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Home » Nick Bultman || Velocity Painting

Nick Bultman || Velocity Painting

    By July 2021, Nick Bultman had worked in engineering and sales for several years; he had earned a degree in Industrial Technology; he had gotten used to wishing that he had a creative outlet, and not knowing if he’d ever find one.

    In August 2021, he decided to start painting, and started an Instagram page to share his artistic endeavors with the few people who followed him before it was cool.

    Today, in June 2024, Nick’s art is a phenomenon. He has almost a million followers across Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook, he’s completed his first solo exhibition (at the legendary Red Eight Gallery in London), and his unique adventures with Velocity Painting have captivated and inspired, inflamed and encouraged millions.

    “Archaeoxys”. Nick Bultman, July 2023.

    This isn’t a movie script, though we think it will become the basis for one someday. Join us as we look at how Nick worked countless hours to carve out his own niche in the art world.

    Beyond the Algorithms

    Nick’s current favorite painting was also the statement piece to his first solo exhibition, and gave it its title. Beyond the Algorithms, created in August 2023,is a powerful abstract piece that invokes flame and shadow and color and perspective; it is a culmination of everything Nick has learned since 2021. 

    “Beyond the Algorithms”. Nick Bultman, August 2023.

    Beyond the Algorithms stands out for several reasons:

    1. It was the largest piece Nick had ever attempted: A four-foot-by-five-foot monster, acrylic on canvas, Beyond the Algorithms is huge in both size and scope. It presented a unique challenge, one that daunted him. He was also working under pressure; the big exhibition in London was just a couple of months away, and it needed a really compelling centerpiece.

    2. It was a demanding problem to solve: To execute his vision, Nick knew that he would have to use every technique he had ever learned; and scale up each technique to create Beyond the Algorithms

    3. There was uncertainty: Intuitive velocity painting is always unpredictable, and even Nick never quite knows how it will turn out. He had the color scheme and gradient in mind, of course – dark at the top, lighter at the bottom – but the final result was still not entirely in his hands.

    4. Nick was able to execute his vision: Even with the unpredictability built in, Nick was able to deliver what he had imagined – a floating object touching the ground. He knew that he would have to master the splashy motions required to invest the piece with power and mystery; when it came to it, he was in the zone, and 20 minutes were all that were needed to complete the splashes. It felt organic, like it was meant to be.

    5. The planned and the unplanned came together to create magic: Nick enjoys the paradox of his artistic creations – where the unpredictable paint splash segment is followed by intricate paint pushes with a feathering brush, precise digital renders (up to 15 hours, for Beyond the Algorithms), and overlaying geometry over the emerging artwork. He particularly loves the color palette he settled on for this piece; the orange / gray combination is not one he works with a lot, but it speaks to his soul.

    6. The digital rendering stage threw up interesting possibilities: During the final phase, Nick loved the 3D glass-shaped refraction effect that emerged within the fourth or fifth really good render. 

    One of the things we love about this piece is how incredibly detailed it is. Look carefully, and you can almost imagine that you are in an alien futuristic world, where curving bridges span parsecs of space, and cities with billions of people – powered by the beating human heart of innovation – create scything eternal monuments to their glory.

    Of course, Beyond the Algorithms would go on to become a statement piece for Nick in more ways than one, demonstrating how human ingenuity and creativity and biomechanical motion could be harnessed by one artist to create something vital and powerful and spirited, in contrast to the sterile world of art generated by an Artificial Intelligence algorithm. Through this piece and the associated exhibition, Nick wanted to show the importance of human intuition in art, emphasizing how art made by humans holds real meaning. But before we talk about the exhibition, let’s look at the early days, and how Nick got his start in the art world.

    First Steps and Formative Influences

    Nick never went to art school, and he has no formal training in color theory or painting. When he started sharing his art with the world in August 2021, his initial growth was frustratingly slow – both in terms of the techniques he was able to employ, and the number of people who followed his social media art pages.

    But he kept on at it, trusting the process, and that the quality of his art would find an audience. And it did, in February 2022 – a simple paint pour reel blew up, and his followers skyrocketed from 10K to 30K overnight. He seized the day, and made sure that he gave his new followers more and more of his art to sink their teeth into. His initial art philosophy was “Show, Don’t Tell”, and he kept sharing art that was genuinely meaningful to him, knowing that it would resonate with his people. His art style has evolved tremendously since those early days, but he hasn’t deleted his old pictures and videos: they are part of his journey, and they allow fans to follow his story.

    By 2023, he had refined his understanding of his art, and now seeks to find the perfect balance between the organic intuitive part of himself, and the precision that forms another integral part of his soul. For the longest time, Nick never saw art as a career; he studied and worked in engineering as a way to make money. But when he opened himself up to the possibility of being a full-time artist, he was able to satisfy his creative side as well, and proved to himself that it could work. At the same time, his engineering skills helped him learn 3D modeling and the other softwares he needed to plan his art pieces, and his problem solving skills helped him break down and execute his grand visions.

