Stop Being Sane With LordJuiblex

Nik aka LordJuiblex is someone who does what truly makes him happy, no questions on if others enjoy it. As someone who has been making art since high school, he truly has created his own unique style and personality inside of his art. From making comic strips, to self-portraits, to distorting the world around us, Nik is someone who has given me a sense of freedom in my own art that I create. It was an honor interviewing him and getting to know a bit how his thought process really works. We also learn a bit about his upbringing and his own human skull that he owns named “Skully.” Learn more about Nik and Stop Being Sane!

Emotionull: Alright, let’s get to know you a bit for the readers, you are a bit mysterious, so any information you don’t want to provide feel free to ignore or lie to my face. What name do you go by for your art?

My real name is Nikolaus Maack, or just Nik. I sort of half-assedly hide this identity with my @LordJuiblex account. But I’m not really hiding, so, yeah. I literally just write “Nik” on the back of the art I do.

Emotionull: Right on, I enjoy Nik, so I’ll call you that from now on. How old are you now and how old were you when you first start created?

I am 48. I started making art in high school. A teacher made us carry around a sketchbook and draw all the time. Even then, I was pretty much doing nothing but faces over and over again. Despite that high school art class, I’m pretty much self taught.

Emotionull: As a kid what inspired your art? Also was your style similar to what it is now?

I MAY BE YOUR BEST FRIEND BUT YOU ARE NOT MY BEST FRIEND

I think art was an escape from my crazy family. A place where I could do whatever I wanted to do. My choices, my world. I think I changed over time because when I found color, I became obsessed with it. I started off doing own sketches. When I found acrylic paint I went nuts with color. And right now I am obsessed with water colors and colored pencil. The brighter and more garish and contrasting the colors, the better.

Emotionull: An escape from a hectic household is always nice. Do you have any pictures of your old art pieces? Also I’ve noticed your obsession with colors, I enjoy how you’re able to fit so many without making it look too chaotic. That brings me to another question, you art is extremely raw and almost psychedelic in some senses, was there something specific that made you snap and obsess over color?

I think my younger brother took all my old high-school sketchbooks. Not sure why, but that probably speaks to the screwy family relationships we had. Despite being a “psychedelic” artist, I am not a drug guy. I’ve tried pot and mushrooms, but I don’t use them. Nothing against them, just not for me. I’m not sure where the color thing came from. But I feel like art of it is bringing chaotic joy to faces in pain. I am obsessed with mugshots. And I think taking the face of someone charged with a crime and making them crazy and colorful is a weird attempt (through almost a witchcraft kind of way) to bring them joy.

Emotionull: That does explain the situation a bit more. I am sorry to hear that. Also that’s why I said almost psychedelic, I can’t classify it as that type of art because it’s not, the style is specific to you. If you had to classify your art as a specific genre of art, what would you call it? Color is an extremely powerful tool. You can depict sadness through bright colors, or happiness, it really depends on how the artist takes control of it. I feel like your pieces usually have a whole range of emotions in them, sort of channeling thru the colors in a sense. Also over the years of following you I’ve always noticed you had a few obsessions. One being mug shots, and one being the sewer. Could you explain your obsession with the sewer? Do you take inspiration from it?

I have jokingly referred to my art as “non-representational portraiture” — which is a fancy way of saying portraits that don’t look like the person they are a portrait of. Modigliani kind of does stuff like that, thank goodness, so people know I’m not a complete fraud. The sewer started by accident. I walked by it and thought I should take a picture of it. Then I thought the next time I walked by, take a picture again. It was sort of a running joke that took on profundity. Just seeing it, touching it, acknowledging it — that gives it meaning. Which is crazy. That kind of means spirituality and meaning is simply achieved through repetition. If you pray, every day, for a year, you’re now religious. That’s cynical, but it’s also kind of beautiful. Just do what you want to do, creatively, over and over, and it will make sense — even if it doesn’t make sense.

Sitting in a Smokey Room

Emotionull: Do you ever seem to connect yourself to your pieces even if they aren’t physically you? Also as someone who is also obsessed with drawing faces, what about them specifically really attracts you? The sewer has always stuck out to me as being quiet odd if we’re being honest, I think that’s what attracted me to it even more however. The sewer did seem to pick up a bigger meaning behind it after awhile. Have you ever thought about painting at the sewer? I also don’t find it cynical. I think it’s beautiful how the human mind works. We try to run from a repeating process yet we also chase it. Maybe it’s different for some. You mention Modigliani and that brings me to my next question, who are your inspirations for art and why do they inspire you?

