“I just got to be a little messier”: Nick Dahlen on working large scale and honing his artistic approach

Since moving to a new studio and focusing more on his sketchbook for inspiration, the Minneapolis-based artist has seen his work go from strength to strength.

7 September 2022


When we last spoke to painter Nick Dahlen, he listed a pretty extensive list of world-renowned artists and architects as inspiration for his unique work: Kandinsky and Le Corbusier to name a few. Now, while Nick certainly still admires them, he professes to being much more focussed on doing things his own way. “You can only soak in so much before you just have all these influences inside you, and you just start operating in your own way,” Nick explains. “I’m looking less at other artists now and just doing.”

One way in which Nick has progressed into this way of working is by being much more reliant on his sketchbook. Focussing less on examples of colourful block art, Nick now looks to the more spontaneous and organic pages of his sketchbook to inform his pieces. “I’ve always wished I could work like this,” he details, “but I didn’t feel like my drawings were strong enough or something. But now, I feel like my drawings are strong, because it’s straight source material.”


Copyright © Nick Dahlen, 2022

Nick recently moved out of a house share to living alone and, simultaneously, he moved from his garage into his first (rather large) solo art studio. While still loving to socialise, Nick has found this move – and its resulting lack of distraction – as being very beneficial to his work. He also enjoys the freedom of working to his own schedule, stopping and starting when he wishes. “Now I have to plan out time to go to the studio," he explains. "I think overall is a good thing, because I work for longer periods of time now – finishing paintings and printers quicker.”

Naturally, the changes in his workspace have instigated progressions in Nick’s artworks – specifically allowing him to work at a much larger scale. One such piece that shows this larger format is his Chess piece, wherein the larger canvas allows for Nick to be a bit freer with his hand. “I just got to be a little messier,” he says. "It just gave me more room to move.” Moreover, the increased scale also lets his audience see the finer details – the ones that usually get lost on smaller canvases.

It’s not only the size that has evolved but also that way in which Nick produces work. Recently, he completed a food-focussed series for Mythology, a New York-based advertising agency. Featuring leafy corn on the cob, ripe looking red peppers and silver sardines, the series shows how Nick’s diverse style has the potential to be clean, cohesive and unified – when he puts his mind to it. “I like being forced to do series’, and I would honestly love to do more of them,” Nick shares. “But I’m just so scatterbrained that when I’m on my own I just move on to something else every time I finish something.” For now though, Nick has a pretty simple agenda for the future: “I just want to stay alive and keep doing what I’m doing right now and see where that takes me.”

GalleryCopyright © Nick Dahlen, 2022

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Copyright © Nick Dahlen, 2022

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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