In an age where it seems every meal, emotional outpouring, vacation, influence, purchase and achievement is blasted out digitally for all to witness, Nick Baccari or as many know him, Mr. Babies has chosen a a much different path, and it's one that has seem him unfairly labelled as a recluse and an enigma.
The 36 year old collage artist, who for the past 5 years has resided in a cosy A-Frame cottage surrounded by the postcard red rock desert beauty of Sedona, Arizona, is far from a recluse. His choice not to saturate all the usual forms of social media platforms isn't to be seen as mysterious. It's his way of staying grounded and focused on the collage creations that have become synonymous with an art form that has grown considerably over the past 7-10 years, largely thanks to Instagram, Baccari's platform of choice.
In my experience, even the most casual observer of the collage world is familiar with his name and his perfect balance of colour, composition and imagery that rarely falls short of the mark. Armed with an old iPhone 5 and a tablet to photograph and post his work, Nick is operating relatively lo-fi and DIY. His recognizable style has gathered an army of imitators that draw heavily on his use of perspective and composition (some will say it's inspiration), but like any art form, it's pretty much done best by the originator.
Nick is about to uproot in more ways than one. His beloved home is being taken back by the owners, forcing him to find a new place to create in and he is also about to hold his first major public appearance, an undertaking he has mixed feelings about after choosing to be pretty low key for so long. He only opened an online store a year ago which seems crazy when you have a sizeable following that would happily snap up some Babies merch, but again, it speaks volumes about his character and the way he conducts his creativity without fanfare.
I wanted to undertake this interview with Mr. Babies as I noticed that Instagram artists (including myself) would ask each other questions about his work and workings and it seemed silly to postulate when i could just ask Nick in person. There aren't any interviews online I could see that dug deeper than the usual surface inquiries and there was more I wanted to know and to share here, to show that the elusive and reclusive tags were used by people wanting to create a myth rather than getting to know the real guy beyond the blade.
So it's an end of an era at your Sedona A-frame cottage. As much as you're probably sad to leave, are you excited to start again somewhere new? Do you think a new environment will impact on your work?
I embrace change and only think of it as an opportunity to expand and maybe delve into other creative outlets. I am going to have a lot more space in my new studio so that will give me the chance to organize better…which will surely make it easier to create. I would also love to start creating much larger pieces too. That has been a dream of mine forever, but space has been the limiting factor.
How would you describe your vibe? There seems a real mixture of hippy spirituality with a punk/diy attitude about you.
I think you hit the nail right on the head with that description. Since moving to Sedona, AZ about 8 years ago, my perspective has completely shifted. There is a huge new age/spiritual/hippy community here in Sedona so I have embraced that. I am originally from Texas where I was a bit of a punk…still am, but even more so. Somehow over time the two have melded together and now I am a mixture of those two things and much more.
How do you think people perceive you? What's the biggest misconception that people have about you?
I’m not sure how people perceive me and I really don’t care much because at the end of the day I know how I am and what I am capable of. I’ve never really paid any attention to things like that. I think the biggest misconception about myself would be….maybe that I work digitally? I work completely with paper, scissors and glue. No digital manipulation on my part at all. I get asked that a lot and it’s kind of unnerving.
Having said that, what are your thoughts on digital collage?
At first I had a strong disdain for the art form, but now I have a great respect for it. I appreciate the spontaneity of analog collage…since you really don’t know what you are going to find in a book/magazine, but I also appreciate being able to alter an image and kind of manipulate it in size and maybe color, the way you can do with digital collage. So I like the freedom that comes with digital collage and the plethora of images at your disposal, but I also like that limitation because it makes you think outside of the traditional box.
With such a large following, how do you manage to remain relatively private and underplay the notoriety?
It helps that I live in a small town, roughly 14,000 people, so that helps keep me pretty anonymous. I also don’t really post a lot of personal stuff. I will post a story here and there, but nothing that really sheds light on who I am as a person or what my private life is like. Sure you can assume what my life is like and how I live it, but only those really close to me truly know that. I am not on any other social media either. I think Facebook is really dangerous to me and I am very turned off by exposing every aspect of my life.