What draws me to faces: I’m not sure what it is, except people are fascinating and weird. Do you ever have what I would call a Doctor Who moment? It’s when the time-lord sees some human thing and just blurts out, “Oh, humanity! You are so adorable!” I get that with looking at mugshots of faces. Look at all these human beings, living their lives! Isn’t that amazing and weird?

The sewer is, strangely, a sacred place because it isn’t sacred. It sort of relates to faces. Look at this mundane thing! Isn’t it incredible? I’ve always loved that: noticing that small normal thing, isolating it, looking at it really closely, and suddenly it is miraculous and weird and astounding. I get very passionate and weird about how literally everything is art. Not necessarily art of value, monetarily speaking. But everything is art. Shoes, manhole covers, a person walking through a room, someone coughing on the bus… It’s all theater, music, performance.

Artists I like: Lucien Freud, Basquiat, Chuck Close. Basquiat makes me mad sometimes, because I don’t know how he did what he did and then said, “There! This is done and this is art now.” How does he know? I often feel like I overwork my art, carving and layering and painting. Basquiat just stopped and said, “Done.”

Lucien Freud was a terrible human being. But he just did portraits while every other artist was off being nuts and doing crazy things. Bacon is also great and weird. He distorts faces and chases some demented vision. You gotta love that. I like his crazy portraiture.

Emotionull: I people watch a lot so I can fully relate to that. Some people look like aliens in my eyes, they seem so clueless, it’s interesting. Maybe i’m just full of myself, but random people in the streets are a whole different world. I enjoy your idea of the sewer because it also shows that the ugly things in life are beautiful. People often skip over things because they find them “ugly” or not right. When truly they are missing so much in life. I can’t relate more with everything being art. Down to everyday things, art is so embedded into our society and some people don’t see it or aren’t aware. That’s funny Basquiat makes you mad, he makes me beyond ecstatic how he really changed so much in such a short amount of time. He truly had an artist mind, I feel like he understood it a lot better than most people because he had his own idea of art in a a whole. I recently watched a Francis Bacon documentary and his story is actually extremely dark and demented. He painted some very dark thoughts. You mention how you overwork your pieces, how long does it usually take to finish a single piece?

I set myself a challenge of doing a portrait a day. I did that for a year, only missing a few days now and then. Most of those were 9×12 inch, each taking one to two hours. This year I thought I’d do something different. Then it turned out, not so much. I’m now mostly doing 11×14 inches. And those take the same amount of time. But give me a little more room.

I am filling a box with art…

I assume at some point I’m going to try to sell this stuff. I really don’t know. Half the time I don’t know what I am doing or why, when it comes to art. That doesn’t bother me, most of the time. It serves some kind of purpose.

Emotionull: I’d love to see what you’d do with a huge canvas, would be pretty exciting to see. Also that’s amazing that you’re filling a box, compared to me which is just a bunch of art all over and sketchbooks filled in my drawers. It sort of gets overwhelming in a sense but also the chaotic nature of making art attracts me so much. It becomes an obsession 100% Is it a healthy one? I assume so. Do you find art to be therapeutic in a sense? Also I don’t think any of us really have much of an idea of what we’re doing. We just do what seems right to us. If creating art everyday is the thing that calls them than so be it. I believe once the right person stumbles upon your art is when it will sell.

Making art is definitely therapeutic. I know that when I stop making art, I start to feel disconnected and pissed off. There have been days when I’ve said, “I’m not painting today,” and then ten minutes later I am painting. Which is hilarious and bizarre. I have done large canvases, but they fill up my home pretty fast. Some hang on walls, but some just get stacked up in the closet or the hall. Paper is easier to store. Also, I like paper better than canvas because I can really grind colored pencils into paper. Canvas is too bouncy. I figure I may have to start seriously selling art when I run out of room or want to move.

(We exchanged photos of our art collections and agreed we were in the same boat at this moment.)

