Nick Mijak strikes a unique balance in his one-of-a-kind art
By KIM HENRY
Rarely does one come across an artist whose work has two very distinct styles, reflecting two very distinct ways of experiencing the world. That’s exactly who we’ve found, meet Nick Mijak (pronounced my-jeck). From his ironic cartoons of existential crisis, to subtle watercolors of picturesque local scenes, Mijaks expression takes us from one world to another, and the journey is delightful, amusing and just that little bit dark.
Born in Michigan, Mijak moved to Wilmington in 2010 after visiting friends and falling in love with the city, the riverfront and of course, the friendly southern climate. Since then he has exhibited in various galleries around town including Art in Bloom, ACME, and currently has a showing at Bottega on 4th Street. He accepts commissions and can be found on Instagram. As a self-taught, full–time artist, Mijak is an inspiration to aspiring artists everywhere. “My education is in experience,” smiles Mijak surrounded by his impressive, yin-yang body of work. “It took being consistent and staying on my path, but I finally managed to make my art, my job.”
Never one to conform to the norm, painting outdoors is Mijaks passion. Settling himself on Front Street or River, his watercolor impressions capture the ever-changing light of a sunset or a random moment of activity that attracts his attention. Be it the farmers market, a rainy day or an interaction between passers-by, it is the atmosphere and immediacy of the moment that inspires his love of live art, and calls him to the great outdoors in order to create.
“Once it gets too dark to paint outside, I often head down to Front Street Brewery for a beer and then something else begins to happen,” smiles Mijak referring to the flip side of his artistic expression, his eclectic collection of cartoons. From his paintings of real life moments to a more imaginative and surreal picture, Mijaks cartoons are poignant, self-reflective and deliciously ironic. They include a love note for an old girlfriend, robots and rabbit, binary code and his childhood hero - Charlie Brown.
Mijak describes cartoons as his first love. As a child he was a comic geek, identifying with Charlie Brown and the marvel characters. He could always be found doodling and gradually developed his own style over time. “Charlie Brown is the Zen master! ‘Good grief Charlie Brown’ is just such a great expression,” laughs Mijak in reference to a self-portrait piece depicting Charlie Brown in his iconic striped shirt, along with the words, ‘Good grief Charlie Brown, Life’s a struggle.’ Mijak combines the surreal, with some good old-fashioned existential crisis humor to make you smile, feel and think.
Reoccurring themes along with the bunnies, robots, and Charlie Brown, is the phrase – Stop Driving! “Some of my cartoons are referring to the Zen practice of being more present and in the here and now. I began to explore that around ten years ago. There’s a bit environmentalism in there too! My robot guys are set in a future when humans are no longer around,” explains Mijak in his thoughtful manner. The ‘Stop Driving’ catch phrase is a gentle reminder to the human race to perhaps slow down, and stop destroying the planet.
It seems a little too connected to be a coincidence that Mijaks’ seemingly opposite styles are also inextricably linked. One is the very practice of a fundamental Zen principle and the other makes a comment on it - serene watercolors portray a particular moment in time, and many of the cartoons offer a witty perception about the nature of life. However, none of this was a grand life plan or conceptualized artistic vision that was meticulously manifested. It seems to have organically unfolded as Mijak continues to move through life to the rhythm of his own beat. So if you happen to see a guy out painting along the riverfront, not only will you know who it is, you may just end up in one of his pictures.