We had the good fortune of connecting with Nila Faith Frederiksen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nila, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I pursued an artistic career because it felt like the only option for me. Needing to create has always been a constant in my life, and whenever I worked other jobs I would get home feeling too drained to fully utilize that creative energy. I also really don’t like rigidity of schedule and monotonous repetition. So I began figuring out ways to pivot entirely to art as income–first working in art-centered customer service jobs (like artist assistant and gallery sales rep) while I continued to build my skill set, knowledge of the industry, and connections, until I could essentially just become my own boss.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
At 26 years old, I have been drawing for as long as I can remember; I was doing that professionally for years before I got into oil painting or tattooing. Working primarily in pen, marker, and colored pencil, I honed in on a style that is detailed, precise, vibrant, often symmetrical, and expressive of my innermost psychological landscape. I am hypersensitive and constantly aim to express what I feel and how I see the world through my work, transmuting energy into visuals that can hopefully have a meaningful impact on others.
I think I was 12 years old when I sold my first artwork, to some beloved neighbors who lived down the street from the house I grew up in in Nashville. I occasionally sold drawings throughout high school to friends and family, then started getting more commission requests when I was around 18. Album artwork, family portraits, pet portraits, etc. These were, and remain, sporadic, which is often stressful, but it keeps me on my toes. Once, in a time of total absence of commission requests, my dad said to me, “Go ahead and just do the work you want to be hired for.” This was some of the best advice I have ever been given, opening doors to previously unexplored ideas, styles, and work ethic.
In 2018, though I had been selling my original work and doing client commissions for years, I was finding it incredibly difficult to secure gallery representation, or even to get my work in group shows. So at the end of the year I rented a gallery space and put on a pop-up solo show of 21 framed drawings, all of which explored themes of perspective, the beauty of nature, and connectedness of all beings. I still don’t have gallery representation, but I know now that if I have something I want to share with the world, there is always a way.
What I am most proud of thus far in my career, however, is learning new skillsets that absolutely terrified me and held the keys to my next level of self expression. I occasionally take online classes through Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and learning how to oil paint last year was a game changer for me. I had been avoiding it until then out of fear and ended up finding a new love of my life! Soon after that I took an even bigger leap and started learning how to tattoo. It was a substantial investment that required a lot of trust in myself, and from my friends who graciously allowed me to practice on them, but it has proven to be the most rewarding experience of my life. I work at one of the best shops in Los Angeles (shoutout to Body Electric Tattoo) and am unbelievably honored to create permanent artwork on people’s bodies as my job.
Every tattoo I give, every painting I do, every drawing I make, I am always asking myself, “How can I make this better than the last one? How can I be more efficient, more focused, more attentive to detail? Can I start figuring out how to do that thing that I have no idea how to do?” The constant analysis and inquisition drives me insane but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Some of my favorite things to do/eat in Los Angeles, in no particular order…
Hiking in Malibu or the Pacific Palisades- Temescal Canyon Trail is one of my favorites. After that, getting a lobster roll and a cider from Broad Street Oyster Co. and eating on the beach across the street at sunset. Another great West Side vibe is shopping on Abbot Kinney Blvd, grabbing an iced dirty oat chai, and walking to the Venice Canals.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena has the best roses, succulents, and bonsai trees I’ve ever seen. I spend hours there whenever I go.
The Getty is always fun, it’s so huge, and the LACMA has great rotating exhibits. There’s also the Peterson Automotive Museum, the Broad, and gallery exhibits all over the city all the time.
Regarding food… Go Get ‘Em Tiger and Great White are my go-to’s for breakfast, lunch, and coffee. Sushi Fumi on La Cienega is the best sushi ever, The Wolves in DTLA has an absolutely insane burger (and wild cocktails), and even though I am not vegan, Pura Vita in West Hollywood is a vegan Italian restaurant that is absolutely divine. For drinking, Bathtub Gin is a great speakeasy, and I love all the Soho Houses.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am so blessed to have two loving and supportive parents who have always believed in me and encouraged me in whatever I want to do. My mom is a visual artist, as well, and provided me with a plethora of art supplies basically straight out of the womb. Growing up and observing how she moved through both the outer world and her inner worlds through painting, drawing, collage, and sculpture subconsciously taught me how to be.
Instagram: @nilafaith & @nilafaithtattoo
Other: TikTok: @nilafaith1