Artist of the Week: Nicholas Osella

Nicholas Osella embodies his city’s motto perhaps better than anyone else in town: “Keep Austin Weird.” As an artist, he’s coined his perspective “a kaleidoscope”; a lens that’s constantly shifting, infinite in its vibrancy and potential. Drawing from Austin’s culture of strange, his own personal experiences, and a budding narrative that evolves almost daily, Osella is an artist who is inspired by nearly everything he encounters. Creating under the moniker StudioWOS, Osella is on the riseas collage artist, art director, and so much more.

You know, being weird is an amazing ability to have, you don’t have to be complacent with the way things are—you see the world for not how it is, but for how it should be.

Tell us more about StudioWOS.

Well it goes back a bit further than just the collages and my recent work. I first started making these really funny drawings, or at least I thought they were funny, when I was in high school here in Austin. At first it was kind of just that—for a long time it was just stuff I made for myself, never showing anyone. Really off the top of the head stuff. It just happened. Things just happen for reasons I can’t explain and then when I’m working on something i’ll stand up and look at it and think, okay yeah that’s done. It’s weird to think about, but that’s just my process. Everything is very visceral and in my head. 

When I was in college, I studied at The University of Texas at Austin, I was a design major. I studied graphic design like every day, and was constantly making logos and studying Designers and looking up the history of typefaces. It was really monotonous, and I wish to some extent that I had studied visual art, because I really was an artist first and foremost, and was always making paintings in my room and that I never showed anyone. Sophomore year I joined this club called the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency. It was filled with all of these business type people really motivated to start a company and go work for themselves. I loved being in that environment because I fed off their energy of like, let’s build something because why the fuck not, we’re young and irresponsible. And I was like, hell yeah. I never really made anything of value, or had any business ideas that went anywhere, but being there helped me form ideas of my own that would influence other decisions later on. Speakers came to talk to us and it made me think, if they can create something and have it work, why can’t I do the same thing? You know, crazier things have happened.

While I was graduating, I kind of made the decision to build a thing that would be an extension of me. I didn’t know what it looked like at the time, but sure enough, StudioWOS is that thing. StudioWOS at this time is just my brand and the things that I get hired to make are what I market to people I can do for them. Someone might hire me to make installations for a movie, and then I’ll be known for that. Maybe I’ll record a song and then I’ll start making music. I don’t really know — there is so much out there in the world, it’d be a shame to limit ourselves to one thing. It’s only a matter of time before I start building rockets like Elon Musk. If he can do it, why can’t I? Spaceman Wossy, reporting for duty.

There is so much out there in the world, it’d be a shame to limit ourselves to one thing.

“Keep Austin Weird” is your hometown’s motto—how does that catch phrase play into your work?

I love that motto—it’s kind of the perfect thing to describe Austin. You know, we’re in the middle of a huge identity crisis right now. With Amazon potentially moving here soon, it’s going to change the whole idea of this place from a hippie commune to a tech-innovation hub. It’s really sad, and I’m fighting as much as I can to preserve the idea in my own head of the place that I grew up surrounded by. I think in my work I try and keep a narrative as much as I can, because memory has always been a huge part of why I create the work I do. I named my brand StudioWOS after my best friend, Jamie Goode, who died in 2009. It was my way of keeping his story intertwined with mine.

Keep Austin Weird is just something like a reminder of a memory that keeps going. This small town was at one time the center of all of this amazing music, and that’s where the slogan “Live Music Capital of the World” came from. People used to come to this city for something, and now, no one is even remotely aware of our history, though people still flock here for some remote semblance of the Weird. I could say a lot more, but maybe that’s for another day.

I think there are a lot of examples that I draw from this city. The buried meanings in everything, the history, and especially the creative energy where you can find it. Mostly, within the people. My favorite thing about Austin are the people. They’re just inherently good and full of experience. In my work, I believe in narrative, and good, honest art is representative of that. Story-telling and being able to have people digest what you give them.

What does being “weird” mean to you?

To me, I think being weird just means that you see the world through a really obscured lens than everyone else. Like a kaleidoscope. And that kaleidoscope is personal to who you are and no one else. It’s your way of seeing the world that no one else can get to, because of the things that make you, you. And everyone has different perspectives and backgrounds, but the way they process things makes them who they are. Being weird is just having a closer relationship with who you are. Like, the weirdest person I can think of is Mark Gonzales, skateboarder turned sovereign artist. I have zero clue of what makes him draw the things he does, or talks about what he does. Another example would be someone like Bjork. Like, what the hell is she thinking about everyday. I have zero clue but it’s really interesting.

It took me a long time to figure out what it was that made me different from everyone else—I used to be extremely complacent with things because of just who I was. It was until I started asking myself why things happen that I understood that I didn’t like the answers to the questions I was asking. So I just started making up my own answers and things started making more sense that way.

You know, being weird is an amazing ability to have, you don’t have to be complacent with the way things are—you see the world for not how it is, but for how it should be. You can actually go into the world with a different perspective to it all and challenge the way things are. You don’t have to just sit and take what life throws at you. What’s that quote about life giving you lemons?

What initially drew you to creating collages?

Last year, around springtime, I got really tired of what I had been making and I wanted to explore some other part of my creativity that wasn’t illustration. I guess I just got burnt out from doing it for so long that I drove myself to throw it away and start over with some other style.

I was thinking about this the other day actually—I started this with the idea that I wanted something different to exhibit my creativity through. It worked, because I think this is a great way to show what I have to offer the world. And if I gave it all up tomorrow I know I’d find some other way to show what I can do artistically, but it’s more about seeing what all I can squeeze out of it to see what it’s possible of. I’m not quite finished though, and I don’t think the bubble has really popped yet. It’s taking me somewhere and I’d love to see what place that is or what new art style that’s going to be. Just like I said in one of my previous answers, I don’t have much control over what I do and how I do it—it’s just about what the moment calls for. I love that about art. It’s so strange.

I don’t have much control over what I do and how I do it—it’s just about what the moment calls for. I love that about art. It’s so strange.

How do you hope to effect or influence people with your work?

I think above all, I hope to have a positive effect on people that in some way helps them. I really believe people were put on this earth at the time they were born because of a specific reason. Everyone has a destiny just like we have the ability to breathe—it sometimes takes people a long time to see what that thing they’re supposed to do is, but eventually everyone finds that one thing they’re amazing at. What I was born to do is to create beautiful things for people (including myself ) to enjoy. That’s what I believe.

I hope people look at my work and find a way to push what I’ve done farther. Whether that’s in concert installation or visual art, I hope I can be a force that not only helps contemporary art move forward, but also helps push art and music in future generations achieve a place of great depth. If not, then what are we doing? Making the same thing over and over again gets really boring. Find places of invention and act.

What’s next for StudioWOS?

That’s hard to say, because something new always comes up that sparks my interest. I want to see how far I can push the current projects I have going on—like the remixed books I sent you. Those are really fresh ideas, so I may end up doing a lot more of those kinds of projects. I really want to get into art direction and build out that muscle of StudioWOS as a true one-stop shop for musicians and companies. Making StudioWOS a full-time business is probably the next step professionally. I have business cards, so how hard could the next things be, right? Wishful thinking coming from an idealist.

Images courtesy of Levi

Stay tuned to Milk for more artists on the rise.

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