Finding talented artists would seem to be an easy task giving the prevalence of artists on the web, but that can actually work against discovery sometimes. Then there are times when you just get lucky and stumble upon a great creative talent like Nicholas Ivins. We discovered Nicholas’ work while scouring Deviant Art for works to add to our Sugar Skull Collection. His style reminds of all the parts we love about comic-book styled art. Here’s what we learned about Nicholas and his relationship to the Day of the Dead.
Dead Deco: How did you first learn about the Day of the Dead holiday?
Nicholas Ivins: I’m honestly not really sure. It’s sort of like trying to remember when you first learned about Christmas, or any other deeply ingrained cultural institution. San Diego has such a strong Latino community that their culture is practically in the air; it’s everywhere you go and look. In the past few years I started seeing more and more Day of the Dead artwork, and it eventually inspired me to start making my own.
DD: What is your favorite Day of the Dead tradition?
NI: I’ve always been drawn to the face painting. It may seem like the most trivial aspect of the holiday, but I think it speaks to a deeper aspect of the tradition – acceptance and celebration of death (and the dead). You’re painting your face to resemble a skull, and in essence, are embodying death and the afterlife. Celebrating the deceased brings them back to life in a way, and the act of dressing up like a “muerto” or “muerte” is playing dead, so there’s an interesting reversal, a switching of places between the living and dead.
DD: How does your community respond to Day of the Dead?
NI: In San Diego (and Southern California in general) there are no shortage of festivals and events around that time of the year; too many to count or visit. At most of the events I do throughout the year there is usually an enthusiastic reaction to my Day of the Dead artwork, both from Latinos and non-Latinos alike. There is a large, diverse swath of people who appreciate and enjoy it, which makes the work all the more satisfying.
DD: Do you have a particular Day of the Dead artist whose work you admire?
NI: I really admire Gustavo Rimada. I hate to say it, but I almost feel that in a lot of ways he’s perfected the direction that I’m going in. His artwork is beautiful, intricate, symbolically powerful, and religiously/culturally introspective. Damn him! It goes to show that with so many artists doing Day of the Dead stuff, it’s that much more important to keep pushing and find your own voice and direction.
DD: Is there anything else about Day of the Dead that you would like to share?
NI: Like I said above, there’s no shortage of DotD art and artists. I didn’t start doing it to cash in on a trend, but because the tradition spoke to me about something important and unavoidable (the big D) in a way I had never heard or seen before. I’ve always been keenly aware of our mortality, and I think embracing it and celebrating it is the only way to live.