With the idea of starting “something big,” Nick Nichols, a 37-year-old artist, photographer and designer from Austin, Texas is aiming to paint 100 portraits of friends in a collaborative art project. The first phase of the Hunert Faces Project has seen family, friends and friends-of-friends from over the world submit photographic self-portraits for Nick to paint.
Nichols, who has lived in Bogotá since 2011 and works from his home/studio in Cedritos, says he’s painted around 25 portraits. “So far I’ve known everyone in some capacity but I’d like to get to a point where there are people I don’t know at all sending me their pictures.”
That’s where you come in. Nick is looking for “interesting” self-portraits to paint. Although he agrees that interesting is in the eye of the beholder, the painter is after something “a little different” about the picture, whether it’s the person, the surroundings or the composition.“I’m looking for photographs that have something more interesting than the typical Kodak moment – a picture that tells a story.”
A story like the one told in the portrait Marriage, which at first glance is a simple depiction of a couple. The man, wreathed in shadow, looks towards the viewer while the woman is illuminated by light and is looking to the side and holding a mask. “The contrast of light and dark is interesting in itself but the mask lends it symbolism and you realize there’s something more to it.”
That “something more”, together with the feedback he’s received from his portrait subjects, has inspired Nichols to expand the scope of his project to include written contributions, which will appear alongside the paintings on his website. “I’d like people to write about a painting that strikes a chord with them,” he says. The criteria for written submissions is broad. “It could be anything from a thought, to a haiku to a short story.”
“I want to give people a chance to contribute to a large project – even if you don’t consider yourself to be an artist or creative person.” Nichols works with oil paints and reclaimed wood, rising early in the mornings to search for the bits and pieces others throw away without a second thought. “The idea of taking something that’s going to be thrown away or burned and giving it a new life is appealing. It’s a way to reduce waste and turn it into art.”
His foraging has earned him strange looks and a few questions. “I once met a guy by a dumpster and we compared trash piles and our plans for them – he was selling his, so kind of similar to my plans.”
Nichols is fascinated with the way perceptions of art change according to the viewer. “To see someone’s idea is interesting but it’s also interesting to see what someone else draws from that. We do that every day, I’m just trying to put it into one small project.” Nick’s subjects also have the opportunity to buy their own portraits.
If you’d like to get involved with the Hunert Faces Project, get in touch with Nichols through his website. Yours could be the next face to be immortalized.