2012 Snapshot Archive: Nick Stathopoulos

First published at David McDonald’s blog.

Nick Stathopoulos was born in 1959. The son of Greek migrants, he grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney and spent way too much time drawing in front of the b&w television.

A graduate of Macquarie University, he is a founding member of the Illustrator’s Association of Australia, and has worked as an artist for over thirty years in film, television, animation, and book publishing.

He is a multi-award winning illustrator – including eight Ditmars, a Gold Penguin Television Award for art direction – and is a multiple finalist in the prestigious Archibald and Doug Moran Portrait Prizes with his hyper-realistic portraits.

Nick exhibits his fine art regularly, and his obsession with pop-cultural icons and his collection of die-cast and collectible toys have taken on a new life as the subject of a series of one-man shows calledToy Porn at the NG Art Gallery in Chippendale.

He now spends way too much time drawing in front of the LCD television, only this time running DVDs of the same old shows he watched as a child.

Congratulations on once again making the list of finalists for the Archibald Prize! How do you go about picking subjects for portraiture? Are there particular qualities you are looking for? What statement were you trying to make with this year’s entry?

Thank you. It’s always a big deal to make the Archibald finalists. My Archibald portraits are personal projects, and they seem to be taking longer to paint every year. As for chosing a subject; it can be tricky. Celebrity plays a significant factor. I remember discussing this with art critic John McDonald, that the Archibald is a popularist show, and unless your sitter is a celebrity, your chances of selection are dramatically reduced. That notwithstanding, I have a mental shortlist of people that I think would be interesting to paint for various reasons. The Archibald is a great way to meet all my heroes! This year’s sitter, Fenella Kernebone was chosen because she’s immeresed in the media arts world, is familiar to veiwers, and has a really charismatic presence. The rather literal message of this year’s entry “Art does belong” is a response to the ABC canceling its local arts programming.

Looking back at previous Snapshots, you’ve mentioned your desire to make a film based on the life of the aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira. Has there been any progress in realising this dream? What is it that attracted you to Mr Namatjira’s story?

This project is my most heart-aching failure. Altho the film received a significant grant from the SA Film Corp to tie up all the permissions from the extended family and it looked like it was happening at the time of the previous Snapshot, the Namatjira film is in limbo. I always thought his life story would make a great film. The failure of this project to get up is a major source of frustration and despair. I’m now working on a short monster movie for Tropfest which I’m hoping might be a calling card for a bigger project. At least I hope to get this one finished.

One of my first exposures to your art was your incredible “Toy Porn” Exhibition, which spoke both to my inner child AND my inner geek. Do you have any projects coming up that will incorporate elements of the fantastic, or that touch on speculative fiction?

The TOY PORN shows have been extremely popular. I received a huge amount of favourable publicity which I’m delighted with. I’m about to start work on TOY PORN 3 which is slated for April next year. I think that’s going to be my last exhibition of paintings based on my extensive toy collection, at least at the NG Art Gallery in Chippendale. They’re very labour intensive paintings.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m no longer reading any fiction let alone local work. There’s too much out there and I can’t keep up with any fiction to be honest. I used to read lots, particularly if it was a manuscript for a cover I was working on. I also enjoyed reading works by my friends, but frankly, I just don’t have the time or the inclination anymore. I’m just too busy working on my own projects.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I’m not sure if the genre has become more marginalised or whether it’s now so ubiquitous as to render fandom irrelevent. The face of publishing has changed dramatically over the last ten years. It’s taken a while, and there has been a great deal of resistance from publishers, but e-books/publishing have finally challenged the hard copy book as the prefered delivery system. We’ve seen the rise of small ’boutique’ publishers geared directly to serving a specific fan base. The major publishers have consolidated themselves and their products along demographic lines. We see less hard SF published and more high fantasy written for, by, and published by (older/mature age) women…whereas once upon a time it was predominantly a college-age male dominated scene. Fandom has also taken a hit. The traditional Worldcon is no longer the premier event…certainly not in terms of attendance figures. We’re seeing fandom (as I knew it) aging and dying. Technology has rendered the fanzine obsolete. In fact, as a one-time cover artist, I feel sidelined and utterly obsolete. When I was younger I dreamed of being Chris Foss or Bruce Pennington or Michael Whelan. But the reality as been a bitter, harsh, and ultimately futile struggle. I find myself often wishing I had pursued a fine art career a lot earlier in life. But it’s all been grist for the mill.

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