Fred Nichols, who began his career at Piedmont Virginia Community College back in 1973, has won numerous awards including a purchase award at the International Triennale of Print in Osaka, Japan. His work was twice exhibited at the “International Biennale of Contemporary Art,” in Florence, Italy. In 2005, he participated in the international exhibition, “Renaissance,” at the Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe, Japan, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the post-earthquake restoration. His work is found in numerous corporate and public collections, including AT&T, Ethyl Corporation, The U.S. Department of State, The Butler Museum of American Art, The Mississippi Museum of Art, and The Osaka Cultural Center.
1. Tell us about your experience at PVCC and how you “evolved” as an artist.
PVCC was a challenge and a rewarding experience. The mix of students with different ages and backgrounds, made classes more interesting and stimulating. We also experimented with a broad range of classes from printmaking to advertising design to filmmaking as well as the more traditional oil painting and watercolor painting. I learned as much from my students as they did from me. My own development as an artist was supported by a strong interest in the environment and the wilderness, probably because of living in a spectacularly beautiful area! I was lucky to become involved in art for businesses and corporations. There was a renaissance in business support for the arts. My work tended to be popular in corporate settings I think because the work improved on the clean, austere design of modern office buildings, injecting a strong dose of nature.
2. What is your favorite medium and why?
I work in oils, watercolor, and silkscreen prints. It is difficult to say which is my favorite because they all work together to influence each other. The watercolors are often studies for future oils and prints. They are looser and more spontaneous. The oils and prints are more finished and reflect a further process.
3. Your work is world-renowned. That contradicts the old adage that artists don’t get the recognition they deserve until after they’re dead. How do you reconcile that?
I wouldn’t say “renowned,” rather “internationally recognized.” Unfortunately the art world is still a small sphere and so notoriety is very elusive. But I would just say that the goal of every artist is for their work to be seen as much as possible. For many, to be exhibited after death is probably the very best one could hope for; certainly better than to be forgotten.
4. How has technology influenced your work?
Photography has always been a strong interest of mine. When I began painting in graduate school, photorealism was a major development in the art world. I began to use photographs as studies for my paintings and I started with just snapshots. The photograph gave me the ability to study an image and place (captured in an instant) over time. Over the years, I became more involved in developing my photographs and recently have begun publishing them. As photography became digital, it was even more exciting because shooting and developing became easier, more controllable and more creative.
5. What advice would you offer aspiring artists looking to make a name for themselves?
Aspiring artists need to make sure they have the passion and commitment to follow wherever their art leads them, and to be prepared to spend many hours learning their craft and producing a unique body of work. And they cannot sit back and wait to be discovered; they must work at getting their art exhibited.
I often tell students that you have to think and observe whatever you are doing with your painting and art. In our fast-paced, image saturated world, we don’t take the time to look and think and see what is around us. The artist’s job is always to show others how to look at the world.
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