One day, I literally stumbled upon Nick Alm’s website, and I immediately knew I had to chat with him. His work is so classical and elegant, yet he injects it with humor and a little naughtiness. That’s the first thing I asked him when he agreed to chat with me, but first …
“… Art is like a playground for the subconscious. Almost everything you've experienced in life will leave a mark in your memory bank, and the perfect way to process this bank is by practicing art ...”
MICHAEL: Your work is stunning. It's classical, elegant and timeless. Yet I notice that you like creating questions in your work. You paint beautiful scenes where something is slightly askew or off base. Why do you do this?
NICK: Thanks. We all want to see what’s beneath the shiny surface. We are not perfect, and that makes us more interesting. Has a movie ever been made where everything is perfect, and everyone does the right thing? If so, I wouldn’t like to see it. This inclination is not about mocking humanity, but I guess it’s rather derived from empathy.
MICHAEL: Derived from empathy? Very interesting. Are you saying that when you're painting, you feel a sense of empathy and love for your subjects? What is going on in your mind and heart while you're painting?
NICK: I sure do. Isn't that why figurative painting is so strong? As soon as the shapes have taken form, I start relating to the subject, letting my response guide me through the rest of the process.
MICHAEL: When you start a painting, do you start out with an idea of what you want to paint ... or do you just let your hands guide you? How does your process work? Is it emotional, intellectual or spiritual? What are your inspirations?
NICK: I always have an idea in mind before I apply the paint, but it will more or less change during the process. The more peripheral and secondary the parts of the composition are, the more likely they are to be altered.
It often starts with a pencil scribble to get a basic idea of the composition. If it’s a complex kind, I might take photo references and develop it further in Photoshop. Once this is done, I will put the basic elements on the canvas. Then the real painting begins, from photos or directly from life or in a combination. All those aspects that you’re talking about will be switching back and forth during the process.
My main source of inspiration comes from the human nature, either from direct observation or from a mental process that is hard to explain. All experiences that have been stored in our memory bank will subconsciously feed us with inspiration.
MICHAEL: You are obviously a classically-trained painter. However, many artists today are not. How important do you think academic training is for artists today?
NICK: Yes I am. It depends on what they want to achieve. If they want to be able to paint what they see or paint in a style that requires technical skills, I would recommend it. Otherwise, you have to learn it by yourself.
MICHAEL: It seems that some art schools today aren't really teaching "technical skills." They're teaching expression and creativity. What do you think about this? Many older artists today say that unless you have the technical skills, you're not truly an artist. They say anybody can just smear paint on canvas, but that doesn't mean that you're artist. What do you think?
NICK: If you haven’t got technique, you won’t be able to fulfill your ideas (unless your ideas suck). This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to fully master all aspects of technique to make something of value, but you should at least master some of them. However, neglecting technique will only weaken your paintings, and if you’ve got some self-awareness, you’ll see that poor technique can kill your creativity.
MICHAEL: When you are painting, who are you painting for? Are you thinking about people who may see your work? Why are you painting? What does the process do for you?
NICK: I only paint for myself. If I manage to please the critic within, others will also appreciate the work. I think it’s important not to think about other people’s opinions since it is likely to divert you from your own path. I paint because of a desire and not for the money. There are so many things that this kind of painting has to offer. Seeing something grow out of the canvas is always fascinating, and the whole process of painting can put you in an almost meditative state of mind.
MICHAEL: You also seem to be very interested in creating beauty in your work. None of your works are crude or edgy. What purpose does beauty serve in art?
NICK: I just like when it’s pleasing to the eyes. What’s the point of doing something ugly? There’s already too much of it out there.
MICHAEL: Ha! Ha! You know Nick, I'm also always stunned by the work of artists like you who attended the Florence Academy of Art. That school really turns out some talented artists. Why is that? And what was your experience there like?
NICK: They have a good curriculum, focusing on technique. It starts out with the basics and turns more and more advanced. The students are not allowed to pass on to another project until the present one is approved, which pushes the students to a higher level. There’s little room for “artsy” subjectivity. You can’t defend your painting saying that a misplaced paint daub is resonating with your inner spirit. I myself really enjoyed being served a nude model five days a week.
MICHAEL: Ha! Ha! What role do you think painting plays in the world today? Most people don't ever think about art. They focus on TV, cell phones, sports or other things. Is contemporary art relevant when most people don't care about it?
NICK: Due to the diversity of mediums, painting has lost importance with certain people. However, painting still contains something that other mediums lack.
Since everything is done by hand, led by personal choices, painting is more open to visual exploration than other mediums and can spark a creative urge that I personally haven’t gotten from elsewhere. Even if most people don’t care about it, it’s still of utter importance to a lot of others, and therefore, it’s relevant. It fills these people’s lives with meaning. Most people don’t read Dostoyevsky or listen to Rachmaninoff, but that doesn’t make them irrelevant.
Sometimes there is a high threshold to step over, but if you are of a lazy nature, you might prefer to save that energy. Others might be insensitive to the subject, and you can’t tell a lion to eat carrots. But I do have to question your hypothesis. My own experience is that when people get exposed to good quality art, they show interest.
MICHAEL: Yes they do. Finally Nick, what does art do for you? What do you want people to know about you when they see your work?
NICK: Apart from paying my bills, it gives meaning and richness to my life. Art is like a playground for the subconscious. Almost everything you've experienced in life will leave a mark in your memory bank, and the perfect way to process this bank is by practicing art. People don't need to know anything about me. The important thing is the paintings in themselves.