Emotionull: Disconnected and anger is something i feel when not painting as well. It’s extremely odd. I’ll stop everything I’m doing when an idea pops in my head. I’d love to see some of your canvas pieces if you have any pictures of them. How do you feel about the idea of getting your art in museums and the idea of fame from art? Is it something that attracts you or scares you?

I make art for me. I’ve genuinely struggled with the idea of selling art or getting art out into the world. After talking about it in therapy for years… Eventually it just suddenly struck me that I don’t care about that aspect of it. I tried making art for others and have sold some stuff. I did pet portraits for a brief time and hated it. I painted portraits for a commission, and hated it somewhat. (I did a portrait of Ayn Rand for a lawyer in California many years back. Ugh.) I would like to hand off some of my art to someone and say, “Can you sell this so I have more room in my house to make more art? Also, give me some money so I can buy more art supplies, pay off some debts, and so I can travel to Bolivia again.” I like posting pictures of my art on twitter and I like encouraging others to make art. I find it weird when they want to buy mine. “This is my art. You want art? Go make your own art. Jeez.” Fame seems dumb and fleeting. I want do it for me. If someone likes it, nice. I’m going to keep making it whether they like it or not.”

Compost For The King

Emotionull: Fame seems more overwhelming than rewarding in my eyes, It can oddly be terrifying knowing my own eternal thoughts and seeing other artists blow up and where they head. I think the idea of creating art for you is stronger than any art in a museum. Also it’s funny you said that about commissions because it’s always an eternal battle between me thinking it’s awful because it’s not my own thoughts or me thinking it’s too good to claim as a commission. Is the idea of hoarding your art considered egoistic? I’m not sure honestly. I mainly only sell commissions when I don’t have canvas or paint to use at the time. Also I enjoy what you said about posting art via twitter. The idea of sharing art with other people even if it doesn’t go anywhere is really exhilarating. I’d like to learn more about your art and the plans for your future art pieces. First of all, you have shared with Fangz your choice of mediums before, however could you dive a bit deeper into them? Also do you have any plans to change mediums?

I’m always playing with new mediums. I did acrylic and oil pastels for a long time. I like messy so I love paint sticks. Watercolors grew on me. I always thought they were wimpy, but that’s only if you water them down. Crayons suddenly came into my game, and that was a total whim. I literally just bought some at a store to try them. Colored pencils (specifically Art Stix) are fun, but I’ve only been able to buy them in Toronto or online. Is hoarding your own art egotistical? Who knows? When I was younger, I struggled with writing because I literally thought, “Why should anyone listen to me?” Maybe making art is egotistical. Maybe being alive is egotistical. Why should we get to live while others die? But we are alive so let’s live and paint and write and do whatever. And if other people like it, great. If they don’t, oh well.

Emotionull: Messy is the way!! Paint sticks are amazing, I sadly only have two colors with my paint sticks but I’m buying more soon. You gotta love the fumes from paint sticks as well. Really adds to the overall art I think. Also that’s interesting you said that, I’ve always looked at some mediums to be sort of specific to an art form but if you know how to use the medium to your advantage it can be what you want it to be. I remember how we were discussing water color and how I wasn’t a fan of watering it down instead i’d use it as thick layers. What are your thoughts on oil? I feel like I’m too impatient for them at times. Do you do any writing now and days? Like personal writing not everyday writing. Also I can’t agree more with that! Fuck the man! Paint what you want and who gives a damn!

I tried oil a million years ago and hated it. I hated the smell. I hated the way it took forever to dry. I hated the way I couldn’t wash it off my hands. I just did not like it. Maybe some day I’ll try them again. But that initial experience made me hate them. I keep starting stories and not finishing them. I want to get back to writing again, but nothing sticks. Having bought a human skull, to use as a ñatita, I thought that might result in some interesting writing, maybe even a book. We’ll see. (In Bolivia, some people have human skulls in their homes and make offerings to them in return for protection and good luck.)

Emotionull: I have a love hate relationship with it, I feel as if it could help me express a more chaotic feel to my art but like you said I can’t stand the smell nor the wait time for it to dry. Writing is a beautiful thing, honestly writing about anything just normal thoughts would help you get back into it. The mind is a wonderful tool if worked. Now about that skull, how long have you been looking into the use of it?

