Walking into Center I on an average day, the first thing that grabs your attention might be the audio production students’ thumping beats or the video game design students crashing sound effects. But if you travel to the far corner of Center I, you’ll find senior Nikki Lewis creating visual art that’s just attention-grabbing.
No matter whether someone nearby is practicing on a drum kit or recording a podcast, the soft-spoken and unassuming Lewis is almost always in Room A ensconced in a state of artistic flow. Lewis’s stunning work runs the gamut from abstract expressionist paintings to digital anime character designs.
Not surprisingly, the talented and hardworking Lewis will be attending Savanna College of Art and Design next year, which has been ranked by Germany’s prestigious Red Dot Design as the top design school in the U.S.
Lewis’s presence at Center I will be missed, but everyone at the school is excited for her future, including her Media teacher David Glover. “I have greatly enjoyed watching Nikki grow as an artist over the past two years here at Center 1,” he said. “She is gifted with a number of styles and mediums, but her work on Procreate is outstanding. SCAD is lucky to have her join their ranks next Fall.”
I asked Nikki about her influences, her growth as an artist, the pros and cons of digital versus physical media, and her advice to students considering Center I for visual arts.
What’s your first artistic memory? When did you begin drawing?
My first artistic memory is when I was in kindergarten, and I painted this huge blue flower with a yellow sky and red grass. It made no sense but I was super proud of it. I even brought it home to my mom and she hung it up on the wall.
What art has inspired and influenced you most and why?
I don't really find inspiration for my art from other people's art (aside from the occasional reference photo), but I really enjoy Monet and van Gogh's work.
Throughout your time in school, which art teachers had the most impact on your progress?
I'm self taught for the most part, so I've only had one art teacher, so I suppose that she had the biggest impact on my progress. A lot of things she taught me were useful when it comes to technique.
Today, how much of your work is in physical media versus digital? What are the pros and cons of each format?
I'd say about 70% of my work is digital. Digital is more forgiving than traditional art, unless you're drawing on the wrong layer. With traditional art you can experiment more easily with technique and creating texture. With digital art, it is easier to create texture because there are specifically textured brushes that just do the difficult parts. Digital art has the undo button which makes life rather easy. Traditional art makes it easy to get the drawing basics down.
What advice would you give to students looking to make the transition to digital art?
Just go for it! It seems intimidating and you'll probably want to compare yourself to other digital artists, but don't compare your beginning to their middle. Just keep going with it! Everyone's art style is different, and find what's comfortable for you. It's really fun and you won't regret it.
What role has Center I played in your development as an artist?
I've learned a lot about different art programs and how to further enhance my art through Center I.
Which pieces of yours are you most proud of and why?
I think I'm most proud of my character design based off of the mythological spirits of violent death, the Keres. Another piece I'm extremely proud of is a more experimental piece of mine, a painting of how rain makes me feel. Finally, a headshot of a semi-realistic drawing that I call "Astrophilia" which is based on daydreams.
What are your post-high school plans and aspirations for your art?
I am going to the Savannah College of Art and Design. After college, I hope to do character design for an animation or a video game company.
What advice would you give younger students who want to come to Center I to pursue visual art in the Media pathway?
I would say absolutely do it! It's really fun and you'll learn a lot.
Photos and Art by Nikki Lewis
Written by Josh Mound