Meet the street artist who is filling Sydney with the most vibrant murals

Wander the streets of Sydney’s inner west and you just might stumble upon art from one of the city’s best talents: an artist who simply goes by the name, Nico.

The Sydney-based creative’s work is characterised by bold lines and vibrant colours, often depicting animals and landscapes through various shapes and patterns. For instance, one composition imagines a fish with scales made of colourful LEGO-like blocks. Another sees a forest so geometric that it could double as abstract art.

Nico’s murals are found in public spaces and private collections – not only in Australia but also Europe and Asia. He also creates commercial work for a wide range of industries, including fashion, wine, and even surfboards.

If you happen to pass by the inner west, try to look for Nico’s paintings. They’re bound to make your day. “Nico aims to bring positive change to the urban landscape and broader society through the creation and dissemination of uplifting artwork,” his portfolio’s description read.

We recently caught up with Nico to find out more about his style and his craft.

How did your distinctive strong line/bold pattern style evolve/come about?

“I guess that the style has just developed on its own over time and has come about as a result of the different mediums that I tend to work in.

“The bold black line work is something that I attribute to painting walls with spray paint. The process of creating the artworks with spray paint really lends itself to a final black outline that sort of masks off the edges of all of the shapes and just makes it nice and tight with minimal effort.

“In a way, my style has sort of developed as a result of starting out with spray paint.”

Did you have any colour theory training? How do you mesh colours so damn well?

“That’s very kind of you to say, but to be honest, I still see myself as a novice in the world of colour (even though, yes, I have studied colour theory quite a bit at both art and design school). Colour is probably the most important element for me in my work, so I am always spending lots of time working out colours and colour combinations.

“I’m always trying to learn more about colours and the way that they work. I’m still constantly learning, especially lately as I’ve gotten a lot deeper into mixing my own colour paints for my murals – which is something that I’ve been doing in my studio art practice for a few years now. I find that mixing one’s own colours whilst painting gives you much more control over the end result.”

Who are the artists you grew up respecting/admiring and why?

“I have always been interested in and influenced by a really wide range of artists and designers. I have a soft spot for mid-century graphic design and am also really into all different kinds of folk art.

“I grew up being inspired by skateboard art as well as comic book art. I actually remember sitting around as a kid looking at artworks in a magazine by a previous guest of yours, Ben Brown, and thinking how cool his art was and how amazing it was that drawing was his actual job. He was kind of the first guy that I became aware of that was an actual professional illustrator from Sydney, which made me realise that it was possible.

“In terms of heavy influences, Sydney artist Phibs has always been a big one. He is the father of street art in this country in my opinion and you can trace most of your favourite Australian street artists back to him in some way.

“In terms of design and illustration, I love the classics like Tom Eckersley and Charley Harper.”

In terms of your own work, do you have a preference for wall art vs fine art vs design?

“It’s funny but I tend to see it all as one. I generally think of all of my work as being design as it’s based largely on design principals. I don’t really see it as being ‘fine art’ as such. I’m not so interested in that world.

“My preferences for the different mediums tend to change all of the time – sometimes if the weather is mild and nice outside I feel like getting out and painting murals, and at other times I like do one tucked away working on design and studio work. I feel like they all balance each other out really nicely.”