It's New Year's Eve in Atlanta 2017, and 20,000 bass heads are screaming for Bassnectar. As the psychedelic light show at Basslanta makes the crowd looks like melted Skittles, artist Nick Scotella live-paints a groovy and swirling lotus flower. It's one of his first times doing it and the start of the next step in his career.
Scotella, a Denver native, played trumpet for his high-school marching band. Initially, he went to college for a music education, but ultimately studied classical oil painting under Cheryl Kline at the Kline Academy of Fine Art in Los Angeles. Today he continues with his artistic passions as a high school band director, marching band choreographer, visual designer and live muralist.
"It's pretty hectic for me right now," explains Scotella. Last week he played the Pretty Lights pre-party at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom. School started recently, and in a couple of weeks, Scotella is going to Hampton, Virginia, for Bassnectar's BASS CENTER XI: Return to the Mothership.
In 2017, Scotella only did three live paintings. He's done over forty this year so far and doesn't plan on slowing down. Almost every Wednesday at Cervantes', there's an EDM event called RE:Search. Several DJs and producers, such as GRiZ and Troyboi, are accompanied by a light show and live muralists. Scotella explains that there's a sign-up sheet for the painters.
Scotella has taken advantage of these local nights, but there's nothing regularly going on in town at the same level as Bassnectar's shows.
"It's intimidating and exhilarating all at the same time," says Scotella about painting at one of the popular bass producer's concerts.
"It’s like the Super Bowl of live painting," Scotella told Westword's Sage Marshall. "Bassnectar is really the one who is pushing this form of immersion art with the lights, the music and the painting. It’s more than just music and art; it’s this total environment that brings you into the music."
When painting, it's not just Scotella and the canvas. It's more than that. It's the music the DJ is playing. Scotella says that he "co-creates" with the DJ. It's also in the crowd and the energy they're sending out. Everyone is feeding off of each other, but Scotella says that "music is the motivating factor for all of the art."
Almost coincidentally, Scotella became a "Bassnectar artist." He was already drawn to the scene and enjoyed the music. Before Scotella went to one of Bassnectar's Freestyle Sessions, he wasn't even aware of live-painting. The Freestyle Sessions are an annual event that involves participants in all things creative, with a heavy emphasis on music. Scotella was inspired by the event and decided to start experimenting with some of his own paintings. With some encouragement from friends, he continued to paint Bassnectar-related art. Shortly after, he was one of eighteen selected artists to participate at Basslanta and painted at the next year's Freestyle Sessions. His painting from 2018's Freestyle Sessions is currently on display at the 1STBANK Center art gallery in Broomfield.
Right now, Scotella is in the "refinement" phase of his artistic career. He's refining his techniques and honing his style, aspiring to be unique. He mentions that he's recently reconnected with his classically trained painting roots after branching out into different techniques. "All I can say is that it's me. I don’t know how to define it other than to say this is what I do."
Because Scotella has a job that guarantees a steady paycheck, he's not under pressure to produce any artwork that he doesn't want to. With the freedom to explore his creative impulses, Scotella doesn't have to compromise. "Art is non-negotiable in my life," he says. "Everything I do in life has some artistic approach. Everything I'm involved in is art."
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As Scotella prepares to take on the Mothership at the beginning of next month, he reflects on the artistic process. He's happy with his current lifestyle and career. When speaking on the performance of live painting, he says, “It has nothing to do with the outcome of what you make, but it’s the process of art — that's the most important thing. Art is about the process."
For more information on Scotella and to see his art, visit his Instagram.