Spotlight On: Daniel J. Nickolas

Daniel is in his last year at PSU, duel majoring in English and German. “Dies ist mein letztes Jahr an PSU. I habe zwei Hauptfächer, Englisch und Deutsch.”

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: It changes over time, and there is never only one. I have a strong affinity for John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (John Steinbeck in general is a favorite of mine), the historical biographies of Doris Kearns Goodwin are incredible, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise was an experience like no other. Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung is a current favorite.

Q: Who or what influences and inspires your art the most?

A: Reading is essential to writing. It’s always inspiring to see what others have done / are doing with language and storytelling. I’m especially lucky in this regard, because my sister is also a writer; we use each other as editors and beta-readers for our work, and the differences in our styles of writing always makes me think more critically about the way I use (or could be using) language. Also, the world, despite all its problems, is an awesome place; like a lot of writers, I find nature to be a consistent source of inspiration—have you ever thought about trees, I mean really thought about them? Wow.

Q: What are your favorite art mediums to work with?

A: Since I’m a writer, I’ll take this question to mean what forms I like writing in. The answer is all of them. I love the whole spectrum of writing, from highly metaphorical poetry to checking the comma usage of technical reports. Currently, I am very intrigued by odes and internal rhyme as far as poetry goes, am trying to find my footing in the novel as a form, and am heavily exploring journalism (I’m currently the opinions editor at the PSU magazine, The Pacific Sentinel).

Q: What do you do about creative blocks?

A: Ignore them. Creative blocks usually just mean that you need to step away from a particular piece for a little while, and that’s a great opportunity to work on something else. I’ve learned not to buy into the mentality of “I don’t know what to write about”; because there is always something to be found. As I’m writing this, I’m looking through a window of the PSU library, watching a woman in black dance in the rain. The dance is improv but has a fluid energy, like the way Nymphs must dance. What a stimulus for writing! And all I had to do was look up. The world is bursting at its seams with inspiration.

Q: Do you have a favorite time of day to make art?

A: I prefer to write in the mornings, though I often feel like revising goes better in the evenings. However, being a student usually means my favorite time to write is during those periods of the day when I have time do something other than work, be in class, or do homework. Student life means I have a lot of scraps of writing, written on a lot of scraps of paper.

Spotlight On: Vinu Casper

Vinu is in the Masters’ program in the computer science department, and is wrapping up his final year here at PSU.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Hands down, my favorite book is The Telling Pool by David Clement-Davies. It has all the grit to seem real, with just enough of a hint of magic to be fantastic. Oh, and the prose in the book! I gush over writing like that.

Q: Who or what influences and inspires your art the most?

A: When it comes to poetry, I am acutely inspired by spoken word artists. Shane Koyczan, Neil Hilborn, Harry Baker. The way you can let words mean more than they should be able to is just magical, and these poets do just that. Other than that, I just think it’s really cool to be clever with your words. To write yourself into a puzzle, and write yourself out. And I find this a lot from rap artists like Watsky, Eminem, and Kendrick. If you can make it rhyme, and make it funny, or deep, or tell a story at the same time, you’re doing something right.

Q: What are your favorite art mediums to work with?

A: I love poetry and prose, so I write as much as I can. And I also dabble in a few of the visual arts. This mainly means illustrations, and some graphic design. A little video editing here and a little music production there. I grew up on the internet, and that came with the perk of learning things like that.

Q: What do you do about creative blocks?

A: I am a firm believer of the fact that you have to take art to make art. Whenever I feel stuck, or just can’t seem to create, I consume art. I read, and I listen. A lot. I don’t know if this is everyone, or just me, but sometimes when I read a poem, or hear a song, I’d notice some detail and wish it was done differently, how I would have done it differently, and following that idea long enough leads to making things again!

Q: Do you listen to music while you make art? What type of music?

A: While drawing, yes! I listen to a lot deadmau5, and Bonobo. Progressive music, no vocals. They really keep me in the zone. But when it comes to writing, I’m usually in my head too much to even notice the sounds around me, let alone listen to music.

Spotlight On: Henry Apgar

Henry is a visual artist studying Graphic Design as a Sophomore at PSU.

Q: Who or what influences and inspires your art the most?

A: There are endless sources of inspiration and influence, it’s hard to narrow it down! I think what truly got me interested in drawing came from a love of comic artists such as Rick Remender or Mike Mignola, and especially form authors like Grant Morrison. My habit of buying more comics than I could probably afford opened my eyes to the immense world of underground artists and illustrators that are keeping the industry alive and well. Some examples might be, Tetsunori Twaraya, Liam Cobb, Will Sweeney, and Motohiro Hayakawa. Not to mention all the support and love I get from friends both here and back in Baltimore, many of whom are incredible artists themselves and all continually keep me inspired.

Q: Did you always want to be an artist?

A: I’m not sure that I always wanted to be an artist. I don’t think I was ever confident enough with my work to do anything with it, so I actually ended up pursing engineering until I figured out, pretty quickly, that it wasn’t really my cup of tea. What really pulled me into it was the community of artists in Portland. When I decided to fall back on an earlier hunch and join the graphic design program, I was pretty astonished at how inclusive and inspirational the community was. I believe it was those instructors and peers who were so involved, who helped me realize that I wanted to be apart of that world.

Q: Do you listen to music while you make art? What type of music?

A: I find it almost impossible to draw or design or whatever if I’m not completely immersed in an album. My mind wanders or I get bored if I don’t have music playing I think. I’m not picky, just whatever suits the state of mind that I’m in. A lot of the time thats means very, very loud screeching guitars that most of my buds don’t enjoy. BUT, I also love jazz and R&B to relax to if it’s been a long day.

Q: Do you have a favorite time of day to make art?

A: I like to think I can get work done in the mornings but I can’t. Almost all the fun stuff happens really late at night!

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

A: Right now, I’m neck-deep in illustrating 12 pieces for a 2019 Calendar in Cassandra Swan’s 210 course! The theme focuses on the the Yokai legends from Japan and each month will have a different Yokai character with a short explanation of the lore that surrounds them. I’m also trying to hack away at a comic project on the side, but besides sweating over portfolio work that’s about it!