Nick Abstract Releases New Series “Forerunner Architecture”

Photography by Clint Kearney

Large murals full of strong lines, abstract themes, and vibrant colors have been painted around Indianapolis the past few years; maybe the name Nick Abstract comes to mind. These murals are the work of Nick Smith, painting under the tag known as Nick Abstract. Smith is an Indianapolis-based contemporary artist who specializes in geometric abstraction. He paints murals all over the world, as well as canvas in his studio. Smith recently released a new canvas series titled “Forerunner Architecture” that showcases some of his biggest inspirations. 

Smith grew up in rural Indiana drawing and illustrating in an artistically-driven family. Learning about painting from his grandmother and one of her friends, art became a part of his life at a young age. Smith says he found himself spending quite a bit of time practicing graffiti in high school and eventually took his artistic interest and talent into college. After studying graphic design at Herron School of Art and Design, he accepted a position with an advertising agency. The work “wasn’t scratching that creative itch” for Smith, so he gave himself a month to pursue mural painting full-time. That month turned into three years.

As a full-time artist he is working on commissions for clients, as well as pieces that he makes in his studio to challenge his creativity. Indiana winters are not-so-suited for mural painting, so Smith has recently decided to dedicate more time in the studio during those cold months. His recently completed “Forerunner Architecture” series was inspired by his love for architecture, as well as the video game Halo. The five pieces were done on 48×48 inch canvas and represent different levels of the video game. The series honors the video game’s architecture and design influence on Smith’s abstract style and allowed him to create something more complex.

“Most of my stuff is pretty minimalistic and simple, but pushing that abstraction and complexity and rendering more fidelity is kind of a scary, time-consuming, and busy thing to do; but I love how they look,” Smith says about the “Forerunner Architecture” series.

After moving to the city for college from a rural town, Smith became enamored by the city’s design. He says he loves the way all the buildings and wires look together and wants his art to play into that. Having his murals mesh with the buildings, rather than being put on the wall is the goal. Smith’s favorite mural he has painted is a beautiful example of this. 

Bovaconti Coffee in Fountain Square opened in 2019. The space used to be Bovaconti Jewelers and owner Justin Jones kept the name. On this commission, Smith wanted to incorporate the building’s history. The mural he painted on the once gray, north-facing wall of Bovaconti became a vibrant background for the cafe patio. Smith wanted the mural to nod toward diamond cutting to play into honoring the building’s previous occupants. The mural brightens the patio, which is intended to be a Fountain Square gathering place. Smith helped make this area a space that is an aesthetically pleasing environment for daily meetings and latte art celebration. 

“I like to think the mural plays into some of that experience,” Smith says.

Smith covers a very large area when painting murals, and has found creative ways to make it easier, more exact, and less wasteful. Smith says he enjoys using spray paint, but his murals are so big he says he feels scummy taking all of that to hazardous waste. He knew that gallon paint for houses stretches much further, so he now uses a commercial sprayer with paint typically used for rolling for his larger murals. It still gives him the freedom of using the spray method while using less waste. Smith has gotten a few other methods from professional painters. Chalk lines and tape help him to achieve the perfect lines his work requires.

The minimalist color palette in Smith’s murals and paintings are a representation of the dichotomy between what he sees and what his audience sees. Smith is colorblind, and in his vision colors tend to be a bit muted. His paint choices are usually limited to a few colors; and are bright, contrasting, and dramatic. The simplicity of his color choice compliments his abstract themes and geometric lines.

If interested in buying a piece of Smith’s new canvas series or learning more about his work, check out his website and Instagram. Also check out his podcast, Abstract Thought, and listen to interviews Smith hosts with other creatives. 

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