We usually interview our artists in our video podcast, but this time we had something different in mind for Nick Alm’s interview. We “shot” 45 statements and asked him to tell us if he agreed with them, and why.
They’re not easy statements to answer, and all of them have something paradoxical —provocative, perhaps— and require reflection.
We know that easy, short content is rewarded on the internet and that they solve specific needs. However, we do the exact opposite: in this interview, we invite you to a deep, extensive and universal reflection on the art of painting.
Nick is a lucid guy with clear ideas, so don’t expect vagueness: his answers are as solid as his painting. Pure gold!
«The artist does not execute a process, he inhabits it».
I guess this means that you’ve done something so many times that it almost becomes part of your nature, you just react subconsciously.
«Do not make the effect prevail, but let it prevail itself».
Don’t depend on effect and miss out of the most important. Too many paintings look like bad action movies.
«Empowering the effect weakens the effect».
Well, that’s if you empower the wrong effect.
There are certain effects that I always try to push down to enhance others, to achieve a hierarchy. It’s a common problem to go for every effect you see at the expense of the overall impression.
«The practice of Art always betrays its theory».
Some theories are too fundamental. Some of them, yes, you break them, for sure. Those theories are just guidelines that most often are worth following, but you can break them if it serves your purpose.
It doesn’t sound as good but i would exchange “always” with “often”.
«Nothing is good if it’s only good».
There’s some truth to it.
That’s the contrast principle again. A protagonist needs his antagonist to highlight his heroism. Painting wise I wouldn’t criticise a work for lacking artistic errors.
«A theory is a certificate of impotence».
No, I don’t think so…
Well, I don’t theorize that much myself. I’m trying to work more subconsciously.
I think there’s some truth to the statement though because a lot of people lean on theories out of insecurity. They don’t have the skills to see or think for themselves so they search for an authority who can direct them, and a theory can fill that function. So, clinging on to theories could be an indication of impotence.
«The smarter the painting the dumber it is».
I don’t know if I could agree with that…
A lot of artists tried to be smart and they succeeded, the bravura painters for instance. We still travel far to see those paintings, right? They were being smart about their brushstrokes and effects.
But if you are intellectualizing too much and you are being too obvious about it, that’s another issue.
«The external (what’s observed) and the internal (the observer) are complementary phenomena within the same process».
Yes, of course, they’re always interconnected.
You look at what you see and then you react, but your knowledge and vision will affect what you put on the canvas. It’s an interplay between the objective and the subjective.
«Insecurity is a stimulus».
Can be, but it can also be the opposite: insecurity can both activate and pacify you.
We all want to get rid of our insecurities, and that can be done by avoiding what awakens the insecurity, or by dealing with it and hopefully overcome it.
«Chaos is a degree of complexity that surpasses us».
Yes. That’s why we don’t like it very much. It’s stressful.
«Do not think outside the box, because there is no box».
Well, I think we all have boxes wether we want it or not, but some of us just have bigger boxes than others.The important thing is to expand your box and avoid other peoples boxes.
«Man sets belief before perception».
Too often, yes.
That’s how we start in drawing. Watch kids drawing and you’ll see they’re using their beliefs, they are intellectualising more than perceiving.
«Individualism degenerates into glorification of craving».
Maybe the wrong kind of individualism.
«When you’re not trying to make the painting succeed is when it can succeed».
Yes, because you are relaxing a little bit.
Going for perfection all the time is not necessarily the best, you restrain yourself. So not trying too hard is often… when you get into the flow things just happen, right? I mean, if you’re aiming for perfection you easily become timid. The fear of failure takes over.
«Beauty is a symptom».
I guess it could be… hahaha. Sounds a bit negative though.
«Art does not communicate, it evokes memories».
Well, it communicates to a certain degree, but it evokes memories for sure, it evokes feelings… it sparks associations. It doesn’t tell a story like a novel, the same for music, it awakens emotions, and you might perceive a story.
«The purpose of a painting is its own path».
Art has an inherent value. I don’t see art as a tool, which is a quite popular opinion, that a painting should serve a political purpose. I strongly disagree with that. Just paint for the sake of painting.
«Art is the question as an answer».
