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Artist Spotlight: Nolan Flynn

Crystal Shaulis


Nolan Flynn


Welcome to our fourth Artist Spotlight featuring Kalamazoo artist Nolan Flynn! Every other month, we interview a fellow creative to showcase their work and ideas, and peek into their very own Lake Michigan Book Press sketchbook.

At what age did you know that you would pursue art professionally? What helped spur this passion, and how did you go about making it a reality? 

There was never really a point at which I decided to pursue art, not one distinguished pivotal time. I can never really think of a time I didn't do art. My wonderful mother was an art teacher and would always support me and keep my drive alive even at a young age. It was the path of least resistance and aside from the book work, technically I could perform every task asked with ease.

Graduated from Portage Central High school and got an art scholarship through western and won numerous awards throughout my stay. Since graduating WMU l’ve always had an art studio where I typically spend at the bare minimum ~40 hours a week working. That being said I additionally work 40/50 hours a week at my day job, its not related to art in any form. I work in my spare time to produce the work I can. I’ve spent enough time in the working world to know that I want to challenge myself and dedicate myself solely to art, and not put it on the back burner post work. I will be moving to pursue my MFA this summer.

Nolan Flynn

Many of your paintings are focused around portraits of beautiful women in not-so-flattering poses. Could you tell us more about what draws you to this subject and depiction?

Well I don't necessarily believe the portraits are in “not-so-flattering poses” but more or less a severe juxtapose of complex ideas and visual stimulation. I paint exactly what I want, what I would like to see in a gallery. My paintings are direct contradictions to your stereotypical glamor fashion magazines that have a great deal of sexual ambiguity in some cases. Fashion typically is held on a high stage typically unreachable by the general public. The paintings are honest in form, made with honest lines, unintentional marks and uncorrected mistakes. This honesty in creation and original intent parallels all the problems with today's quintessential modeling agencies/fashion companies. I believe that with those ideas in mind confidence is created especially when the majority of the pieces directly confront the viewer staring back.

Visually to me its something new and along with the complexity of image I try to use an open mind in creation. I try to challenge myself by stretching certain materials, or use them to produce varying fields of linear tension or gradients.

Which artists and movements would you say have most influenced your art?

The artist movements that most influence my art in no particular order are; 20th century abstract art, art deco, op art, graffiti art, fauvism, modernism, pop art, psychedelic art and surrealism.

Nolan Flynn

Over the years, your style of painting has changed from fairly realistic but painterly representations of women, to more gestural, crude and abstracted. Has this been a natural progression for you, or more purposeful? Why?

I know for a fact its been natural, or more intentional. Initially I was taught in a more traditional impressionistic approach. This approach was designed to teach you to make beautiful gradients and accurately create foreshortening and realistic representations of humans and space. It was a great way to teach you from the ground up how to utilize materials and understand how to recreate space within a 2d surface. I’ve always been intrigued with the minimalistic approach and simple distinguished line work or gradients to create areas of visual intrigue and question. I find that the paintings I create with little or less than typical visual information I’m attracted to more. Thus so creating my continual concentration or deconstruction you could say of my visual information produced.

What medium and materials do you use for your paintings?

You name it I use it. Traditionally I was taught with oils on canvas, or your stereotypical masters setup. Once I graduated I was able to access or recycle an incredible amount of materials. Originally you could find me collecting materials near the loading docks; wooden panels, house paints, industrial ink, spray paint, or acrylics. The list could go on, but at first I would just utilize them to experiment with color pallets or mock paintings. There was an incredible amount of waste and soon I began to enjoy and successfully exploit each material thrown away in a new manner. For instance if there was a wooden panel leaning up next to the dumpster, I would grab it. I would then sand prep, paint and wrap it in a nice repurposed frame.

Depending on the intent of the piece I will make the decision whether or not I want to create it on canvas or panel. Oil based paints have archaic qualities greater than traditional house paints. Stenciling generally works better on hard smoother surfaces with finer tooth than loose or greater tooth surfaces.

nolan flynnnolan flynn

For many fine artists, there is a barrier between themselves and the average person. Often the abstruse subjects, and high prices, make individual pieces inaccessible to the common man. You seem to have broken down this barrier. Could you tell us how you have made your art accessible and available to clients of all backgrounds? 

I’ve always respected the highly priced works of today's art gods and understand how they get to that level. I believe that all art should be accessible, I try to work with the individual and cut prices and setup payment plans to make sure it is. I know as a millennial I myself cannot afford the pieces I find endearing but would love a ways to afford them. That being said I would prefer to see my pieces hanging and being enjoyed daily in a potential patrons home than in my studio. I produce work that everyone can afford. I want to recreate art as a physical form to be hung and enjoyed, I find it refreshing when people would prefer to spend similar amounts of money on art than electronics to showcase in there home. I know truthfully that archaic materials like those of the masters will outlive any LCD TV or electronics only to be reinvented the next model year.

Outside of painting, what are some of your other hobbies?  

Fishing is the only other thing I do. My dad originally got me into it. Now I have 2 boats. One of which is a 1975 Mako which I spent 2 years completely rebuilding. The other is a small water aluminum steelhead sled. When I'm not painting I’m planning fishing trips with my best friends.

Nolan Flynn

What have you found your Lake Michigan Book Press sketchbook to be most useful for?

When I first got it it was wonderful. It still is wonderful, its surprisingly tough with heavy duty paper. I’ve experimented with oils, acrylics, house paints and even spray paint inside of it. Because I typically work large it’s difficult for me to sketch small and i feel confined. I do believe it is a large book and I find myself using it for color notes and recipes than sketching because of the confinement. Its cover however being blue and textured reminds me of Lake Michigan and running riggers and long lines for fresh kangs.

nolan flynn

Join Nolan for his last Art Hop before he moves to Utah to pursue his MFA. July 7th, 5:00-9:00pm in Studio 121B at the Park Trades Center in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can find him at @anthrochromatic on Instagram or Nolan Flynn: Anthrochromatic on Facebook.

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