The Psychedelic Pop Art Portraits of Nicky Barkla

”For any painter, an artwork is like a little secret, it holds many hours of life – many feelings and hours are poured into one still image. A piece of art can hold worlds of words never spoken”.

Australian Artist Nicky Barkla uses painting to explore her fascination with the hidden vulnerabilities that we as humans disguise behind social constructs. Vibrant colors dance within fantasy worlds. Her pieces show depth and details only possible when countless hours of passionate expression are funneled into one point . We caught up with Nicky to learn more about her life as a creator.


What is the inspiration behind depicting iconic faces in your artworks?
My inspiration behind depicting iconic faces is found in the layers that construct the characters and the sides that seem to hide away. I like to light the characters or personalities in different emotional hues, things you might only see behind closed doors.


What pushed you towards the life of an artist?
The life of an artist came about without much awareness at the time. I never endeavored to learn to paint nor had I found specific inspiration prior.

I  didn’t give the process much thought I admit. I’m a self-taught painter. Learning the rules of painting felt a bit like a chore and couldn’t really hold my attention long. I think when one starts reading the rule books they in turn restrict what’s possible.

What is your favorite part of being an artist? 
My favorite part about being an artist is being able to transform any thoughts into a different form. I love being able to create worlds beyond reality and plant the seeds of many ideas in one still image.


One of the greatest perks is being able to inspire others to express themselves. I get students around the world tell me they’ve chosen my art to study in their classes. It’s incredibly flattering being able to inspire another person to pick up a paint brush.

What does making art give to you that keeps you coming back for more?
Sometimes art gives me nothing but frustrations! It’s always a challenge, perhaps a hint of modesty plays a role but I sometimes find it difficult to take credit for talent. I’m aware that one artwork may take me hundreds of hours – perhaps it’s not talent but rather mere hard work!

I believe painting is a learned skill, anyone can paint if they desire to. 

Do you have a mentor or idol that you look up to?
I don’t have a mentor or an idol specifically. My list of admiration seems to change and grow constantly. I’m a very disconnected person. The modern-era lives of “celebrities” don’t hold my interest long. I don’t often watch TV, read newspapers or listen to the radio. I tend to be incredibly selective on what makes it in front of my eyes, and I avoid being too influenced.

manI’ve never really had a lone interest or an obsession that has lasted very long – too many things to look at!

What has been the biggest challenge for you whether related to art or not, and how has it influenced your practice?
The challenges I’ve faced over the years have pushed me toward expression. The journey I’ve taken with art has been a roller-coaster but the practice of creativity can only be rewarding.

Joker Art has been a great friend to me: something I can confide in when everything feels dark. I just get out the cadmium hues and that too shall pass.

Has there been any crossroads in your life where you considered not taking the path of an artist or has it always been the way?
There are always difficult crossroads for any creator. In general, the life of a painter can be a lonely one. Many hours expire in front of a still canvas.  Some of my favorite work has been done in some of my darkest days.

I’ve always been a creative type, I expect painting just fell into my days along a natural path. I don’t think creativity is a choice, it’s just a part of your bones.


I get itchy feet when I’m not creating things with my hands – I love to decorate cupcakes as much as I love to build a fence.


Where did you grow up? How was creativity embraced (or not) in your culture, and how does it compare to where you are now?
I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where I sit at this moment. I have yet to afford the travel bug to my frustration.

beardCreativity is celebrated in Melbourne. It’s a very quirky place full of emotion and color, graffiti lanes, obtuse sculptures – the arts are alive in endless forms here – the streets are riddled with individuality and deep creativity, and I love it.

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