OK - Let's Talk, 18" x 24"
Thinking of You, 18" x 24"
Dreamer, 24" x 18"
It Was Good, 18" x 24"
The Wet Area, 18" x 21"
Cowboy, 18" x 24"
“I’ve never liked my work,” Backes said. “I don’t think it’s good. I prefer other artists, and like different styles than what I do.” Despite Backes’ personal opinion, for decades the 58-year-old Oklahoma City native has made a career out of creating art for those who see his work in a much different light.
Nick Backes lives and works in Oklahoma City, OK, and formerly was a San Francisco's resident. He attended Academy of Art, San Francisco, CA, and previously University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK. He served as Designer and Illustrator for OKLAHOMA EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION AUTHORITY (OETA) while attending Central State University on full scholarship. Backes studied art as his major, while minoring in theater. It was several years after moving out from his strict childhood home and only a couple of years after graduating from college when Backes truly found himself in the midst of a successful profession. With a confident mindset, Backes moved to San Francisco to launch what would become a whirlwind career. “I thought I may be famous,” Backes said. Within a week of job hunting and a quick skim through the phone book, Backes had an artist agent and a job with Levi Strauss.
He illustrates books for The Pleasant Company, a division of Mattel, Inc., including the art for the “Molly” books in the American Girls Collection. He slso worked with Bantam Books and Dell Publishing Company.
He was commissioned by Italian couture designer, Valentino, to illustrate fashions in the 1983-1985 international advertising campaigns for HOUSE OF VALENTINO, Rome, Italy. Backes’ eyes still twinkle when thinking back to working in Italy with the famed designer. “It was thrilling to be in the Couture House with Audrey Hepburn in the next room, and to touch and feel Brooke Shields’ dress,” Backes said. “It was a whole new world; I was so innocent and had never traveled that far. But I got used to it pretty fast!”
Experiencing first-hand the damage and distress caused by the 1989 earthquake, Backes reevaluated his living conditions and decided to move back to his childhood home of Oklahoma City. “It was a traumatic experience,” Backes recollected, thinking back to the earthquake. “It’s odd to not be able to cross a bridge, or to fear going up to the 20th floor to see a dentist. I had a first aid kit and a suitcase by my bed – that’s crazy.” Moving back to Oklahoma, Backes found himself closer to family and friends, and comfortable in the familiar setting. The opportunity to continue working in theater gave Backes the ability to hone his acting skills while designing and painting sets for Carpenter Theatre. But as the years passed and new technology developed, Backes realized he must reevaluate his career as well if he wanted any kind of future in the business.
“The advent of the computer has almost erased all jobs,” Backes said. “It was an era that kind of went away.” Always ready to try something new, Backes looked at this as an opportunity to jumpstart his career and to delve into art in which he had little experience. While computers have made finding work much more difficult, Backes remains optimistic, and has turned to new challenges, including oil painting and murals.
Though work may be slower these days, Backes does not plan to add technology to his current successful duo of pencil and/or paints and old-fashioned creative ability. “I don’t like computer art at all,” he said. “Machines and technology, I just don’t have a sense for them. I’ve worked my whole life to get where I am now, and it’s very hard to try to start a new career.”
While Backes looks for new clients, he spends his spare time painting for art shows, a rare occasion when he can create whatever art he wants. For Backes’ latest art show, oil paintings dotted the walls, breaking away from the customary drawings that have always driven forward his career. “I liked doing oil paintings because I never do it,” Backes said. “It takes techniques I’m not used to, and it’s freer and less restricted.”
The future of Backes’ art may be uncertain, but one thing is clear – he will always be ready for a new challenge, and is almost undeniably going to conquer it. “I love what I do because I can do some things that a lot of people can’t do,” Backes said. “It’s very nice to be born with something that can make you a living, and I feel very lucky.”
Original Interview: http://distinctlyoklahoma.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=299&Itemid=62