and surrealism.

The London based artist balances these two tones in each one of his work with a sense of naturalism, creating something that is at once familiar, but also unsettling and alien.

Using acrylic paints and incredibly fine brush work, Nick is able to render borderline realistic depictions of wildlife that could easily call home to the pages of an encyclopaedia. However it is the ritualistic compositions that add a surrealist overtone to Nick’s work. Creatures ranging from frogs, birds, insects and the occasional alligator can be found in poses that depict a sense of both the religious and the primal.

We caught up with Nick to talk about his unique beginnings, the evolution of his art, and future ambitions.

Originally you studied bronze sculpting in wilds Tasmania (which sounds as amazing as it does intriguing). What initially inspired you to pursue such a unique art medium? What do you remember about those early years in your artistic life?

It just so happens the local art school had a metal foundry where my dad worked. Before enrolling, my dad had already helped me cast a few things into bronze. It seemed like an impressive and slightly magical process. Initially I loved the construction of it, but after 3 years I’d started hating working in bronze; it was a heavy, loud, dusty, and many-staged process. While the results were impressive, the journey was tedious. When I graduated, I won the year’s sculpture award, and never looked at a piece of bronze again.

After moving to London you rekindled your love for art and started developing the practise that would eventually lead to your signature style. What was it about being in London that got you back in art and lead to such a huge change in medium?

I left art school hating the skill I’d spent 3 years studying, and thinking I had nothing big and important to say in my art. So for a while I felt like I had no interest or reason to make anything.

And the idea that you could take illustration, lowbrow art, or street art just as seriously hadn’t occurred to me. Once I started hanging out with people who were in these scenes, I became aware of other ways and other reasons to make art. Most importantly, I’d realised that being creative needed to be a personal thing that fit into my life. I gradually started drawing again, which eventually led to commissions, character design, exhibitions, etc. After a while I started to experiment with watercolour, and acrylics, leading to where I am now.

Your work depicts amazing images of meticulously rendered creatures and textured skeletal characters entangled in ritualistic compositions. What inspires the subject matter of your work?

I like trying to draw things that no one has ever seen before. Hopefully creating an interesting, yet uneasy atmosphere. A lot of the time I draw things that feel like they’d be fun to draw. Primarily I like the forms you find in nature.

Looking at any one of your pieces, it is clear that your process is a labour of love. The amount of details and subtly in definitions of light is mind boggling. Outside of the finished pieces, what type of joy/satisfaction do you get from such a time consuming practise? Is there a specific way you stay entertained during your process (whether it be music, podcasts, or TV shows)?

Yeah, it takes ages. And I’m always trying to find quicker ways of doing things. I thought painting with acrylic would speed up my process. But the result is that I just spend longer painting more complicated things. The main goal is trying to make the elements look somewhat authentic and believable. Not necessarily in a photo realistic sense –I don’t have the patience or interest in that– but more so that the characters and scenes are rendered in a way that looks like they do exist somehow and somewhere.

Music is the most important thing while painting. I don’t think I could paint so much without it. TV is too distracting, and pod casts are great but stop my brain from wandering.

Having exhibited around the world, work published in several highly regarded publications and collaborated with huge international brands, your career is already full of highlights. What else do feel like you want to achieve? 

I’d love the scope to make much bigger paintings. But with my level of detail, I’d need a lot of time to get something finished. Unfortunately deadlines, and paying rent, dictate a quick turn around.

If you could go back to the start of your life as an artist, would you do anything differently?

I’d tell myself to make the work I enjoy making – not the work I think I should be making. And I’d force myself to use paint. I used to hate the stuff, but now I love it


Check out more info on Nick here. Follow Nick @showchicken

October 15, 2018
Editors Pick