Nic De Carlo

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Nic is an artist – both on paper and on a surfboard. He’s a renaissance man & he’s the latest in our people series.

For a brief while we were housemates. I remember seeing Nic kneeling on the floor in the lounge room, as if in prayer. Hunched over a canvas and painting a girl on a surfboard—he was making it for his girlfriend.

It was the first time I’d seen him paint. I’m not sure why I was surprised, Nic is no introvert, he’s as comfortable in rainbow flares and a patchwork jacket as he is in an ironed shirt and slacks come Monday morning.

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There’s a strange assumption about people who can paint or draw, a certain expectation that their skill should’ve been made clear to you. It’s a rare skill but it’s also an affliction that us non-painters demand is explained up front.

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I arrive at Nic’s house with no moon in the sky and the clouds are low. I’d not been here before, it’s a big house with racks of surfboards and a steady flow of smiling faces coming and going. There’s art on the walls and lots of hair, everybody has long hair. Plus the garage has been turned into a studio, similarly common in Byron Bay.

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I have a new surfboard under my arm, it’s fresh and white and is in need of the De Carlo treatment. I’ve no idea what he has in mind for the design, but I have a feeling it’ll involve hands.

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Nic draws hands, among other things. It’s still-life but with a comic twist that will make you laugh and then make you think.

He finds a balance in his pictures between simply drawing for its own sake, but there’s also social commentary there, however absurd, about issues of masculinity, about life in Australia and about beer. He skewers the pretension of the art world to simply be stoked on life. It’s satire, it’s the paradox of Byron Bay, and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

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Nic had his first exhibition this year, called Weirdos are Welcome. He sold some pictures and everyone drank beer.

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The hands are the first thing to appear. After a quick sketch he goes straight to the Posca pens. Long fingers reach towards the nose of the board.

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It turns out Nic had considered studying graphic design, but instead he got a trade, he’s a foot doctor. In a town like Byron Bay it’s a smart move, everyone in this beautiful mixed-up little town has more than one job, everyone is a photographer and a yoga instructor, but it won’t pay the rent.

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We talk as he draws, trying to remember surf trips and nights out. We talk about girls and about jobs, and we wonder at the change we’d both seen in Byron Bay in the past 5 years. If you strike the right balance; between work and play; between art and surfing and working; then life can be pretty damn good in paradise.

Soon aztec patterns fill the space to the rails, and two opposing words fill the two hands. Balance is everything on a surfboard, but it’s always hard to find.

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An abstract eye glares from the centre with hi-tech tentacles reaching forward. I’m not sure how often the eye will blink out of the water; despite my best efforts to push it to noon and ditch the fins.

But the design will def make me go faster, surely.

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Check out all Nic’s work on his Instagram @nicdecarlo

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