I read an article about the practice on Atlas Obscura. It made sound like only indigenous people do it, and that it’s mostly about a skull festival. I build vacations around weird things, and that article was enough to convince me I needed to see Bolivia. All the other tourists were either in their way to Peru and Machu Picchu, or just came from there. Anyway, we asked every guide we had about ñatitas. They all knew about the practice and two of them had a skull in the family. When I came back from Bolivia, I wanted a skull. I watched skullstore.ca to get a feel for prices. Saw that the average skull goes for around $1250 Canadian. When one popped up, I bought it. He’s in the living room now. Part of the practice is that the skull is supposed to show up in your dreams. While I’ve had some odd ones since he’s arrived, I think he and I are slowly building a relationship. He’s only been here two weeks. I’ve been giving him offerings twice daily. Cereal, pop, booze, mandarin oranges, honey water, etc. I put it next to him on the table and then throw it out later and replace it. It’s probably completely insane, but it build a weird relationship with the skull, and I enjoy that. We call him Skully, for now. I assume a real name will appear in a dream eventually.

Emotionull: Holy shit the idea of you building a vacation around the adventure of finding a skull, sounds like something you read on Vice. Also wait, human skulls actually go for over $1,000? That could be a nice side gig to be honest.. It probably is completely insane but being a little insane never hurt anyone. It honestly feels like something you’d do, you always give me this mysterious, possibly crazy vibe. I love it though. Have you painted the skull at all yet? Or are you waiting for a dream to start that?

Oh, I didn’t buy the skull in Bolivia. I just wanted to go to Bolivia because of that article. The place is incredible and strange. All kinds of odd superstitions and magic shops. With dried out dead llama babies hanging in shop doorways. I’m not sure what the legality of skull selling is. But the skull I bought has clearly been a medical model, for students. And I suspect most skulls for sale have been models like that.

I try to follow my passions where they take me, so long as they don’t hurt anyone. Curious to know more about ñatitas, I wrote a letter to the Bolivian embassy in Ottawa. I figured it couldn’t hurt. I know this sort of thing might seem crazy to normal people. But I’m often surprised how other people show zero curiosity for the oddness of life. “What’s that? Let’s find out. Let’s dig deeper into the topic.” It sometimes feels like people wouldn’t even care of a flying saucer landed on their front lawn. “Maybe if I wait it will go away.”

Emotionull: Did you go alone or with friends? I’d love to travel to where i see fit, that is my dream. The dried up llama would be surreal, how would you describe the trip? People aren’t curious about things they don’t know because they are comfortable where they fit themselves into reality. There’s way more than what we actually realize to be. It’s right in the face of everyone, people just choose to act as if it’s not there. I don’t think buying a skull hurts anyone, I don’t think it should be illegal if it is, that sounds a little goofy. Do these vacations often give you more inspiration and motivation to paint weirder things?

I travel with my wife. She is always game for these traveling adventures. We did join up with a G Adventures tour group. So many young people taking so many selfies. Skull selling is legal. At least, the skullstore.ca appears to be doing a tidy business. I love the art in galleries when I travel. Particularly the artifact pottery of little human figures and faces. Inevitably I come home and get into clay again for about five minutes.

Emotionull: Is taking pictures of your skull considered bad?

Nope. I have posted some on Twitter already.

My wife, Michelle, is totally on-board and enjoying this, by the way. She picked out this hat for him.

Emotionull: Oh now that was beautiful because I was going to ask if you added flowers or a hat. I think that hat perfectly fits it’s energy. I’m excited to hear more about the skull. I love how your wife joins you in your odd adventures as well. That’s a true wife. What have you been working on art wise recently?

In 2017, I did a comic strip a day. In 2018… I was doing a portrait a day. I thought I’d do something different for 2019. That has not been the case. I’m still doing a portrait a day. I have been using slightly larger paper, but other than that, I’m still doing faces. I was kind of hoping doing a portrait a day would knock me off faces into something else. Nope. For whatever reason, I still only want to do faces. I don’t understand why, but that’s what’s happening.

Emotionull: Oh a comic strip, could you send a few examples? I remember seeing a few on your profile but I wasn’t sure if they were by you or not. What message did you usually try and deliver with your comic strips? Also I don’t think you should run from the faces. Repetition makes for some beautiful art. A good example of that is “Scandinavian Pain and Other Myths” by Ragnar Kjartansson, his 144 piece installation is repetitive yet beautiful.

