For many of us, our artistic ability is limited to rudimentary stick figures, or maybe selecting an Instagram filter that makes everyone look bright-eyed and contoured. Then there’s that envy-inducing person whose visual efforts create something mind-blowing.

That’s where Charlotte-based artist Nick Napoletano comes in. Napoletano’s breathtaking work, with its sharp realism and bold colors, seems to pop off the canvas and absorb you into its world. Napoletano, 26, has had work featured through ArtPop, at Jerald Melberg Gallery and at Queens University, and has a print release on the horizon.

But even if you can’t match his skill level, Napoletano’s got useful tips on surprising yourself with your own artistic abilities, finding inspiration and making your next museum visit worthwhile:

Where do you find inspiration?

Nordic design. A lot of the stuff that’s going on in Copenhagen and Stockholm I feel like is fundamentally where the world is evolving, and they’re at the forefront of integrating the natural world and aesthetics in a way that’s dynamic and has function attached. I think if we can strike a balance between those two there’s real room to grow as human beings. Charlotte needs to adopt some of those main principles in order to evolve in a way that’s going to put us at the forefront of the nation as far as global cities are concerned.

How do our smartphones play into our ability to be creative?

I think it’s a beautiful thing to have the Internet and Instagram and all these media that can feed into that creative energy, but I think there needs to be a little perspective. Going to museums, especially as an artist, is a huge thing that needs to be a staple for everybody’s practice. Seeing something in person is drastically different than seeing something on a 2×3-inch screen. It’s not providing the same sort of guttural experience. If the artist is good, ultimately they’re incorporating that experience into the whole practice. A lot of times when I’m building a piece it has a lot of vantage points to view, so there are optical distortions and things that you can only see in person.

How do you balance your life and your art?

When I’m building a show where it’s nonstop work 16-20 hours a day there’s just no hope. It’s just hoping my body while I’m young can keep up and praying for the best. But I think I’m trying to find that balance. The routine is get up, work as hard as I can, crash. It’s pretty linear, as ridiculous as that sounds. I have to stay physical. I’ll work out whenever I can, whether that be going for a run or going to the gym. I try to wake up at 7 or 8, and then I’ll go until 2 in the morning. I’m trying to be better about it.

This is a mural Napoletano just completed, found on the facade of the Lineberger Dentistry building.
This is a mural Napoletano just completed, found on the facade of the Lineberger Dentistry building.

Can someone become an artist or are you born with that talent?

You can learn how to see, which is one of the biggest things. If you can learn to understand what the world has to offer or what is being presented then you can slowly begin to unpack how to translate that, whether that be through photography or painting or some other creative medium. I think most people walk around with a boatful of distractions and can’t look around. If you force yourself to take the opportunity to look at the world, then you can begin to unpack how things are set up structurally.

Check out Napoletano’s work via Instagram, @napoletanoart.

Photos: Courtesy of Nick Napoletano