When it came time to get the third edition of “Creative Minds” done I had no problems picking the next artist to feature and that happens to be Nick Sawyers. It was a name that I wasn’t necessarily familiar with but after realizing all of the stuff that he has done in the BMX world I quickly realized that I had already been into his work without even realizing who he was. It’s not every day that the BMX world is graced with talented artists so when it happens it’s rad to see them get the opportunities to create and showcase their skills within the BMX community. Nick is a jack-of-all-trades, can work in a multitude of mediums, and has a sense of humor that shines through in almost every piece he creates. Take a few minutes and get to know someone who is down to put in the work and do what it takes to become successful as a creative, regardless of the trials and tribulations that come right along with that.
Let’s start with the basics:
Name: Nick Sawyers
Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska
Current Residence: Long Beach, California
Years Riding: 16-ish
First of all, why don’t you introduce yourself to the BMX world for those out there who aren’t familiar with you?
Hi, I’m Nick Sawyers, my hometown is Lincoln Nebraska, but I’ve been floating around So-Cal for a few years now. I’ve been making art for a long time and riding BMX nearly as long.
What is it that you do exactly? I know that you are an artist obviously but what is it that you actually do to pay the bills?
Up until recently I was working at a mobile game / website studio. I was mainly doing a lot of concept and pitch work for clients that came through. That included creating games, characters, levels, assets, or sketching out whole campaigns under crazy deadlines. On top of that I was designing and building tradeshow booths, spray painting murals, designing packaging, apparel and generally putting fires out. It was madness but I gained a lot of experience. Before that I was working for a guy designing motorcycle parts and other random projects he had. I would draw everything up first then sculpt it for mold making. I used automotive clay to get everything perfect, it smelled bad because you have to heat it up to soften it first then carve it once it hardened. Clay found itself all over my apartment no matter what I did and my roommates hated me for it. Right now I’m just freelancing and having fun hustling my own stuff for a bit until I find another full-time deal.
When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue art and actually have an understanding of what that meant?
Growing up my parents always had me in art programs and such, since it was something I always showed interest in and was decent at. After being out of high school for a while working a dead end job at Arby’s closing six nights a week I was just over it. That was pretty much when I decided to get out of my hometown and go to school for industrial design and just do whatever it takes not to work at Arby’s ever again. I don’t think I had a real understanding until I had to make rent and pay bills with stuff I made.
What were you into when you were a young kid? How did BMX play a role in your life?
I was always about creating stuff when I was a kid whether it was drawing or legos, and I was super into cars and still am. I started riding BMX with my neighborhood homies and they took me to some trails one day. After that I was hooked, I was building jumps and causing trouble in the woods all the time after that. Even fighting the city council when they got tore down. Since then bikes have always been a constant in my life. I’ve had a lot of good times and met a lot of good people through bike riding.
You have lived in California for a while now, what originally brought you out to the West Coast?
Going to school, trying something new, and being able to ride year round with tons of spots was a major bonus.
Being close to the BMX industry you have had a few rad opportunities to work within the BMX world. What kind of stuff have you worked on that people would recognize?
I made the S&M Cam Wood sticker kit, and drew up the Fit “forever two wheels” shirt with the eagles a while ago. Along with the Hucker frame sticker kit, and Markit DVD artwork.
I guess the most recognizable thing at the moment would be the cover art for the Markit DVD. That is one of the gnarliest BMX videos to ever come out in the history of BMX so it’s a pretty big deal to take the credit for the artwork so congrats on that. Where did that whole connection come from?
Thanks! I’d seen the Markit edits they were putting out leading up to it and they were all super burly, and then Dennis emailed one day asking me to do the cover. I was super pumped. He liked what I did with Hucker’s stickers and wanted something super busy movie poster style with the rig and the whole team. We started shooting around some ideas and went from there.
How long did that take you from start to finish?
I’m not exactly sure, it definitely took a little while. Dennis and I were going back and fourth periodically on the email for bit, sending over sketches going over details and getting feedback from everyone before I got into really spending serious time on it. I was working full-time too so I had to work on it whenever I had a minute. I wanted it to be a nice package from front to back so I spent the extra time to make sure it was dialed and looked complete.
Can you talk a little bit about the process and give a little insight into what exactly goes into a project like that?