Learn Dynamic Symmetry in Art and Photography for Free (No Marketing Nonsense - Only Real World Information)
No Monthly Membership Fees Free Video Lectures on Dynamic Symmetry Free Tips and Techniques PDF Free Simple to Apply Dynamic Symmetry Grid Pack (160) Free Photography Portfolio Review (1-10 Images) Unbiased Product Reviews and Recommendations Weekly Podcasts on Dynamic Symmetry Over 10 Years Experience in Design Over 37 Years Experience in Photography
The Benefits of Learning Dynamic Symmetry and Real Design
-Create Masterful Art and Photography That's Easy to Sell! -Build a Portfolio That Far Exceeds Your Competitors! -Watch Your Self Confidence Grow as Your Skills Improve! =Gain Respect From Your Peers and Become a Highly Trained Artist! -Learn the Design Techniques that Make Your Art Come to Life! -Learn How to Stop Relying on "Intuition" and Start Using Real Skills! -Discover the Secrets of Composition That Master Artists Don't Want You to Know!
What Others Are Saying About Dynamic Symmetry Art "James Cowman's user's guide on composition and Dynamic Symmetry, in particular, was one of the greatest milestones on my journey of becoming a better artist. Dynamicsymmetryart.com is undoubtedly the best resource on the subject out there, which I keep recommending to anyone interested in taking their compositions to a new level. It shocks me that even otherwise excellent artists today often know nothing about these old systems and rely mostly on their intuition to create their compositions. It's time that artists rediscover and revive the lost knowledge of the old masters and bring art back to its former glory. Jame's user's guide is a unique and invaluable resource in this effort." - Storm Engineer
"Jim offers something that is almost impossible to find online: a truly one-of-a-kind resource. His information about Dynamic Symmetry is meticulously researched and comes from a place of knowledge and genuine interest, not sales, as so many educational sites do. Reading his surprisingly accessible work has helped me to grow artistically in a deliberate and satisfying way. I return to Dynamic Symmetry Art regularly and always learn something new." - Rebecca Isenhart
"The information provided in The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist has been a tremendous resource for me as an artist and photographer. My photography work has improved tremendously, and all of my clients agree! I'll continue to share this user's guide with all of my peers and other creative artists." - Zine Massey
"I just graduated from the BFA in Graphic Design at the Federal University of Pernambuco, in Brazil, and one of the chapters of my monograph was about composition. As a motion designer, the proper layout of elements is a very important phase in my creative process, so any tool that helps with making decisions on that is very valuable. What I love about your studies is that it's full of images and resources, it's a gold mine in my opinion. Thanks for providing so much information at an affordable price." - Eveline Falcão
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist deserves to be a physical book in Barnes & Noble & on my coffee table!" - Elliot McGucken
"The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive e-books ever written on the topic of design in art. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced art/photography student, this user's guide is indispensable. I recommend it to all of my artists and photographers and have it linked to my website The Artist Angle." - Jennifer Finley
"Though I am not a newcomer to photography, I am far from being a professional. So too, it has only been in the past few months that I discovered dynamicsymmetryart.com. I was transformed from being concerned with camera equipment, f-stops, shutter speed, ISO to considering how I would apply the principles of classical art training to my photography.
As I began reading about the old world masters, including da Vinci, Degas, Rembrandt, and Renoir, I learned that Dynamic Symmetry structurally changed paintings from being passive to active and dynamic. Furthermore, I didn’t realize that a small, yet renowned, group of photographers were well known for using Dynamic Symmetry in their photographs of city life and people.
My journey began by reading. The Dynamic Symmetry Art website has numerous resources that gave me a crash course in art and composition. I had to learn about the visual properties of different kinds of rectangles and how each can be divided into compositional elements. Then I began using the Dynamic Symmetry grid overlays in Lightroom to analyze and crop my photos.
I have found dynamicsymmetryart.com extremely beneficial, and it has contributed immensely with my efforts to improve as a photographer. Thank you for your commitment to art and art education." - Warren Wish
"There’s been something missing in my photography for some time now. It felt like I’d hit a brick wall. I was finding great locations and taking beautiful photos, but again, something was missing. I had no idea what it was; I just knew it was there.
I found myself repeatedly falling back on the Rule of Thirds, but this was becoming more of a hindrance rather than a help. Then one day I had the good fortune to stumble across the website Dynamicsymmetryart.com. There is no better teacher or resource on the internet regarding Dynamic Symmetry and best of all everything is free! I can assure you, once you begin to delve into the rich offerings on this site you won’t have any need to look elsewhere.
I, for one, can’t thank Jim enough for all the time and effort he has put into this and for taking my photography to the next level. His website and Youtube channel are both superb, and I'd like to thank him for sharing the knowledge on what is a very fascinating subject." - Tim B
"With the passing of Myron Barnstone, we lost a great resource on the application of the Rectangles of the Masters and the Golden Section in creating art. But the website dynamicsymmetryart.com is carrying on that work Myron so thoroughly believed in and taught. Dynamic Symmetry can be used in the simplest of ways as well as being infinitely complex if one desires. Great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci recognized the power that this compositional tool offers.
Dynamicsymmetryart.com is an amazing reference for artists who are open to exploring the benefits of using Dynamic Symmetry in their work. It applies to all the arts and resonates at a primal level of understanding harmony and beauty. Much thanks to James Cowman for his dedication to furthering this information to the public." - Master Artist and Teacher,Dot Bunn, Red Stone Farm Studio
Help Support This Website (Click here for the podcast)
If you like The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist and want to help support Dynamic Symmetry Art, please feel free to make a donation of $1.00 or more using the PayPal button below. All donations go to help support dynamicsymmetryart.com and all the associated costs of keeping this website online. This includes software and hardware updates as well as my time and expertise allocated for research in order to better help the artist and photographer improve their lifetime body of work.