My comic strips were all nonsense and madness. Existential angst. What has meaning? What doesn’t? Also, being dumb and childish.

Emotionull: I really enjoy the second one, they are both very odd which I feel matches your personality. I feel like they kinda depict you in a sense. My favorite is the second one however because you aren’t expecting the ending. Do you plan to make more comic strips in 2019?

Well, I made one a day for a year. I have been making them off and on since then. I have this fancy leather journal I bought. My intention is to fill it with crazy comics. So far I’ve only done 3 pages. I made this one yesterday…

When Strangers Meet

Advice to all artists: put the date you made the thing on the thing so you know when you made the thing.

Emotionull: A fancy journal is a must I believe as a artist. You don’t always have access to all your mediums, yet ideas come all day. You can really take a journal anyway as well, full completed pieces of your thoughts and doodles. I’m excited to see how the journal develops, I’ll be sure to give my thoughts on it once you’re deeper into the series. One thing I forgot to ask was how did you come up with your name LordJuiblex?

I had a twitter account with my real name. I decided that was too obvious and might get me in trouble. So I tried to come up with a twitter handle I could hide behind. I remembered Lord Juiblex from my old dungeons and dragons days. He is the god of slime and puddings and is kind of nuts and pointless. So I took on that name. Almost as soon as I took on the account, I stopped hiding inside of it and owned up to my real name. All the same, if you check, there is a @NikMaack account that I do not use. Now and then I think about switching back to my real self but I can’t be bothered.

Emotionull: You use to play D&D I see, how long did you play? I’ve played a few times and I absolutely loved it. We played the original style and did a few other different styles. I kind of just fell into a pit of looking through your website and Youtube channel. Do you ever plan to bring back Nik Picks Art Apart? I enjoy the comedic style you portrayed in it. This video really shows your personality and I enjoy. Another question I have is, you have another account and a blog under the name stopbeingsane. Do you consider this to be your brand or simply a personal blog?

I want to do more video, but I’m not sure what kind. I quickly got bored of Nik Picks Art Apart. I thought it would last longer as an interest. When I decided to put together a new blog for comics (at the start) my wife helped. She’s works as a digital fundraiser and said branding is important. So when I said up Stop Being Sane, she made a twitter account and an Instagram account and a Gmail account with that name. I hate WordPress and the format of my blog. I also hate Instagram.

I like the motto of Stop Being Sane. In therapy, it was an issue I faced. What should I do? Who should I be? I can’t acknowledge these feelings or that desire because it’s “crazy” or “wrong”. But a lot of those rules are nonsense. And if a desire doesn’t hurt me or anyone else, why not act on it, even if I cannot rationally explain where that desire comes from. As an example, when my wife and I started travelling a lot, I wanted to go to Austin, Texas. But I couldn’t think of an object explanation as to why I wanted to go. What if someone asked me WHY? I had to be able to justify it, somehow, logically. (objective explanation.)

I wanted to go because I’d heard comedians talk about the place. And I liked the “keep it weird” motto. That didn’t feel like enough. But why do we need logical explanations for all of our actions and choices? That’s not sane, but that’s what people think of as sane. Explanations. Logic. Reason. These things can become shackles. I use them when I need to, but they don’t have to govern me 24/7.

Emotionull: Would you ever be interested in doing a video for the Fangz Youtube channel? I’m looking to do videos via that channel, I have a camera and mic but no easy way of getting to artists at the moment. Also your wife’s a smart lady. Branding is sadly very important now and days. I also enjoy your motto, I sort of look up to it in a sense, I lost myself at a certain point, I’m working on letting my real side out, not being afraid of it. I’m glad you stick your true self, you seem like a very crazy but friendly guy. I’d love to meet you some day. Do you have anyone you’d like to shout out before we end this very long interview? We’ll have to do a video interview some point in the future because we clearly have a lot to talk about.

I like the laid back method of a long and drawn out interview. Less pressure. I am game for a video interview at some point in the future. That would be fun. My friend Sean deserves a shout out, if only so I can point him to this article and he will be confused.

Hello, Sean. You are on the internet. True story.

– Nik

You say I’m a crazy but friendly guy. Over and over again in my life, I’m weird online and people are shocked at how normal I am when they meet me in person. No tattoos. No weird hair. Friendly and sane. A minimal of twitching.

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