Nikko Washington talks influences, political artwork, .Wav Theory, and more



What’s up man, introduce yourself to the people

What’s going on, my name is Nikko Washington. I’m a 23-year-old artist of many mediums who was born and raised in Hyde Park.

How was life growing up?

Growing up, life was fun, as I stated I was raised in Hyde Park and Hyde Park definitely made me who I am, the permission walls, the boutiques, and the culture in general raised me. I was lucky to be raised by my family, my parents always looked out for me.

At what age did you begin to find your creative talents?

Honestly, I don’t recall it being a specific age. I come from an artistic rooted family, as my mom was an artist as well. Ever since I could remember people were always telling me that I could draw and had talent.

What was the first medium you got involved with?

I first got into drawing, and that transitioned into painting. As I got a bit older I got involved with graphic design and screen-printing.

As you were first getting involved with art who were some of your biggest inspirations?

My mom was one of my first biggest inspirations as she helped teach me a lot early on. Being a black artist, Jean-Michael Basquiat played a huge inspiration, not only with his art, but how much he showed society. Warhol was another inspiration early on.

Now as you’ve developed as an artist, where do you draw inspiration from now?

Now I’m really inspired by African-American Contemporary Artists such as Glenn Ligon, Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshall, and Kadir Nelson.

Youssoou N’Dour said, “Politics is politics; art is art. If you play a political role, you have to stop being an artist.” How do you feel about that, especially since we see a lot of politics in your artwork?

I can’t agree with that statement at all, you can’t separate politics and art. First thing I’ll say is that art is reactionary. If I witness oppression, that’s something I’m going to incorporate into my artwork.  With my artwork, I try not to do too much political pieces; I tend to focus more on police brutality, and police violence. Hence why I made that piece, “Police are the worlds biggest gang.” My art represents what I feel in the moment and what I’m consistently witnessing.

How was your college experience at School of the Art Institute?

I learned when I was a JR that I didn’t really need college. School taught me how to find my direction with my art and myself. I first went to an art school up in Wisconsin and left because I felt like I wasn’t challenged. I then transferred to the Art Institute and got challenged by one of my professors. I turned in one of my projects that I knew I didn’t do too good on, he pulled me to the side after class and told me that I was better than that project, and he didn’t want me to just slide through college. Once he told me that, I was on a mission to create some of the best work I would ever make. That professor gave me the drive and realization that I had the talent to make a career with Art. That was an important time in my life, because for once I felt like I had somebody in my corner pushing my artwork and me. Make sure you have people supporting you and pushing you because you can’t make it alone.

You are currently SaveMoney’s Art Director, when did you first meet the Save Money dudes?

I’ve known these dudes basically my whole life we all grew up together. I’ve known Vic since I was 5, Sterling Hayes since 4. I was able to meet Chance and Reese in middle school. Savemoney then came together from all of us constantly hanging out together and having the same mentality.

How did you go from being friends to then transitioning into their Art Director?

Basically just growing up with them. Kami was the first dude in the crew that I actually designed a cover for. After Kami I started to design for Joey Purp, Towkio, and Vic.

On top of working with SM, we see you working with JoeFreshGoods. How did you guys develop a relationship?

Joe is the big homie, he always was a inspiration to me growing up. When I was growing up, my friends and I used to always go into LDRS, and Joe, Rello, and Vic would always be working. With those guys being older, they would always look out for us as youngins. As I grew up and started to make a name for myself in this world, Joe saw my work and reached out to me to work on his new collection. The first product we designed was the Yeezus shirt. Right after Kanye’s VMA speech I knew Joe was going to text me about an idea, and that he did. We then made the design in 30 minutes. Working with Joe has been awesome, a true organic relationship.

How’s it feel knowing that your one of the top designers people want to work with?

It’s pretty tight actually. I’m just having fun with it, if it’s not a fun project, I don’t want to work with it. I love whom I work with now.

Take us through your creative process

My process for Design and Painting are different. When it comes to designing, after I’ve discussed with the brand/customer I’m already forming ideas in my head. Sometimes I will begin sketching out ideas, but for the most part I take those ideas right to Illustrator and begin sketching.

Painting is different. Usually I’ll have a concept, but it never ends the way it started. I’m always fighting with my paintings, it’s more of a long stretched out process than designing.

You’ve discussed before that .Wav Theory was your favorite project you’ve worked on. Has that feeling changed?

Nope, it’s still my favorite project. In my opinion, it’s still the cleanest project I’ve ever done. A close second would be No Name’s cover I designed. In an interview with Greenlabel Nikko said, “At one point, Towkio had a different direction: he wanted it to encompass ocean waves, but as we talked about it, it transformed into a conversation about sound waves. Each song on that project also has a different cover, which is one thing I liked a lot.” 

At one point you were looking to steer away from album art, have you worked your way back into designing album art again?

I haven’t completely steered my way out yet. I’m in the process off working my way out, but I’m still involved with the project. I’m more focused on the art direction for the covers, where we have the designers do the cover artwork.

Does your art reflect who you are?

Definitely, as in it’s all over the place. (Laughs)

When it’s all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as a good person and as a recognizable artist. I want people to remember me for my art and that I lived my life to the fullest, always remaining humble and staying myself.

Written By: Nicholas Rud