    “Mirage”. Nick Bultman, March 2024.

    As he started to develop his own style, Nick found that parts of his past came back to help him. For example, he comes from a family of athletes, and has himself participated in track and field events. The biomechanics of the flow state when he is painting, those few minutes when the paint pour happens to create the core of the velocity painting, are informed by his athletic training. He has learned not to think too much, and to trust in his body as a utensil. 

    And he found that his innate desire to push the limits of what he thought was possible fit right in with his new career. When he is in a truly confident flow state, he is able to push through his insecurities, overcome his weaknesses, and revel in the addiction to the cycle of improvement. When a new piece comes into the world, he sometimes cries with the sheer joy and pride of being able to show it to everyone. He has also discovered that staying in the flow state requires work; Nick socializes with friends, finds other avenues of self-expression, and connects with important people – specially his wife, who is his biggest supporter, she tells him when he’s caught lightning in a bottle, discusses names with him, and has always trusted that he would make it. Her positive energy was a huge help when he made the most risky move of his life – giving up a safe stable career for one that he didn’t even know would be able to support him. She believed in the dream from Day 1.

    Social Media

    Nick is a social media phenomenon, and hundreds of thousands of people flock to his posts on Instagram and TikTok to share their interpretations of his art, and to tell him how special it is. Funnily enough, his experience with these platforms has, in a sense, melded the precise and the organic; he has learned to work beyond the algorithm.

    Of course, he has come to understand the algorithms over time, and has noted their evolution. For example, he seeks to tell a visual story when he posts reels on Instagram; he does not show every detail of the process, opting to leave out the masking tape and the digital renders and the projectors when they don’t serve the overall purpose – that of introducing viewers to the piece in a minute, and to evoke emotions in them.

    But he is also not a slave to the algorithm; his art is a long term calling, and he seeks to make sure that his pages have a human component to them. He usually doesn’t post unless he has a new piece to share, and he doesn’t put up an endless parade of reels; his followers-to-posts ratio is 4000, which is very high indeed. But when someone spends time to type out a long comment, he makes sure that they feel heard and appreciated. When someone reaches out to him for advice via DM, he does his best to help. Nick thinks that this might be a lesson from his stint in the corporate world, where he learned to listen to clients and customers, and to value their opinions. His pages are safe spaces, and there is encouragement and inspiration.

    When Nick started, he didn’t know what exhibitions were, he had no contacts, he didn’t really know much about the art world. For a year, he was a social media artist. After his work started to attract a large following on Instagram, he was approached by a gallery that worked with emerging artists, and this working relationship was to culminate in his first solo exhibition.

    Beyond the Algorithms – the Solo Exhibition

    When Nick signed up with a gallery in August 2022, he was told that he could expect a solo exhibition in about a year, and they were as good as their word. Beyond the Algorithms opened on September 14, 2023, at the Royal Exchange in London, and was open to the public for six weeks. It was a very important epoch in his career, marking the first time he was to make the transition from the world of social media, where his art first made a splash, to the real world of art galleries and in-person buyers and meetings with collectors. He was nervous at first, but the amount of work involved made sure that he was kept busy.

    Nick wanted to exhibit between 15 and 20 works at the show. Between February and September 2023, he worked very hard, creating a new piece every two weeks on average. Some of his clients who had already bought paintings from him were generous enough to allow him to exhibit those pieces, and he was able to have 18 paintings at the show, half of which were for sale. Now that everything was in place, Nick prepared to fly out, but there were more surprises to come.

    Beyond the Algorithms was a big deal for Nick – not only because it was his first solo exhibition, but also because everything was new. He was going from never displaying any of his art in person to a full public display, one for which many of his friends and family members were flying out to London. For some of them, it was their first international trip, and they were all proud and excited to support his ascension to the big time. Nick felt the pressure, and things were intense. For example, just before he was to leave, he went for a haircut, and the results were – to put it mildly – not ideal. The stress was so high at that point that he burst into tears in front of his wife. Soon after that, during the flight, he sent an email to the gallery in London asking if they could hang the paintings in a certain configuration. They replied saying that the pictures were already on the walls, and that nothing could be done. 

    This actually taught Nick a valuable lesson, that of trusting the process, and trusting his partners in the art gallery to get the logistics right. He has always been fiercely individualistic, starting from when he was a solo athlete, but has started to appreciate the value of leaning on trusted shoulders when needed to get to the next level. He has always gone fast by going alone, but now he’s going far by going with a team.

    And the show was a huge success.

    Even though Nick was a little tired during the exhibition, the feedback was uniformly positive. During the big opening night, he even indulged a little too freely in the champagne, and couldn’t give a speech. Of course, the gallery CEO made the speech on his behalf, and it ended up being one of the greatest experiences of Nick’s life. The exhibition was also very important for his career; the networking opportunities were fantastic, and he feels that his reputation as a serious artist has been cemented by that experience, and the ability to meet clients face-to-face and take pictures with them. He is already thinking of ideas for his next exhibition, and the future is bright.