Yes, you never have an answer to it, so art is the question. You shouldn’t be able to answer art completely. You don’t want a solved riddle, there’s no mystery in there.
«If it’s not irrational it’s illustration».
Or just bad art. There’s some truth in there anyway.
Illustration though might be irrational and of a high artistic quality, but since it has the purpose of supporting a text, it’s called illustration.
«Every work of art is an open wound».
No, I would not agree.
It depends on what you’re painting or whatever you’re doing. Some of my work could fit into that statement, but not all of them.
«Inner freedom is the oxygen of Art».
Yes, for sure. Absolutely.
«The light is truth and the shadow is artifice».
«It is not white, but the structure, that builds light».
It’s the value hierarchy and the shadow line that is of most importance.
You can achieve the effect of light without white, but you can’t paint light without the separation of the lights and the darks. The value spectrum can be narrow but it needs the right relationships. If you add a shadow line with properly defined edges you get a solid light effect.
«Color is the outcome of the fight between light and shadow».
The more the form turns aways from the light and the closer it gets to the shadow, the cooler it gets. If the light is warm you get cooler shadows, and if the light is cool you’ll get warmer shadows.
«Everything that is not classic ages like a prostitute».
Hahaha… Yes, I’d sign for that one! Good one! Hahaha… And the most obvious example would be architecture.
«Art makes you think without formulating thoughts».
Yes, that has been my life for way too long, just having these abstract feelings. That’s very true for art and music… You don’t need to put words on it.
«Art is the mask of the artist».
The metaphor for the mask would be hiding, the persona… Maybe it’s true in general, but I wouldn’t say that this statement works for me, I don’t think too much about the viewer and how I will be perceived. it’s just me playing around, one part of me, but I wouldn’t call it a mask.
«An artist expresses himself without showing off».
Well, I wouldn’t agree on that.
You can show off and express yourself as long as it doesn’t interfere with the expression and loses quality. It may just enhance the expression. Who doesn’t like a shredding metal solo… hahaha.
«Drawing is proving structure to emotions».
«There are no rules, only ways».
There are a few rules that you shouldn’t break if the outcome should have some resemblance to nature, otherwise it would just be chaos.
«The technique must adapt to the work, not the opposite».
If you are clear about what you want to express you have to adjust your technique to fulfill that expression, but if you’re not that clear about your goal, the technique might bring you new ideas and lead you in another direction.
«Technique channels something, it does not create anything».
Maybe it does both.
«Experience is useful to avoid failures, but not for repeating successes».
For sure it can repeat successes.
Experience allows you to stay away from failures, which gives you more time to focus on the right stuff, and that will hopefully lead to repetitive successes.
«Every big plan is theatrical and spectacular but naive».
You can’t just understand everything in that initial idea, it’s always naive to a certain degree. When we talk about painting, composition or whatever, there are always obstacles along the way that you can’t see in that initial state.
This is why some of us do preparatory work.
«Creating a rule is creating an error».
Not necessarily. Could be, but not overall…
«There are no proportion but relationships».
You always have some esthetic preferences, most painters do, you will have some preferences about proportions, otherwise you will just blindly follow nature. I often change the proportions of the figures to fit my esthetic preferences.
«The only way to understand events is to cause them».
If you have experienced something you will understand it better, obviously, but it’s not crucial to have a direct experience.
«Interest is an open problem».
If you’re a pessimist.
«The real, the truth, is always in process».
No I don’t think so. It ’s contradictory.
Some truths are changing, but not all of them. Truth can change as a social construction —the idea of truth—, but things are what they are even if they surpasses our understanding.
«Do not search, but find».
Well, you do both. If you search you’ll find, as someone said.
«The response to a stimulus is the death of the stimulus».
That’s often the case, but the response is not always leading to satisfaction.
«Every lesson is forgotten, we only remember the experience».
No, but the experience is stronger.
«Experience must precede study».
It’s an advantage but not necessary.
Imagine if you’re studying homicide. Sometimes we learn from the experience and understand what we are studying afterwards, that is to say, through the experience.
«Opportunity is, by nature, unexpected».
You don’t plan an opportunity but you might be aware of a coming one, so that would not be unexpected, right?
«Obstacles make the mind wake up».
Absolutely. That’s why some of us seek them up.
Thanks for reading! 🤓