Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Painter currently living in Portland Maine. I studied at Maine college of Art, but being in school didn’t give me the time or freedom to develop as an artist in an organic way. It took a few years of working out of school on my own to understand the way that I was interested in working and develop a style that felt right to me. For the past year I have been Interested in many things and those interests definitely manifest themselves in my work. I’m really hoping in the next few years to develop a body of work that is honest and true to the thought processes that i’m experiencing in my life while making my work.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
My first real experience in art came from graffiti. In the beginning it was much more of a interest in the culture that surrounds it. But as I progressed I became more and more interested in the intersection between graffiti and contemporary abstract painting. Both graffiti and contemporary painting are just the transition from thought processes to visual representation of those thought processes on a wall or on a canvas. Both types of painting are a window into the artists various mental states and how they change over time.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I prefer to work mostly privately in my studio. The goal for my work is for it to be honest to my thought processes. I think I’m most able to create that type of work on my own. Working alone you cannot help but create something that’s intensely personal, and that’s the type of work that interests me most.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
In the last year many ideas have been consistent in my work. I’m very interested in influence, and how influence has changed now that we are able to see thousands of paintings each day on Instagram. Instagram has informed much of my work, whether I want it to or not. I think that this is very interesting, and is something that more artists need to be open about. As artists, we may not want to think that we are allowing social media or any type of technology to influence the work we are doing, but I think if an artist is being completely honest about their thought processes while painting, influence through social media is impossible to avoid.
In the future I think art making will be a lot less about the individual, and more about the collective mind states of artists in a specific scene coming together as one. Many artists try and remove themselves from this influence to develop a personal voice, and I’m interested in the opposite. What happens when you completely submit to the influence of advertising and technology? I think the more artists lose touch with the idea of intellectual property, and give in to the technology that connects us, the faster movements in art will come and go. Throughout art history movements took years to develop and transform. Each movement eventually influencing the next and leading to the progression of art history. I believe that social media could lead to this process happening much more quickly and the overall progression of art to speed up exponentially.
What is your process like?
My process is just a constant string of impulsive decision making. I make a quick decision and that decision leads to the following decision. I try to think about each decision as little as I possibly can. I just want it to happen so the next one can. This makes my process a little confusing and hard to nail down, but I think it leads to my most interesting work.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Most of my influence comes from images, places, and other artwork that I see. Because of the way we live now most of that influence is found online. I do my best to be honest about that. The things I see on social media and other content sharing sites bleeds through into my work, and I let it. The internet is the center point for changing culture currently even if what you see is determined by algorithms. It’s still the information that we spend the most time processing. I can’t tell if thats good or bad for art or culture, but I think it’s interesting and I want to see where that leads artists and creatives in the future.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
No real mentor, not living at least. I think one of the most powerful influences recently has been Andy Warhol’s autobiography. I think its an almost essential piece of reading to understand his work completely. He was so far ahead of his time and his book really shows that. I think about it, and how it fits into the current day, often while i’m working.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Just be honest. I think the phrase be original is limiting. Be honest is profoundly more open and leads you to your best work.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
For me a community is basically one unit of connections between people focused on a same goal. I think it’s difficult for a community in the real world to be specific enough to really be a community that pushes a movement forward fast enough. Online communities can become hyper specific with their focus. It’s a whole group of minds working on one small little problem. This is why I think these online communities have the ability to really make a difference in the way that art and many other subjects is perceived and pursued.
What is your studio like?
It’s a mess. I try to use it as a place to really focus on the work and nothing else. An organized workspace doesn’t quite lead to the type of work I’m interested in. I think a mess leads more quickly to unpredictable decisions and thats what im looking for. An organized space is comfortable because the things you do in an organized space are predictable. I’m trying to get as far away from that predictability as I possibly can.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I like to work first thing in the morning, I get up and get a coffee and go directly to the studio. I find that those first few hours of the day are the most productive for me. My outlook on painting is much more positive in the morning hours. So I try my best to utilize those hours as much as I can.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
Art school was confusing for me. At times I loved it and at times I found it extremely frustrating and limiting. Ultimately, I ended up leaving early because I felt like I was being stifled by the schools attempt to teach how to make your work marketable. Four years is not enough time to find out who you are as a artist. It takes years of self exploration to find what your interested in. I was interested in getting a MFA but because year three and four of my undergraduate degree were so difficult for me I wont be able to do that, but honestly I don’t think you need it to make quality meaningful work. If you have the ability to stay focused and interested on your work without school you will eventually make quality engaging work. In my opinion art students would be much better off if art schools gave you a two year foundation in art history and theory, Then let you free for a few years to develop on your own. When you are ready to come back and work intensely on a MFA you could. It’s the third and fourth years where you should be free to explore however you want that they try to force you into a tiny little sub genre of work. That to me feels extremely limiting. For some people I’m sure art school works. For me it was far to structured and I had to leave in order to really explore the type of work I was interested in.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
For now my frustrations with the art world are mostly financial. I think having full time artists is essential to a healthy functional society. Often I get frustrated with the way painters and artists are viewed in working communities. They can either be part of the wealthy intellectual crowd or the kitschy poor crowd. Personally I would like to see artists viewed and appreciated just like any other blue collar worker. Many artists see art as decoration as an insult. Not me. I would be proud for my artwork to be a decoration in someone’s house. Decoration to me is a great success. If someone likes my work enough to put in their living room over their couch where they live their most comfortable lives, I think thats so awesome. I want to be proud of that in the same way that a mechanic is about keeping peoples cars on the road, or a roofer feels about making sure people have leak a leak free roof. I want artwork to be affordable and accessible to people outside of the art world. I want it to be okay to say you “like” a painting. In school that’s the worst thing you can say, “I like that painting”. I love it when someone says they like my work. I want that person who likes my work to feel just as comfortable buying artwork as someone that is a part of the art world. I think inviting non art world people into the process of purchasing artwork is the first step into changing the broken art market for the better.
How would you define “success” in art?
Success can mean so many things. Even to me personally success has many meanings. Success could mean just having people see my work and feel interested in it. Success could also mean just being happy and healthy while doing the thing that feels meaningful to me. Success could also be making work that allows me to survive financially. Honestly, I think real success is a combination of all these things. If people found my work interesting, I was happy and healthy, and financially able to live my life in a simple but comfortable way, this would be my ultimate definition of success. Obviously I would like to make more money in order to make artwork on a much grander scale, but that might just be a luxury.
Anything else you would like to add?
I really think what your doing with Young Space is profoundly important and really appreciate that you are doing it. Please Please keep it up having someone put so much energy into a project so important means a ton to a ton of people. Thank you.
Find more on Instagram @nicholas_vacchiano_!