Sydney artist Nico has been around for a little while now, but lately has been making a real splash in Inner-Western Sydney. His easily recognisable characters grace walls throughout the city in familiar colour ways and shapes. His work often brings a comfortable sense of symmetry, and frequently resembles the face of owls or other birds. Being character based, not letter based, his works are particularly well accepted by the public, and rightly so, his work will brighten up any wall.
You can catch Nico's work on Instagram at @nico_nicoson
and on his website
So Nico, Fill us in on the essentials. How long have you been painting, and how did you get started?
I've been painting for about 12 years now. I started out painting traditional letter-based graffiti as a youngster. I was always interested in art as a kid and can vividly remember being blown away by the first piece of graffiti I ever saw. I became interest in tagging in the mid-nineties just like every other kid, and attempted a few horrid pieces but didn't really start taking it seriously until the early 2000's. As a kid who hated sport and loved art it was a just a natural thing for me to gravitate towards. All of my friends painted graffiti and it was a very social thing for us. I switched to painting non-letter based pieces about two years ago now.
Has spray paint always been your preferred medium?
Yes. When I was young I didn't have access to quality spray paint so I started out painting with male tins that required a lot of practice to master. We used to let the pressure out of them and modify the nozzles and valves to get better lines. That was when it actually took time to develop your can control and you could measure a writers skill just by the cleanliness of their lines. I remember the first time I managed to get my hands on a can of Krylon and use actual caps how amazed I was at the lines that could be made. For me there is no medium that comes close to spray paint. It's coverage, speed, colour range and versatility are unbeatable. It is also a medium that really becomes part of your life. It gets inside you, covers your skin and hair and gets on every thing that you own and love. It's a big part of every painters life.
New works of yours constantly pop up, how frequently do you paint? Do you find it takes most of your time or is it something that sits on the side?
It depends on whats going on in my life but I generally try for a couple of pieces a week. Painting is my main thing and is a definite addiction for me. Its something that I just have to do. If I don't paint for a few days I start getting itchy and dreaming about it.
Your paintings are some of the most easily recognisable out there, how did this symmetrical style come to be? What inspired you?
Symmetry just works, It's balance is present everywhere in nature and as humans we are drawn to it. We seek it out. I am interested in patterns and repetition, and also the way that one can use a point of repetition like the center-line to play with an image. I will often just cut a piece down that line and leave it unfinished, or repeat one half of the design several times as a way of playing with that idea. People can put the rest of the image together in their minds. The repetition of an image is something that every writer or street artist understands. Repeating your name or your marking is what it's all about. Whilst symmetry and lines of repetition are something that I play with a lot, they aren't necessarily part of every piece I do. A unique style is something that I feel is important. I think people should be able to tell who did a piece irrespective of what it says or is.
Your work is quite different to a lot of the more 'traditional graffiti' seen in the same lane ways and streets that yours can be seen in, do you get any grief from writers for the contrast between their work and yours? Or does it go down pretty smooth?
Generally it all goes down fairly smoothly. Most of my mates are graffiti writers. I started out painting graffiti and understand the attitude towards "streetart". The thing is, I don't see what I'm doing as being very different to what more traditional stylewriters are doing, except for the fact that I'm not painting letters, it's quite similar. I originally became interested in the idea of non-letter-based markings whilst in Eastern Europe where they are much more common, and are not considered as being so different. That's also the case in many parts of America, particularly in the Bay Area. Sydney has a solid history built around its traditional letterforms and is generally fairly conventional in that way which I appreciate and respect, but at the same time I think that things are changing and we are seeing a lot more variety than we had in the past and people are more accepting of it. I remember a few years go when many people were wary and unsure of more traditional Eurostyles here, but now they are prevalent. I just paint what I want to paint without worrying to much about where it fits into the scheme of things. For me it's all about the pure love of painting, and that is a thread that binds all serious painters together whether they are painting letters, characters or something else. Graffiti was originally about non-conformity, and personal expression, but here it is often quite the opposite with people trying to subscribe and conform to a particular style. I think variety is what keeps it all interesting.
When it comes to travel, what's your favourite spot? Do you travel much to paint?
Not really. I have painted a bit overseas but its not something that I've really strived for since giving up letters. I'm only really interested in walls so its a bit different to the traditional mission of ticking off the foreign metros. A few years ago I managed to paint a piece on a remaining part of the Berlin wall, which was a bit of a career highlight.
Which artists out there right now have you intrigued? Who should we be keeping our eyes on?
I'm always interested in people who are doing their own thing and taking a different approach. Locally, I've always been in awe of Phibs's work. It's on another level. He consistently produces impeccable pieces at a rate that is unbeatable, as well as pushing the envelope here in terms of style and size. Caib is another local that I have always had a lot of respect and admiration for. His pieces are amazing. His innovation and consistency over the years is something that I really respect. In terms of foreign writers and artists, I like to keep an eye on people who are doing things their own way - particularly a lot of artists who are treading the line between traditional graffiti and street art - artists such as gold peg, sweettoof, gats, pant one and sat one to name a few.
I think it's time for a round of Top 3. I’ll say a category or thing, and you name your Top 3 of whatever they may be.
Cured meats of all kinds - Proscuitto, pancetta, coppa, salamis - I can never get enough.
Any Reese's product.
Maxibons. Especially after a session.
Berlin - Germany
Tallinn - Estonia
Krakow - Poland
Things to do when not painting-
Tools other than spray paint-
India ink and sable brush for blackbooking
Acrylic paint and plywood
Alien Pro stock nozzle
When you're painting, what's something other than paint that you always have on you? Music? A certain food? What fuels you?
Coffee. Nothing in my life is getting done without a lot of it.
What's your plan for the future? Any plans in the diary?
Hopefully lots of painting. Perhaps a bit of travel at some point.
Do you think as you continue painting your style will head in different directions? Or will you keep to your current style?
I wish I knew. Painting is something I just take a day at a time. Hopefully I will continue to hone and develop my style and push it in new directions. It's not something that I really plan, but instead something that sort of happens on its own accord.
Mate, thanks for your time, any last shout outs or final words?
Shout outs to all my brothers - you know who you are. Special shout out to my bro Perks who has been such an important partner in art making for so long. RIP to my bros Doose and Wine.