I always send out comp sketches just so everyone is on the same page and dialed in. I’d rather spend five minutes changing a sketch compared to five hours on the actual vector artwork. From the sketch I inked it all out with fine liners and sharpies. Then I scan it in and start converting it to vector, cleaning it all up, adding color and shadows so it reads well. This one was a little more challenging since the entire team was on the cover and they’re tiny when printed. So I tried to keep everything interesting and detailed but easily readable at the same time. Printing out tests let you know if you’re on the right track.
Any crazy stories worth mentioning that you recall or did things go smoothly?
Yeah it was pretty smooth actually, we moved couple things around as expected but Dennis had good faith in what I was doing so it makes a lot easier to focus on getting it looking really clean.
You also did the artwork for the new S&M Huckerframe. How rad was it working not only for one of the most well-respected companies in the industry but also working for one of the raddest riders out there?
It was definitely cool and I was super stoked to get to do it. I’ve been riding S&M stuff for years. I knew Hucker from Sheep hills so I knew exactly what he was all about. My buddy Mark Lepper was the graphic designer for S&M / Fitbikeco and knew it would be right up my alley, so I gotta’ thank him especially for handing me the project.
What exactly did Hucker say he wanted and how much involvement did he have in the overall process?
Hucker wanted a blazed dolphin chillin’ blowing smoke out of his blowhole, so that’s what I drew up first. I put him in a beach chair with some tacky shirt sipping a drink how he is, then Hucker thought he needed a mullet too so we added that in there to get him looking sharp. The rest was pretty much a little list he made up of stuff he wanted to include somewhere. Trails, Cougars, shakas, California burritos, A-frame houses, sharks and I knew he’s all about reptiles so I added snakes and turtles. From there I just found the best way to incorporate everything making the burrito “California” by surfing, snakes hitting doubles, and a Simpson caricature of Hucker himself for shits. I put them in each letter so it wouldn’t get too busy and you could still read the S&M with the limited real estate. He was stoked on everything I sent over so it made it super easy and fun to see it come together.
What’s next on the project list? Is there anything BMX related coming up?
I’m working on a couple shirts now, one being the “Fire breathing Thunder Slut” some more Boicott stuff with my buddy Ryan Davis, and there’s a few more things in the works that could happen soon.
You seem to always have something going on to get your followers involved on Instagram. What’s the motivation behind that and what is it that you do exactly?
Friends are always asking me to draw crazy stuff just for the hell of it, so I just decided to take it to Instagram. It’s called #FrankenSketchFriday. Sometimes on Fridays I do a post asking people to give me five or so ideas or things to sketch. Then I draw all those things together and post the sketch a little bit later. The first person the comment on the completed sketch wins it and I send it to them. The subject matter gets interesting pretty quickly. Stuff like dinosaurs, blood farts, mutant veggies, Audi Quattros and usually bongs or crack pipes fit somewhere in there. I just made a ‘zine out of the ones that I have done for the past eight weeks that you can pick up in my store. I’m taking a little break for the holidays before I start on the second volume. I also do self addressed stamped envelope stickers too, throw me a few bucks and I’ll hook it up.
You obviously have a diverse taste but if you had to choose, what would be your medium of choice?
Sketching is my go to for sure. It’s the start of just about everything that I do and then from there I can take it whatever direction I want. I’ve enjoyed spray paint a lot too lately, it’s cool to do work on a large scale and people can enjoy it right away not being holed up in your studio or having to wait for production.
You mentioned having a degree; would you recommend that the younger generation of artists should head down the school route or is it one of those things where the passion will take you where you need to go?
School helped me out quite a bit, but I don’t think it’s always necessary. Either way you have to really believe in what you’re doing and are only limited by your own motivation, learn everything you can, learn to take criticism and work hard.
How can someone track you down and commission you for a piece of original artwork?
Hit me up via email at [email protected]
Where can people see your work and follow you?
I post stuff just about every day on my Instagram @NickSawyers. I also recently started an art page on Facebook too that I’ll start filling up with some work which you can see at Facebook.com/SawyersSupplies and my store is at NickSawyers.StoreEnvy.com so check that out too.
Any last words?
Thanks to everyone that has supported what I do over the years and thank you for the interview.
That wraps it up for this week. As an artist myself I can only say that I have a true appreciation for anyone out there pursuing their passions and doing what makes them happy. You can tell that Nick has a genuine love for what he does and that was motivation enough for me to get a little more insight into his world. Hopefully everyone enjoyed it and learned a little bit about Nick and his process. On that note, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the ninety-sixth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at [email protected] and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.
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