Nate Schnell is new to San Diego. A few years ago, he packed up and moved from Austin, Texas, to a small mountain town in Colorado (full disclosure: Schnell showed his work at my gallery while I lived in Colorado).
Schnell sold all of his art and screen-printing gear for the big move; by the time he reached San Diego late last year, he'd already pressed the reset button and was just getting into his artwork again. He'd become known for his mixed-media silk-screen pieces while in Austin, but the move forced him to get back to basics.
“So, now I'm back to square one,” Schnell says. “Back to drawing.”
Now that he's been drawing for awhile, though, Schnell says he's ready to move on and start experimenting with different printing techniques again. He's begun investigating the process of creating woodblock prints.
Schnell says he digs the meditative quality of drawing and likes the opportunities for the serendipitous mistakes that come with the free-hand technique, but he says he has printing in his blood—even his drawings, he says, have echoes of the printing process. Take “Good Lurks,” the piece on CityBeat's cover this week: The red splotch of color purposely expands well beyond the boundaries of his lines.
“That comes from printing,” he explains. “I like that off-registration look.”
Several of Schnell's drawings are hanging at The Loft at UCSD through March 27. Most of the pieces in the exhibition show off the young artist's interesting, often minimalist use of color, his affinity toward yellowed, found paper or other repurposed canvasses and his nearly impeccable lines, which sometimes look as if they're one continuous loop.
“Maybe it's from all those years behind the Etch A Sketch,” he laughs, brushing off a compliment on his line work. “That was such a magical toy at a young age.”
Another commonality in Schnell's work is his affinity for incorporating photographs of a city's recognizable sites. In one of his pieces, he has a pink monster towering over one of the Spanish colonial buildings in Balboa Park.
“It's bringing things to life,” Schnell says. “I guess I like to bring things I imagine to life.”
With “Good Lurks,” it was a rainy, cold day in Colorado and Schnell found himself starting to think about the sun that would eventually emerge from behind the clouds. He was sort of surprised by his own optimism.
“I have been a negative asshole for the past year or so,” Schnell said about the piece. “I was eluding to the fact that good lurks. I'm too young to be an old curmudgeon.”