By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna High School junior Nick Paquin is an aspiring artist, but to hear him talk about his art, you might think he was studying to translate language or engineer sound.
For Paquin, each creation is meant to impart a unique message, and he works hard to ensure viewers comprehend his intentions.
“It’s a language that anyone can read,” Paquin said. “So if you’re looking at a painting, you don’t have to speak English or Russian or whatever. You can just look at it and understand it, whatever the artist is trying to communicate through brush strokes or imagery.”
“For art, for inspiration, I look to a lot of music,” Paquin said. “I dwell in the lyrics. I like to look at word use and lyrics and depict the imagery for that, because I’m more of a visual person.”
Paquin says he listens to a little bit of everything, from ’80s metal to Justin Timberlake, and his goal is typically to translate the emotions and meaning contained within musical work to a visual medium, whether pen and ink or paint.
“Every musician and artist has their different message, and if you can communicate in as many ways as possible it really is a wonderful thing,” he said.
Scott Walroth, the district’s director of art education and Paquin’s current art teacher, said Paquin’s originality and problem-solving abilities consistently impress him.
“Creative people figure out ways to do things creatively, whether it’s using their art or using their creativity in different ways,” Walroth said. “So going into art, in my view, is just going into a way of problem-solving that you can work with in a variety of ways in your life.”
In a way, problem-solving is what got Paquin into art, too, as he searched for a niche that would make him happy.
“From a young age, I tried everything,” Paquin said. “I’m not very athletic. I actually have a hearing disability so I’m not very good at reading music or trying music, so I’ve tried a little bit of everything and art was the thing that stuck.”
His unique challenges also led him to the interpretive style of art he enjoys. “Having a hearing disability, you can’t articulate certain things, usually, so that’s why trying to take a message and put it into imagery makes it so you can really see what someone’s saying,” he said.
For Paquin, dedication, and the support of his family and teachers, have already paid dividends. He has painted several portraits on commission, all of couples on wedding or anniversary occasions. He gains clients by networking at galleries and through his parents, who both carry his portfolio digitally on their phones.
So far, clients have an idea of what they want and Paquin simply executes it. “They come with a photo and say, ‘Can you blow this up, can you make it better, fix my hair, make me look better,’ or something like that,” Paquin said. He hopes as his work improves, people might commission him to create work simply for decoration’s sake, like abstract or landscape images.
Based on his internal drive to improve, that moment could arrive sooner than anyone expects. “Most of the time, I’ll do something, I’ll like it for a week, and then I’ll look at it and think, ‘I could’ve improved that; I could do better with that,’ ” Paquin said. “So it’s like I’m my own worst critic, but I don’t see that as a bad thing because when I get constructive criticism from other people it really helps and it really makes me a better artist.”
He’ll get the constructive criticism he’s looking for over the summer, while he attends an art program at Maine College of Art in Portland. Paquin hopes it’ll be just the beginning of his college art experiences.
Though Paquin said he’s repeatedly heard statements from others about struggling, “starving” artists, he plans to continue his studies, and Walroth applauds him for it.
Many detractors of aspiring art students, Walroth said, simply don’t understand the incredible amount of work necessary to become an artist and may think of art school as a dead end. He recounted the story of one Niskayuna lawyer whose daughter went to art school.
“After visiting her and watching the process, he said doing art is so much harder than doing law, because most of the answers in law already exist. It’s just a matter of finding the answer within those things that are written or interpreting based upon previous interpretations,” Walroth said.
The man was taken by surprise at the drive necessary to create something entirely new each day. “If you’re going into art, the expectation is not only in one class but in all of your classes, you’re coming up with unique and creative ideas every single day, and that’s a hard thing for anybody to do,” Walroth said.
A small selection of Paquin’s art. Click any image to enarge.
Q: If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be?
A: I’d probably be cookie dough, but I have a dairy allergy so I can’t eat ice cream. I would say, cookie dough used to be my favorite.
Q: If you could have any artist, living or dead, create your portrait, who would you choose?
A: I’d probably say David Cho… actually no. Salvador Dali. At some point in life I’m going to grow a mustache like that.
Q: If you could have any profession with money and reality as no object, what would you choose?
A: Graphic designer and illustrator. That’s hopefully what I’m going to college for.
Q: If you could have a dinner party with three famous musicians, who would it be?
A: Justin Timberlake, Oliver Sykes from Bring Me The Horizon, that’s a British metal band, and maybe Donald Glover, who’s Childish Gambino. Or maybe Tyler the Creator.
Q: If you met an elementary school student tomorrow who wanted to be an artist, what advice would you give?
A: I would say don’t let anything anyone says deter you, because growing up I had a lot of people who were like, ‘Oh, you’re not going to make any money at that, you’re going to be literally a starving artist.’ So I would say find people who support you and make a good support circle. You need to learn to advocate for yourself. If you don’t do that, you’re going to be stuck in your basement with a million paintings. You’re not going to be selling out to the Smithsonian.