Nick illustrated Dust Storm, the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award-winning Children’s title. He has also illustrated other children’s books, including D-Day: American Character, A Story from World War II, and The Room in My Heart.
If you’ve ever toured the Oklahoma State Capitol, chances are good you’ve come across Nick’s work. The prolific artist has eight paintings in the building, including portraits of Governor Abraham Seay, Territorial Governor George Steele, architect Solomon Layton, and Chickasaw aviator Eula Pearl Carter Scott. In 2009, he unveiled his painting of the USS Oklahoma Memorial in the Oklahoma Senate Chamber.
Nick has also enjoyed success as a commercial illustrator for a variety of products, and he still finds time to serve as a teaching artist through the Oklahoma Arts Council.
To set the stage for his Reading Roundup debut, we asked him a few questions.
ODL: Hi, Christopher. Or should we call you Chris? Would you talk about your childhood in Oklahoma and how you set off on the path to become an artist?
Nick: Christopher is good, thank you! I was so blessed to have such a wonderful childhood. I was raised in rural Oklahoma, with so much innocence, friends, laughter, and loving parents. My fourth grade teacher was a painter and she exposed us to many forms of art. Her classroom is where I discovered I loved to draw.
ODL: Your illustrations seem very rooted in the tradition of Americana Art, which is a very welcoming style. Your bio says your training descends directly from the 17th century artist Jacques-Louis David. Would you explain what that means?
Nick: David is credited with starting the whole Atelier system. He would take a serious student at an early age, say about 10, and they would live with or attend David’s studio everyday. The student would then learn the process of learning how to paint and compose pictures. I was so fortunate to be able to attend that same system and had just incredible teachers.
ODL: We’re curious about the picture book process. Did you get to work directly with Jane McKellips, the author of Dust Storm? When you illustrate a book, are you given suggestions for illustrations or are you simply inspired by the author’s words?
Nick: In almost ALL cases the illustrator does NOT get to work with the author, however with Dust Storm I DID get to work with Jane to a degree. She is an absolute delight, not only as an author but a person as well.
ODL: What can your audience expect when they come to see you during September’s DoubleR tour?
Nick: Hopefully they will discover a little more background about what us crazy illustrators do, and the picture making process. Mostly we will have a positive experience and fun. Gotta be fun!
ODL: Although you’ve described yourself as a full-time illustrator, we hear you’ve started a coffee and donut food truck business. Why something so different? I mean, other than the fact almost everyone loves coffee and donuts!
Nick: Ha-Ha! Yes, the rumor is true. Making donuts is something I discovered I love to do for folks. I used to cook in college at a local place in Norman, Oklahoma. Had a blast before life took off on me. Believe it or not, it is a very creative outlet and I’m blessed with the coolest little truck—named “Kirby”—on the planet. Please stop by some A.M. for some hot and fresh Yummee. I promise Kirby will at least put a smile on your face.
ODL: Now we’re hungry for donuts! Thanks for talking with us, Christopher. We can’t wait to see you on the tour!