You created an online store a relatively short time ago. Considering the audience you have and therefore potential buyers, why did you wait so long to do so? I recall you feeling a bit mixed about it. How has it panned out and how successful has it been?
I am still pretty unsure about using a third party to service my prints and handle the cash flow of it all. I am not so much concerned with the financial aspect of it as much as the quality of the actual prints that the store delivers to customers. I want a product that I can be proud of delivering to customers and a product that the customer is proud to own. I’m not really sure I am living up to those standards right now, but hopefully soon I can start producing my own prints and posters.
Where did you meet your partner and does he ever wish you didn't sit at that desk so often cutting out shapes?
I met him here in Sedona…and I’m sure he would rather have me elsewhere, but I try to create when he is either at work or when he is off doing his own thing. Creating art is meditation for me, so he understands why I do what I do and it’s never been an issue.
I'll be totally honest here - I have a dislike for the amount of "tiny people on a landscape with a larger midground and then a space nebula as the sky or background" collages I see. You pioneered that style to a large degree and that in turn it spawned a plethora of imitators. Do you agree, and do you ever see others biting your style and wish they could be more original?
I do agree with you. I do see an awful lot of space themed collages, which drives me crazy, but I try to use the images sparingly…or in a different way than I have in the past so it seems new or different. I do wish people would be a little more original and try to shake it up and not do so many landscape collages, but I really do respect anyone who makes any type of art. Especially on a regular basis. It’s very important to flex your creative muscles. Even though some may see others as biting my style, I would also have to disagree and say that a lot of people have their own definite style when it comes to creating collages. I can usually tell who made what just by looking at it and not looking at the name above the image.
Do you feel a responsibility to give the audience what they may expect of you?
I feel the opposite to be honest. I feel a responsibility to give my audience something totally unexpected of me. I expect that of myself too. I always dislike the word expect as well. Expectations usually end up in some sort of disappointment.
Do you think that because you are well known that people assume you have "made it", and therefore don't require encouragement or nurturing?
Love this question. It’s also hard to answer. I think everyone, no matter what level of success, require some sort of encouragement and nurturing. It’s essential in creative development.
When was the last time you cried and why?
When I do cry it’s usually not a full on emotional outpour with tears streaming down my face. It’s usually pretty spontaneous actually that can be triggered by a smell, a sound or anything really. I think the last time this happened was while listening to a radiohead song, which I’ve listened to a hundred times…
What's your guilty pleasure when it comes to television/music/movies
I don’t really watch tv or very many movies. I go to the movie theater maybe twice a year? I think a big guilty pleasure is pop music. I love all varieties of music, but a well constructed and undeniable pop song usually makes me feel guilty for listening to it and causes me to turn the volume down at red lights and stop signs.
Whats your specialty dish that you know will impress people?
Ha! I don’t cook. I try, but usually fail unless it’s something super simple.
List 3 things that people would be surprised to learn about you
I can juggle.
I don’t eat meat
I’m a virgo
What's with all the crystals?
I believe in the metaphysical properties and they're pretty to look at.Any type of quartz or opal are my favourite. Quartz, Citrine, Tourmaline - all of them, as long as they're not treated or irridated.
Do you think collage has peaked as an artform? If not how far can it go?
I don’t know if it has peaked so to speak….because I think it definitely comes in and out of fashion, but I think the most recent peak of collage occurred when mainstream pop artists started incorporating pop collages in video and art work a la Coldplay and Lana Del Ray.
What do your family think of your artwork?
I don’t have much family so to speak….blood family, but my older sister is very supportive and loves what I do. My mother is amazed at my following but I don’t really think she spends too much time examining my work. My real family…friends and my boyfriend, are very supportive and are some of my biggest fans. On the flipside of that, I have lost several “close” friends because of my artwork. I really can’t explain why, but I really think it’s a blessing because those people weren’t really welcome into my life to begin with.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with having a large following on social media? For example, answering DM's, juggling all sorts of requests and dealing with flakes and weirdo's etc
I think that’s my biggest weakness and causes me a lot of anxiety. I am a natural people pleaser and I want to answer everyone and do what they ask of me, but it’s overwhelming really. I am the worst at collaborations. Most of the time I either don’t have enough time for it, or I hate using elements that I love in a collaboration effort. I guess that sounds kind of selfish, but that is the nature of working with vintage materials. Also answering all the requests for album art is a little stressful too. A lot of people want to use my stuff but don’t want to pay me for the image or my time in creating said image.
