Illustrator Nick Cocozza graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone Collage of Art in 2010 and has moved camp to Berlin 6 years ago.
The scope of your portfolio is impressively huge! And assuming that you only show the crème de la crème we have to ask: Do you ever take a break from working for eating and stuff?
“I think if you really want to make it in life and fulfil your dreams you have to go all in. I’ve worked a lot of shitty jobs over the years and came to realise that for as long as you’re working just for money or to pay the rent, your real goals will always be on the back burner. One day I decided that enough was enough and quit my job to go full time freelance as an artist and it was the best decision of my life. Art and creating something is not a hobby for me, it’s a way of life, it’s simply engrained in me as a person and I can’t switch it off. I don’t have a TV or waste time playing video games. I’m not a terminator though, I do enjoy partying now and again and also like to cook, I thank my Italian side for being able to make a mean spaghetti bolognese!”
We first saw your work for your brand “Bad Blood Clothing”. Having seen more of your pieces it’s safe to say that you have a very strong style, that cuts through everything you do. Please, tell us about the artistic journey that led you to this very style!
“The first time I got a kick out of art was when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I used to copy pictures of bugs bunny and daffy duck and give them to girls at school that I liked, to try and impress them. I was never really good at maths or anything like that so putting all my energy into what I enjoyed really allowed me to excel over the years. In my teenage years I moved from Scotland down to a place just outside London. I saw a guy in class writing graffiti and got intrigued, I started going out with a group of guys painting graffiti and the rush I got from it was incredible. After writing graffiti for a while I started doing stencils and paste ups, graffiti is a coded language and not a lot of ‘normal’ people understand tags or the writing side of it so the fact I was combining my love of drawing and images allowed me to make that connection and it was almost like telling a story, people could understand it and relate to it. I moved back up to Scotland to study at art school and thats when I really started to take things serious and my style developed and evolved. I crossed a barrier and started using a drawing tablet on the computer which gave a new dynamic to my work, I also tried screen printing and other techniques for the first time which I really loved and still do today. I would never say that any artist will be fully satisfied, they are always looking to get one up on their last painting or project which is a good thing and I believe that i’ll always have that ‘stay hungry’ mentality in me and want to learn more.”
Recurring themes in your artworks are urban and pop culture. Do you see your work as commentary on society and youth culture or rather as a compilation of things that have meaning to you?
“I would say it’s a bit of both. To be honest I kind of hate youth culture these days, when I was younger we didn’t have this obsession with selfies and social media so projects such as the ‘besties’ series is a kind of humorous comment on this. I would say theres definitely a strong sense of nostalgia running through my work, I love 80s cartoons and movies and if you take one look at my portfolio I think this is very evident. Maybe this is me trying to keep the spirit of my childhood alive or it’s just me subconciously showing my dissatisfaction with todays obsession with self gratification and ego massaging. Humour also plays a large part in my work, I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh and I think this flows over to my work as well, a good piece of art should trigger some sort of emotion or feeling, wether that’s raising a discussion, making you think about a topic or simply having a little laugh over it, I always try to pull the viewer in and let them step into my brain for a moment.”
From our experience, artistic and commissioned work show some kind discrepancy–sometimes more, sometimes less. With you both seem to fall in line quite well. Do you only accept commissioned work which gives you more or less free reign over the outcome or do clients specifically approach you for your style?
“As an illustrator I think you always have to be flexible to a certain extent. I’ve done a lot of commissioned work over the years for various clients, everything from a pin badge of the British prime minister fucking a pigs head to a kids kite flying festival, it really depends on wether I connect with the project and if it sounds interesting. With me I would say there definitely is a differentiation between the work that I do for clients and the work I do for myself. I would say im somewhat of an artistic chameleon as I don’t just stick with one thing, recently i’ve got back into painting on canvas for some self initiated projects as well as a wood cutting series which is very different to what i’d usually do. Most projects that I work on for clients are quite hectic and fast, I like this though as I thrive off the pressure but with my own work, it’s a completely different pace as I can allow myself that extra time to experiment and try out new things.”
Although again in consistence with your style, we sense a different, darker mood in your work you did for “Ismus”. Is that another side of your personality you are showing or did you adapt to the feel of techno music?
“Ismus is a Berlin techno night run by my friend Josh, when he started it we spoke about the artwork and visual aesthetic of the typical techno party and I told him that my style really wouldn’t work with it all. I did however take a big chance on it and decided to give it a go. The thing that made this project specifically interesting was that I had to find a way to come up with something not too playful but at the same time consistent for each party so that there was a coherence running through each event. I decided to set a restriction to myself and only draw in black and white which I never really do. The outcome is like no other project I’ve done and I really got a big kick out of it. Each poster has it’s own theme and it’s interesting to see the outcome of each when I look back at them. This is still an ongoing project and i’d say it’s also me exploring a darker side of my art too, because it’s so different to my other work it’s interesting to see the direction it’s shifting towards and get out my comfort zone, if you want to be a good artist I believe that you should always have a bit of fear to keep you driven and motivated.”
Many young talented artists have trouble overcoming certain boundaries on their way to becoming professionals. E. g. we heard galleries or cultural institutions denying exhibitions because of a missing degree of an art college. Do you agree with such policy or do you think that talent should be the only standard to measure by?
“I can understand this but at the same time, who has the right to deny someone the chance to share their works with others? Degree or no degree if you have the raw talent I think that you deserve that chance. Look at an artist like Basquiat for example, unbelievably talented artist who started out writing graffiti in the streets before Warhol discovered him and took him under his wing, he’s self taught and didn’t go to college and his paintings are going for around $35 million.
There is this stigma surrounding self taught artists but I’ve always believed that if you have the drive and dedication to stick with something, it really doesn’t matter wether you have a degree or not. My motto in life is stop talking ’bout doing something and just do it! Grab life by the balls and go get what you want, nobody in this life is going to do it for you!”