Prepare yourself for creamed jeans and knotted-up panties over Nathan Trapnell, with his succulent pieces of inky, black and white goodness all wrapped up in a hotrod on paper!
When I first met Nathan (those in the fan club call him Nate), it was in his ultra-new, ultra-lofty warehouse studio. He was sitting nestled in his computer chair behind a computer and desk with a mad, schoolboy grin on his face and a cap clinging to his head. He came across as a softly-spoken, well-mannered youth would - an instant hit with the oldies. Who knew behind his soft composure and youthful grin was the heart of a speed demon waiting to wreak havoc on us all? Up until now Nate has been making a living, as we all attempt from time to time, through creating for others. Using the ever-faithful 1's and 0's of Photoshop and Illustrator, Nate has built up some seriously impressive pieces of work. But just to keep you up to speed with our hero, Nate also draws as well as chillin' behind that big ol' monitor of his. He likes to use his hands for good, see, and gets back to the basics with some swanky ol' fashioned pen and ink .2 and .5 black fine liners to be precise.
After viewing his delicately outlined works I think you'll agree it’s a small feat as to how he manages to colour in these amazing images without going stir crazy. "I often get a bit stuck and find myself hunched over my desk for hours… because the lines get so close together, " he admits.
Hours hunched over? That’s commitment! So why does he do it? Apart from a love affair with imagery Nate has always loved the way that black ink looks on white paper, which he finds so expressive. Boy do I agree. Oh, and to blow his trumpet just a little more for him, Nate has recently finished a fine first major body of work complete with hotrods and mischievous little beasties!
In truth, at heart, Nate just likes things uncomplicated, but what really struck me about him was how passionate he is about the art world and his art. Inspired by life, he comments: "I’m constantly blown away with heaps of artists work from around the world. I think that our generation has such an abundance of visual stimulus at our fingertips that it’s hard to pin point one constant source of inspiration." No truer words.
Coming from a small town to a larger city has obviously given him a different perspective on art and his work ethic, as he now can spend anywhere from 40 hours or more on one drawing at a time. Personally, I know that I wouldn't have that sort of stamina or attention span, but Nate just grins and replies that you sort of just get into a mind-set. Kind of like yoga, I assume. Yet like a whisper in the distance I can hear you Wooden Toy readers asking: ‘So where does all this passion and talent come from?’ Well, having a mother who’s well-prepared for when bored-childitus strikes seems to have helped. Nate filled me in on how he was often sat down with pencils and paper, and how his passion for drawing grew from there. Initially he began by copying pictures from comic books, but then gradually began to form his own creative style. This style of his continues to evolve over time, I note, now reaching within the realms of the supernatural, possibly inspired by this early exposure to comics.
Seeing as he always had ambitions in his youth to accomplish something creative when he was older, I asked Nate if this was still the case and funnily enough he still just wants to be an artist when he ‘grows up’, though having the power to fly still comes in a close second.
Nate's most recent body of work was born out of desire to work with a theme and style that he could claim as his own, and that would identify him in the ever-expanding world of graphics. "I think it works well in a show when you can see that the work has a theme and keeps to a style,” he says. “I want to be recognized by my work."
While searching deep within his psyche for inspiration, little demons escaped from his imagination and onto the page, seamlessly paired up with the devils of the road to create a highly intense visual experience. The pairing of Nate's demons and hotrods is no accident. "I have always liked art that fits into its surroundings," he comments when asked about his choice of motifs. "It could be a well placed tag on some fuse box, a graff piece that someone has strategically placed on a wall, a stencil that is hidden in some little nook in the city. I think art can be enhanced so much when it relates to the object that it is applied to. That’s what I try to do with my characters, apply them to an object to give them more purpose and impact."
Boys and their cars: yes yes yes, there is something about that big old throbbing engine and shiny exterior that just makes some boys go weak at the knees. Nate is no exception. "I love cars and when I was checking out some pics on the net I saw a mad picture of a 1936 Ford Victoria… next thing I was drawing one of my characters scrawled down the side of it."
At this point, I’d just like to step in and mention the great effort to which Nate has gone in order to portray the shiny, shiny goodness that is a hotrod’s precisely tuned engine. "In the flesh I think [hotrods] are such a work of art in themselves, they really stand alone as a pretty ominous feat of machinery."
It seems fitting that something so finely groomed, tailored and well-loved should be the subject for Nate's first major body of work as his style seems to mirror everything you've come to expect from a highly tuned show car. There are just so many parallels, my pretty little readers, between Nate's precision with his work and the hotrods precision mechanics that it just blows my feeble mind!
Nate’s attention to detail is even more impressive when considering the size of the illustrations, and this is probably one of the first things you’ll notice about Nate's folio of pretty cars - these aren’t tiny works of art people!”
To really appreciate the extent of Nate's attention span, you really have to venture up close to the images to see that the entire (and I mean ENTIRE) thing is made up of millions of little lines - .2 and .5 lines to be precise, a feature I can’t emphasize enough. The second thought that Nate’s work inspires is ‘Ooooohhhh don't they looks the shiny?’ His style is an impressive mix of graffiti's clean spray painted lines, representing reflective surfaces; a form of natural flowing line representations that you generally find in a more feminine illustration; and more than a dash of supernatural cartooning. Somehow, despite these disparate influences, it all works, and boy does it work! After seeing all of these hotrod illustrations, I was excited by the prospect of Nate decorating a car, but when propositioned with this idea he laughed. "I really like the idea of (painting on a hotrod) but I also think the way I approach an illustration might be a bit much in real life."
Chillin' with the laid back Nate leads me to inquire into his social agenda. I was expecting Nate to spill the beans on a heady mix of the high life: parties, event openings, drugs, jail, prostitution – you know, the usual glam lifestyle of the rich and infamous. Instead, I’m taken aback to discover that he's really similar to you and me. Nate keeps life simple with art, girlfriend, friends, food, beer and 8-ball at the local. So I decide to ask him the bleedin’ obvious, and find out that what inspires our hero here is terribly down-to-earth. "Anyone that has made it doing what they love, and anyone that is self-made or has a tale of hard work and perseverance. I think that’s what I look up to most.”
Looking at what the future has in store for our lovable protagonist it’s easy to see Nate continuing to prove that he's anything but a one hit wonder, and keeping his nimble mind on edge Nate's already planning his next show. "I have a really positive approach to my art work at the moment, and I would like to start heading up the coast by early next year, and try doing a show in Sydney - maybe Brisbane - by the end of next year."
And what words of wisdom can Nate offer all ye out there who are pining for some advice on what you need to produce some rad illustrations of cars in the future? I’ll let you in on a little secret, the key is…. Da da dada – music! With its ability to transform people's feelings and surroundings, music is kind of like the international language. Nate happily agrees: "I like all sorts of music, but when I’m working on my art I enjoy listening to hip hop. I get inspired by artists like MFDoom, Kool Keith and the RZA. I like the idea of how they create their music under an alter ego. It helps me sometimes to separate myself from the creative process a bit. I think it frees things up when I don’t think too much about how my art reflects back on me and just let it flow to some fat beats."
Aha! Something we can all learn from – throw away those textbooks, listen not to your lecturers and teachers but let MFDoom show you the way into the creative industries. Though alas, here we are at the end of our tale, and while we might not see Nate for a time, ensconced as he constantly seems to be behind his drawing desk with the love of his life - the humble pen, Nate is proof we can still expect big things from a black and white .5 fine liner. Keep a weathered eye on the horizon for more delicately shaded well-planned imagery. Oh and Nate too. Seeing as he be the mighty artist wielding said pen.