Nico: An Artist Q&A
Meet our February artist…
Nico (@babysbabybaby) is a multidisciplinary artist and tattooer based in Montreal. Their work is inspired by 60s and 70s illustrations, comics, ignorant style artwork and tattoo culture.
How would you define yourself as an artist? How would you define your work?
This is such a difficult question and I think that’s partly because I feel like my work is constantly growing and changing. I make very different work from what I made in art school. I guess I would define myself as a multidisciplinary visual artist because that leaves me room to change tomorrow.
How did you get into tattooing? How has this become an extension/different medium of your art?
Well, I started stick n’ poking at the end of 2016 but I never took it that seriously. I gave a few other stick n’ pokes but it was always really frustrating to me that I couldn’t get good at it, I liked the tattoos I gave myself but anything I gave anyone else never seemed good enough. I decided to teach myself how to tattoo with a machine in the spring, my mental health wasn’t doing so good and I felt very far from my dream of being an artist. It’s unbelievably difficult to be an artist in a capitalist society. I then started reaching out to any tattoo artist that were self taught to gather all the information I could. I’m very grateful to all of them for answering me and I respect them and their work tremendously. It is really difficult and intimidating to start up on your own and tattoo. It’s a lot of work, it’s not any easier than any other kind art.
I think as I have taken on tattooing my work has changed in that tattooing informs my drawings. I’ve discovered also so many talented unique tattoo artists that have inspired me too, that has affected my drawings. It’s cool too, seeing friends pick up on certain things you draw and see their own twist on it. I think now when I draw I constantly consider it as a tattoo. Everything is tattoo flash. You can tattoo anything. So, I think my drawings and tattoo practice are constantly informing one another as I grow as an artist.
What inspires you to create ?
Oh my god, everything! Mostly other artist, there are so many cool artists, tattoo artist and comic artists and ignorant style artists. But also like the cynical side of me feels like we live in a capitalist dystopian hell scape where I feel so powerless, no matter what I do, nothing can really change but I can do this one thing I love so so much and fills me up with so much genuine purpose and joy.
Are there other artists or creatives you’ve been influenced by or find inspiration from?
I have the longest list!!!! In no particular order: Kendra Yee, Ginette Lapalme, Tommi Parish, JG, Charline Bataille, Isa Beniston aka Gentle Thrills, Matt Carignan, Juli Majer, Violet M aka @tropicalcontact, Rita Salt, Gemma Flack, Grant Gronewold, Brie Moreno, Grace Miceli, Lauren Crow, Laurence Philomene, Alex Okay, Clio Isadora, Masami Yanagida, Sam Ryser, Logan Fitzpatrick, Heather Benjamin, Billy Starchild, and so many more, most of which I only know by their instagram handles. This is just a short list really.
How does your own identity in this society (ie. queer) affect your work?
I mean how can it not? Haha, I think my identity is pretty wrapped up in my work. Being queer I think there’s a mutual vibe of “Hey, I’m here and I’m proud to be me,” I think that’s some of what I’m trying to convey in my work. Like a general acceptance and pride of ones queer identity. Even if it’s just for yourself. I recently did a tattoo for a friend that was a butterfly that said “Queer As In Fuck You,” in the wings it, but they got it on their leg because for them it was really something they were doing for themselves and no one else. I really love that about the queer community. There’s an understanding that your queer identity is your own and you wear it whichever way you want.
What do you want people to take from your work? How do you want to influence other artists?
I think I want people to relate to things I draw, find a piece of themselves in it. I hope I can influence other artists to make art, love themselves and make art despite of self doubt, also to play with colour. I have had so many awesome conversations with people about my work, I love hearing people’s take on what I do, how it’s inspired them or how they relate to it. Part of my daily ritual is drawing and often people ask me about my process and how I’m able to produce so much but it’s literally my routine to try and draw for an hour everyday. It’s so good for my mental health, so I think mostly, I hope people can feed their creativity and that it will benefit them, as corny as that sounds hehe.
How do you combine your art with fashion? Do you feel like fashion has a lot to do with it?
So, fashion was what I was really focused on in art school. I’ve always been interested in how you can flag your identity and interests to the world by what you wear. Also, being influenced by the punks and other artists in my life. People who know me know me also by the eccentric clothes I wear. My coworkers know what pieces to show me, whenever new clothes come in they say “that’s so Nico” which I think is so fantastic to be recognized and seen in that way. When I paint on clothes I’m thinking about how people might feel seen in a piece of clothes and also feel like themselves and have a link to their identity in that way.
Favourite piece of clothing you currently own?
Well, this changes basically every week and I can’t pick one but I have this oversized bright blue hoodie I feel very cozy, safe and warm in. I also just got a handmade pair of bell bottoms as part of a trade for a tattoo from a friend who started her own clothing line called Sunset People and I love those a lot. I also love my Hanes high waisted underwear haha honestly if I could just wear those and my hoodie I’d be super happy. I have a collection of vintage tee shirts I love too, there’s one with an eagle that’s swooping in, printed on both sides, for example and also an old Dare shirt that’s printed in a gradient from pink to lime green. I got this one shirt when I was in New York that has a space ship taking off !! Ok ok, I’m going to stop there because I have a lot more I could tell you about and I think you meant for me to pick one item haha…
Interview & Photography by Carla Gras