Nick Baxter was born in 1981 in New Haven, Connecticut and remained in the New Haven area until 2008, when he relocated to Austin, Texas. Following a lifelong passion for creative self-expression, as a high school senior he was granted placement in the Visual Arts Department at the Educational Center for the Arts, a magnet school in New Haven CT. He then attended the Paier College of Art in Hamden CT (Dean’s List) where he learned the basics of sharp-focus still life painting in the classical “Trompe L’œil” style. In 2000 Nick began a career in tattooing, while continuing to develop and pursue his interest in other fine art mediums such as painting, mixed media collage, and photography.
Now tattooing almost 15 years, Nick has developed a unique style of painterly tattooing most aptly called color surrealism, encompassing illustrative subject matter as well as biomech and bio-organic sensibilities and gaining Nick international acclaim in the body art community for his thought-provoking, innovative motifs. Nick has become widely recognized in the tattoo industry for his combination of fine art and technical tattooing skills, being featured in every major tattoo art magazine in the world as well as in other publications and books, including the Art Renewal Center’s yearly International Salon Competition Catalogue.
Building on his accomplishments and influence within the tattoo industry, Nick has also been teaching seminars worldwide to other tattooers and aspiring artists about advanced tattooing techniques as well as realistic oil painting. His tattooing seminar called “The Holistic Approach” centers around the philosophical concept of holism, or looking at systems and causes instead of separate parts or symptoms, as a way to counter the fragmented mainstream philosophy that leads to limiting tattoo strategies. Through a foundational teaching method that utilizes broad concepts and provides philosophical context, Nick aims to inspire seminar attendees to make their own discoveries through experimentation, thereby pushing themselves further to excel and innovate rather than merely imitate.
In 2010 Nick wrote and released his first book, Sharp-Focus Realism In Oil, through independent publisher Proton Press. This 128-page volume combines instructional oil-painting text with a comprehensive gallery of Nick’s paintings from the past 10 years. After selling out of its hardcover first edition, an expanded 2nd edition eBook was released in 2014.
Strengthening the emerging connection between the previously separate tattooing and fine art worlds, in 2005 Nick and several other accomplished artists from the tattoo community painted alongside renowned contemporary artist Alex Grey at his NYC studio COSM, in a multifaceted collaborative performance. This was followed in 2008 with participation in a live painting performance in Philadelphia alongside Alex Grey and wife Allyson Grey, called “Visionary Primitive,” and in 2013 at a 4-day educational event in New Mexico called the Paradise Artist Retreat.
Nick has shown fine art works in several group exhibitions each year since 2003, selling paintings to many private collectors in the U.S. and abroad. In 2011 his work was accepted into the 6th Annual Juried Exhibition of the International Guild of Realism and in 2013 the John F. Peto Museum in New Jersey accepted 2 of his paintings into their National Juried Trompe L’oeil Exhibition.
He held his first solo exhibition entitled “Surfacing” in Easthampton, MA in 2007. This body of thematically-unified work featured photography and 10 oil paintings which, when arranged correctly, combined to form one large image. Viewers were invited to piece the symbolism of the works together on their own with the help of a written statement and a drawing reminiscent of a map legend, which were provided at the opening.
Two follow-up exhibitions entitled “Healing” and “Rebuilding,” with themes and subject matter branching off from the “Surfacing” works, were held in August 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona and February 2010 at Last Rites Gallery in New York City. In 2011 Nick expanded upon these overarching themes in another solo show called “Reclaiming” at Nisus Gallery in Portland, Oregon.
Nick once again returned to Last Rites Gallery in 2012 with a solo exhibition of ambitious photorealist paintings entitled “The Apostasy.” Marking a slight departure from previous series, these works featured dark and mysterious surgical scenes, cropped closely on gloved hands manipulating ambiguous body parts, symbolizing a critique of the modern medical-industrial complex and its prevailing ethos of material-rationalism. In 2013 several of these paintings were featured in the national arts publication Creative Quarterly double issue #30-31.
A member of the International Guild of Realism since 2011, Nick’s technically demanding painting style dwells somewhere in between traditional sharp-focus still life and modern photorealist styles, while bringing in elements of symbolism and surrealism. His subject matter tends to center around close-ups of skin and visceral, bloody macro-scapes, in exploration of the human condition—to have a unique consciousness inhabiting a vessel of flesh and blood. Recently, however, Nick has expanded this exploration by incorporating elements from the natural world and images of outer space, bridging the gap between the personal and the universal, between human life and all life.
These intricately conceptual and meticulously rendered paintings bridge elements of psychology, postmodern thought, anarchist theory, and interpretations of ancient Buddhist teachings with personal symbols to investigate the nature of suffering, hope, and transformation. Inspired by a sincere concern for the human condition and a deep appreciation of the natural world, his aim is to question familiar assumptions and pierce the surface appearances of what we often take for granted; to create a space in which emotional certainties waver and taste loses its bearings, so that deeper truth may be uncovered.