    Names and Titles

    To us, the names of Nick’s paintings are works of art in themselves; they anchor the pieces, and they have deep meaning. If you look at a few of his piece titles – Psionic Premonition, Astrosingularity, Maelstrom, Neonic Parallax, Mirage, Exordium, Collisions of Lucidity, Osprey – they are mysterious and powerful and vast and often evoke dynamic motion and action, all qualities that are associated with Nick’s visual art.

    Nick chooses his pieces’ names very carefully. To him, they anchor the energy of the pieces they represent. A choice that’s completely off topic will not work. Similarly, one that is too specific might tie the viewer to a particular idea that they might not initially have had. Therefore, he prefers to choose something appropriate but vague.

    For example, with Vyrestorm, Nick loved that it started with a V. To him, the aesthetic of the name is important, and the letter V is powerful and angular. The Vyrestorm name is one that is instantly associated with power and energy and struggle, even though it’s not technically a word! And this is another advantage – a unique name that still makes sense is really good for SEO, because it will only ever be associated with that painting online. Nick likes his painting titles to be one word long if possible, because that reduces confusion. He has a list of 250 words in his phone that resonate with him, of which he’s used 50 as the nuclei of artwork names so far. He keeps adding to it, noting down words from biology and technology and economic terms and scientific principles and entropy that speak to him.

    How Nick uses color

    Nick spends as much time on experimenting with color palettes as he does on planning the overall piece. Here are our thoughts on two of his pieces: one from May 2024, and one from May 2023.

    Exordium shares stylistic characteristics with its sibling canvases, but what makes this piece distinctive is the more obvious contrast of warm and cool color palettes. Dividing the 30×40 in canvas evenly between shades of fiery warmth and the cooling cold of winter, Exordium is an excellent title for a piece that brings to mind a collision between contrasting colors, given that word itself is associated with the beginning. Moreover, the shapes are reminiscent of robotic bodies entangled in an almost-ouroboric embrace–allowing for an openness in interpretation by the viewers of whether the ‘beings’ entangled in question are friend, foe, or somewhere in between. 

    In Monarch, Nick balances and angles his splashes of color so that they appear to be part of a tornado made from shades of the sky in different moods; swirling and shifting in splatters of paint, a true dance of colors on his canvas. Monarch manages to walk the tightrope between timeless and futuristic, from the 2D splatters and neon-esque strokes, to the 3D textured burnt orange ‘curves’ that tie the piece together and highlight its majesty. 

    Notes on the Process

    One thing that makes Nick’s process unique is that he’s essentially created an athletic version of painting.

    Before he starts the pivotal part of his painting splash process, he makes sure that he’s very tuned in, emotionally, and conscious of his energy at the time. He rests well, he lifts weights, and talks to himself, psyching himself up to get in the zone. He feels very lucky to have a dedicated garage dojo where he works, and it’s very like a track and field event in there sometimes. He practices the motion till he’s got the swing internalized in his bones and muscles; he sometimes makes two or three attempts with extra paint, just to make sure everything is right.

    He also watches a lot of tape, just like an athlete would – only, in his case, he’s watching his own earlier attempts, looking at what parts of the throw worked and what didn’t, trying to back-engineer the perfect body motion so that he can practice it over and over again till it’s part of him. It feels like high performance theater at some points, and it can take a lot out of him. Fitness is a big part of keeping in shape so that he can be the best Velocity Artist he can be, and Nick loves to play golf in his free time.

    His training as an engineer also helps in that he’s always tinkering and trying to make incremental improvements in his process; he is always resourceful and willing to learn new techniques. He spends money on materials to find the best combination, and every piece is a result of hundreds of hours of thought and physical exertion and careful attention to detail. In less than three years, he’s been able to do something he once thought was impossible – make a career in art; Nick is grateful and excited for what the future holds.

    Nick would like to thank…

    …his wife, who has encouraged him throughout his artistic journey, who believed in him every step of the way. He is also grateful to all his friends and family members who have supported his artistic endeavors.

    Nick is also deeply thankful to all his followers on social media. People who reach out to him to say that they have been inspired, people who engage with his content, people who say that his work has reignited their love of and desire to create art – all of them make him realize that sharing his own experience can have a positive effect on others. Many artists shared their experience of working with galleries and selling their work with Nick when he was coming up; in their honor, he is now happy to mentor upcoming artists whenever he can.

    Nick also has several logistics partners in Arizona who always deliver when he needs them – Gila Monster Printing and Muzeo Prints. He is currently represented by Mavericks Gallery, and is hard at work on his second major show.

    Links

    Website: https://nickbultmanart.com/

    Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/nbultman_art/

    TikTok Page: https://www.tiktok.com/@nbultman_art

    YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/c/nickbultman

    Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/p/Nick-Bultman-Art-100082632886789/.