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The Legend of Nick: Self-Taught Maverick Masters the Crafts of Graffiti, Digital, and Tattoo Art

By Dawn Dubriel

Nick Legend is a prolific artist from Miami, Florida. You can see his murals depicting various characters from Alice in Wonderland sprawled over the walls of Wynwood. He began with graffiti murals, painting, digital painting, and lately works as a tattoo artist. Like his name suggests, he has a legendary style and unforgettable quality to his work. I met Nick via MySpace many moons ago as we are in the same circle of friends within the south Florida art scene. I remember him clearly as a gifted and respectable talent who helped friends turbo-boost their campaigns by creating original indie-magazine cover art, remembrance digital paintings for dear friends who’ve passed on, and tattoos created with vibrant elegance. In fact, he is the only person I would trust or hire if I decided to get a tattoo, or two. Ever the eloquent gentleman, he spared an evening to speak with thalo to uncover the man and mystery behind the enigmatic legend of an artist.

thalo: How did you get the name Legend?

Nick Legend: My Grandfather and I would play chess and I could never beat him. When he passed of cancer, he told me to be legendary in the game. Considering that combined with the fact that I liked and grew up with the game “Legend of Zelda” and loved the old 1984 fantasy movie called Legend, I decided to lock the name down and use it as my artistic alias.

th: Tell us about your journey as an artist.

NL: I have always been an artist since childhood, always took my art serious, knew I had to put in the hard work, and strive to be my best by studying and researching. I started doing graffiti in elementary school and I kept doing it on the side well in to my 30's. I went the mural route using spray paint and airbrush to paint walls in residential and commercial properties. I also airbrushed everything except automobiles in my late teens and early 20's. The graffiti art was a great experience, especially in my youth. I did my share of illegal stuff, got caught, crucified, and then went on to use my skills to help better my community. I quickly realized that although destruction and adventure was fun, it was much better to build instead of destroy. Graffiti art is now the “everything art” where anything goes. I watched the culture change from the different types of spray paint people use to the type of art they are doing with it. Apparently, anything anyone does with spray paint now is considered graffiti art. I grew up in a time when there were rules, politics, and certain styles to the game. I'm glad I had that experience. I branched out from the graffiti art into the traditional arts, teaching myself to paint in various mediums, and then I went on to work digitally.

th: Indeed you’re a thoroughbred artist with authentic, edgy influences. I bet that helps create amazing digital work. Please tell us about your digital artwork. 

NL: I worked at Broward College as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator for a little over 6 years. I taught myself Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Painter, and some 3D software like Carerra and Zbrush, and the printing end as well. I was heavily immersed in Digital Painting with Jeff Dekal in 2006/2007. Jeff and I had sat down and looked at a really cool King Kong the movie concept art book, and we awed over how the artwork was done. We knew it had to be more than paint and brush. It turned out it was all done digitally, and Jeff and I jumped on digital train and barely looked back. To this day, digital art is my preferred medium.
I love just putting on some good music and zoning out to a good digital painting piece that I am working on. It's a great medium to learn how to make an image in, but people like and understand original art, and I don't think that will ever change no matter how incredible technology gets.

th: How did you get into tattoo art?

NL: I picked up the tattoo trade in 2003 as an emergency plan in case things didn't work out for me in the digital world of art. Drawing and painting has always been my passion, so this seemed like a good move in the right direction.
I have tattooed for the past 6 years full-time, and have been involved part-time for 8 years, so all together 14 years of experience. I didn't hesitate to bring my digital skills with art on the computer into the tattoo game and started using the computer to setup tattoo compositions and designs as early as 2004. I was ridiculed and criticized by many in the tattoo industry for doing so because they were accustomed to doing things the long hand and traditional drafting way. The tattoo industry has been very hard on me and it was probably harder because I wouldn't conform to getting all tatted up as an artist. I came to the tattoo industry to do my art, not be an attention whore. I plan on bailing from the tattoo industry as a full-time artist and going to work as an electrician. I may continue tattooing part time on the side if the industry permits. I will continue doing my art on the side as a hobby / side work commissions, pertaining to various media and lots of drawing and painting.

th: What inspires you?

NL: I am inspired by the world around me and beyond. I take in visually iconic things around me and redirect and reflect them in my work. I love all forms and styles of art. I like a lot of old Italian and Greek stone work and ornamental stuff, along with mythology and other fantasy based stuff. Nature is of course a huge inspiration to me and as an Earth sign, I hold the trees, water, and wind elements dear to me. I have a couple artists I admire but there are so many it just becomes a list of names. I find amazing artists everyday on Instagram that are inspiring enough alone.

th: What will you blow our minds with next?

NL: I work a lot as a tattoo artist and give my clients the best work for the best price. I do plan to start traditionally painting again. Now, it's time to transition all that knowledge from out of the computer back into paint and brushes on to canvas and other materials.

To contact Nick Legend for a commission, reach out to him on Facebook:

All photos courtesy of Nick Legend.