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THE ARTIST WHO
BROUGHT AZTECS TO LONDON

We meet Nick Wakeling to guide us through the creative crossroads between ancient art and modern musings.

What have Aztecs, skateboards and Shoreditch in common? Nick Wakeling, a designer, muralist and colourist who’s here to translate ancient patterns into modern-day massive artworks. Wandering through London’s busiest streets it’s easy to spot Nick’s work. Popping colours catch your attention and repetitive patterns suck you in so you suddenly find yourself staring at a wall for 15 minutes straight. 

“I took a lot of inspiration from Aztecs and Egyptians. There are shapes and things within their artworks that I’m using within my own and I take it into my own style. I’m also using the shapes that I see every day and then portray them within my own artwork as well. I bring it all together,” Nick explains his practice. Though today his designs don’t shy away from the big scale, he started small, painting on the skateboards and other everyday use objects. As his canvas grew in size so did his career. Starting out as a graphic design graduate, now Nick’s a founder of Impulse Prints, a project focused on his hand-drawn patterns and prints that have been displayed all over the country. 

Though ancient civilizations’ footsteps are imprinted in Nick’s art firmest, modern traces also can be found scattered here and there. “One artist who massively inspired me is Inkie. He’s a Bristol-based street artist,” Nick praises creator of signature Art-Deco influenced ethereal murals and mentions a Brazilian painter Eduardo Kobra, known for kaleidoscope-like compositions. “I love street artist called Kobra and the way he does big portraits. Within those portraits, there’s a lot of detail. His work is absolutely incredible. I get inspiration from his use of colour as well as from Inkie’s,” he explains.  

Nick perceives art styles’ progression as a non-verbal dialogue between contemporary and previous centuries’ creators. “Back in a day a lot of artists have been using a lot of colours as well but I find that fine line artists are taking it now and escalating this incredible style. People find inspiration there and that’s why they’ve put their own work on the table,” Nick elaborates and mentions Jon Burgerman, a leading figure in ‘Doodle’ style, who mashes urban art with humorous aspects of pop culture. 

For Nick, who’s fascinated by high and low art’s affairs, London, with diverse and culturally rich creative spheres, is the best place to be and a beautifully chaotic hodgepodge of influences. “Just travelling on a train to work, you see these different styles of these graffiti. Back in the day, it’s been an illegal scene but now, especially if you go to Camden or Shoreditch, it’s taking the town by storm. I think that London is really beneficial for art. I find that all artists have come here from all over the world and then just painted with all of their styles. It’s such a creative place to be part of and find inspiration,” Nick’s smiling.

Despite his love for London, he recently went on a venture across the UK with Unlock Your City, an initiative supporting young, local creatives. Surprise: other places are as exciting as the capital. “Going from city to city with Unlock Your City, I’ve walked around many cities and have been using new colour or using aspects of those cities in my work,” he shares.

Nick is a truly multi-talented creative, sharing time between Impulse Prints and freelance colourist work. For the latter, he has graded many interesting projects, from music videos, commercial campaigns to, wait for it, ‘The Silent Child’ that won the Best Live Action Short Film award at the 2018 Oscars. “Ever since then, it inspired me to push forward and do more stuff and get more experience within a field of colouring. It definitely opened up many doors,” Nick looks back at the experience.

Still, it’s Nick’s public work like murals that has the most power to move masses. He appreciates anyone, rushing through the cramped London’s streets, who wants to break through the routine of their day to stop and immerse themselves in his world: “It feels incredible if someone can take time of their day to say how they feel about your work. It’s absolutely great. Someone can have a good day or a bad day but them taking time anyway to complement your artwork is always a big bonus. That inspires me to do more”.

Discover more and be in with a chance of winning tickets to up and coming UYC events online here.

Words by Alex Brzezicka

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