You come from a writing background, have you maintained that as a part of your life?
I have a creative writing degree from an accredited university in Texas but I rarely get to use my skills. I used to write a lot more than I used to, definitely. I still struggle with grammar and punctuation though. I have written 3 novels in my life and hope to write another before I part this world.
Do you ever see a day where you hang up the scissors and glue and try something else, or is collage your true love?
That’s a hard question to answer. I have been making collages since 2010 so I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon, but I definitely don’t see myself doing it as often as I have been. I think collage will always play a big part in my life, but I would really like to get into other creative directions. I really do love to draw and sing, actually.
How do you feel about being labelled "the collage king of the 21st century"?
I've heard a couple of people call me that…and it’s very humbling, but I don’t think I can take credit for that crown. I think it belongs to someone else really. Not sure who that is, but not myself. That might be the self doubt you are talking about though. I do, however, sometimes…reflect on a piece that I have made and think that it’s a wonderful piece of art, but on the other side of the coin, I look at a lot of stuff I’ve done and wonder how I’ve even allowed myself to post such rubbish. I’m still searching for a happy in between.
Do you have a library of pre-cut images that you jigsaw together or is it a matter of opening several different books and searching for the combination of images that appeal?
I have both actually. I have a giant stack of images on my desk at all times…mostly background, full size photos, and then I have separate pile of smaller cutouts, people, animals, other items that I piece together. Sometimes though I flip though books and find perfect matches and go from there. It’s all about spontaneity and how I’m feeling at the moment really. An organized chaos if you will.
Do you believe that no matter how good a composition, it comes down to colour combination and tonality?
I think that both matter equally, most of the time. I try to achieve both with my pieces anyway. I really like to create pieces that look like they were supposed to go together…so that means finding similar tones and textures to the pictures I use in the piece. That’s why it’s difficult for me to use newer magazines and books. The color and tone of the older photos are unmatched. Especially the old Kodachrome photos. Nothing matches the richness that those photos have.
I work under the rule that "if it feels good, do it". I get the impression that you finish a piece in a single sitting rather than ruminate on it - am I correct?
Yes that would be correct. I usually have a gut feeling that something is done and needs no further embellishments. That is usually the case though with much simpler pieces. When the piece is a bit more complicated and has more than 6 or so elements I can sit with it for a couple of hours, but every now and then I don’t trust my gut, or instinct, and I let the piece sit over night to make sure it’s how I envisioned it to look.
Glue sticks or nah?
I love glue stick. I would love to start using resin though and create some 3d effects.
What can collage let go of in 2018?
Space images…ha! No seriously, we can let go of ego and people who claim to have invented collage. There are a few out there who think that they have the right to every image ever made. We all use almost the same resources so there is bound to be some repetition. I would name names, but I’ll keep it classy.
You are going to make a public appearance soon. Tell me what made you consider this and how you're feeling about it
I am feeling very nervous and anxious actually. I am a very private person and suffer a bit from social anxiety so the thought of people coming up to me with questions like “but what does it mean?” is kind of unnerving, but I am a firm believer in stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Plus I’ll probably be stoned out of my mind so it shouldn’t matter.
You have to give up smoking weed or making collages....choose one
Let’s just say that I’ve gone a day or two without creating a collage, but it is very seldom that I go a day without smoking.
Any grand plans for future endevours? A coffee table book of your art would be nice to see.
I live in the present and don’t really take much stock in the future, but you can’t help but plan for it I suppose. I would love to start my own company and have prints made of my material and maybe a few other artists. I would also love to show in some galleries outside of Arizona. Making larger scale pieces with resin is also at the top of the list.
Mr. Babies will be appearing at The Red Bench Gallery in Jerome, AZ - Saturday August 4th signing prints and answering any questions you may have.