Something Wicked painting with process and work in progress inserts. From PhotoShop and Blender.
Montage of finished and process images for a piece of digital artwork: Something Wicked

I Can Art: Sometimes 2D, 3D, Traditional & Digital

Nick Heazell and Maureen McNamee

For our I Can Art series, communications specialist Nick Hazell has been speaking with colleagues here at Calgary Arts Development to delve into their creative lives and learn more about their artistic practice or hobby, then share it in their own words.

This week, we turned the tables on Nick and put him in the hot seat, with communications manager Maureen McNamee asking the questions. Nick has been drawing for years and takes inspiration from Star Wars and nature, among other sources. If that makes you curious, keep reading to learn more.

How long have you been at this? 

Art and design? In broad terms, for over 20 years, but I’ve been drawing since childhood.

How do you feel when you are doing the work? 

It depends on how it’s going and what it’s for. Like any creative there are times when its intensely frustrating or it sometimes even provides the dreaded doubts. “This is no good.” “What am I even bothering?” “I’ll never get better.” All the classic doubts of an artist. But when you hit a sweet spot, if it’s going well or it comes together in the end to your satisfaction… it’s elation.

Is this costly to undertake? 

Isn’t it expensive for almost all arts pursuits! I mean, as a predominantly digital artist it can be costly to setup, but once you have done so it can be rather inexpensive. A subscription to PhotoShop, Cloud storage, a computer that handles graphics well, are all costly. There’s lots of tech for a digital artist. I have a pen display tablet, for example, which allows me to draw on-screen with an HD, colour-matched display — things like that are costly.

What is something about your art, or the creation of it, that people don’t know? 

I think people often think of digital art as easy, or even worse, cheating. The truth is any artist of any medium needs to know all the usual aspects of art like composition, colour theory, perspective, anatomy, etc. depending on what they are doing. Then they need learn and hopefully master the tools of their craft — and digital art is no different. I think also it’s much harder to show your work to the public beyond social media, say in a gallery setting. An art teacher I follow once said of this, paraphrased: “digital art is simply painting with light, instead of pigment.” I and always liked that way of putting it.

T-shirt design with t-shirt mockup

T-shirt design titled Scarif Garrison and accompanying mock-up

Do you earn money from any of your practices?

I undertake a few different art practices, one of which is T-shirt design. I have a slow trickle of income from that. For my artwork, coming up very soon I have my first show & sale I’m taking part in, so we’ll see how that goes.

This design is one of my favourites and apparently friends of mine have seen people wearing it while at conventions, which is pretty cool to hear.

What is the hardest part of your process?

Apart from the difficulty of improving in my skill and learning those aspects I mentioned before, like composition, light value, perspective, colour theory etc., probably getting it out there. Social media is a mine field with algorithms and all that, and that’s not what I want to be doing, promoting rather than creating. It can be tricky because something like Instagram wants you to post very routinely. But you may not have anything new to promote/show if you are still in the middle of a piece of work. That’s frustrating if not hard.

Do you have an outcome for your work or practice? For example, would you like to improve your skills to a certain degree, or get work in the field, or host an exhibit, or anything like that? 

Short of getting a call from Lucasfilm to come and work for them on concept or keyframe art, I would love to continue developing and maybe showing my landscape artwork. I was considering making a New Year’s resolution next year of producing some traditional 2D art on canvas. Maybe acrylic.

Do you have a couple examples of your favourite works to share? Can you speak about them, the process and maybe why they are your favourite? 

For sure! The feature image is from something I developed while doing a course on 3D with the program Blender and then finished it in PhotoShop. Blender was pretty complex, so I was pleased to get through it and wasn’t unhappy with the final work.

Digital Landscape painting in progress montage

Digital painting and work in process images underneath. Titled Autumn Island

Finally, what, if anything, are you working on right now, or what plans for future endeavours do you have?

Well I try and do art challenges weekly for fun and to improve. I routinely work with @landscapeartclub (on Instagram) and have even hosted a week with reference from here in Bragg Creek area. Aside from that, the painting that’s underway with me currently is from my own backyard area in Cochrane, AB.

Nick Heazell (he/him) is a communications specialist at Calgary Arts Development. Chances are if you have digital content — from classifieds, to news, to stories, to videos and more — he will post and publish it.

Nick studied information design and illustration, which he uses to create and sell geek-culture t-shirts, and is a keen digital painter.

Obviously he’s also a bit Star Wars obsessed. Follow his work on Instagram: @fire_power

Maureen McNamee (she/her) joined the Calgary Arts Development team as communications manager in April 2022. Maureen has been active as an arts journalist, editor, content manager, and arts champion for the past 25 years. She previously worked as arts and lifestyle editor and special projects editor for Fast Forward Weekly, associate editor for Alberta Views magazine, and, most recently, communications manager at Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

When she’s not reading or writing, Maureen is most likely enjoying an arts event or spending time outdoors. She also took several years of piano lessons and still enjoys playing (when nobody is listening).

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