EK Interview: Buddy Nestor

Buddy Nestor is wild.  What is going on here?  Your guess is mine.  I know for one thing, it’s awesome.  So is his interview:

What is Collingswood like?  What was growing up like?

Collingswood, NJ is a suburb of Philadelphia, PA.  It’s a cool little town with easy access to the city.  It was a great place to grow up.

What cult and horror films were your canon growing up?

I really enjoyed the Motel Hell, Body Melt, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead, The Shining (I’ve probably watched The Shining about 50 times) Pet Semetary , Carrie, The Omen,  there are so many. I watched tons of Kung Fu Movies from the 70’s and lots of Science Fiction.  I was really into Star Wars, but I never got into Star Trek.  I don’t read many books without pictures, so I watch a lot of movies.  Wild at Heart is still my favorite.

art blog - Buddy Nestor - Empty Kingdom

What media have you experimented with?

I spent a few years experimenting with all kinds of different materials.  I was trying to make paintings without using brushes.  If I did need to use a brush I would tape the brush to a three foot spring, to give myself less control.  I was mixing paint mediums with glue and adding lots of sand and paper to build up texture.  It was a really fun way to make art but the paintings were terrible.  It did teach me which mediums and materials I didn’t want to use.  Since then, I’ve really simplified my palette.  I use mainly gray house paint and spray paint (always the same three colors).  I only use flat brushes.  My materials are really simplified at this point.


What capacity were you serving in on board the Aircraft Carrier when you were traveling the world and painting?

I was an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy.  I worked on Communication and Navigation equipment for the for the fighter planes.

art blog - Buddy Nestor - Empty Kingdom


What’s your basement like?  What do you have in your work space that makes it your own, that helps you think and get in the zone?

I have a room in the basement for my studio.  It’s completely disgusting.  I rarely clean it.  It’s a mess and I enjoy the fact that when I go in there I can get as dirty and messy as I want, like a little boy in the dirt.  I keep all of my old reference photos stuck on the wall, which looks a little bit crazy.  But I like to make drawings or paintings from the old images to gage how my process is changing.

There is a beer fridge right next to the door of the studio, and I have a stereo that goes up to 11.  The combination of those two things gets me in the zone very quickly.


Tell us about your process, what do you start with?  Sketches?  Photos?

I never sketch.  I always work from photos.  I need the photos to get the values right.  I also try to leave enough of the features so there is still has a hint of the subject.

My process:

  1.  Buy a pre-stretched canvas from the store, because I am lazy.
  2. Two layers of red paint over the entire canvas.  This allows the red to show through before the white threads of the canvas when I sand portions of the piece later on.
  3. Two layers of gray over the red for a ground.
  4. Spray paint a loose version of the image, with white gray and black.
  5. Throw and brush paint onto the canvas to get some early values and total coverage.
  6. Sand out annoying areas.
  7. Add glazed layers of gray mixed with primaries, blending and smearing with my fingers.  For glazing I use a mixture of Matte Medium and Satin Varnish.
  8. At this point I mix brush painting, charcoal scribbles, spray paint, and sanding until the piece is complete.

art blog - Buddy Nestor - Empty Kingdom

Why are red and blue the colors that you use in your faces?

The red blobs came from Miro.  I started using them in abstract pieces. At the time the paintings were meant to be imagined views of the inside of the body.  I’d lost a few people in my life to diseases that came on very suddenly.  The blobs were meant to represent something that was killing me from the  inside, while I was unaware of  it’s existence.  They don’t really carry the same meaning in the portrait work, but they carried over from the abstractions.

How are you inspired to distort the faces in your art?

In my early teens, I saw Picasso’s portraits and copied them for practice.  I later came across Francis Bacon,  Dekooning, and Debuffet.  I loved how brutal their portraits were.  I feel like I am mixing them all together with the red blobs from Miro.  Additionally, I’m adding bits and pieces from modern artists that inspire me like Christian Rex Van Minnen, Chet Zar, and Shawn Barber.  I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious thing, but I admire these guys and some of it just creeps into the work.

art blog - Buddy Nestor - Empty Kingdom

How would you respond to people calling your art “dark” and “grotesque”?  How would you categorize your work if you had to?

I have no issues with the work being categorized as “Dark” or “Grotesque”.  It makes sense, but when I show with a group of truly “Dark” artists, my work falls short of being extremely evil.  The tone of my work is based on my own feelings of uneasiness and stress, from daily life.

I want my work to feel like when I ride a really big roller coaster- laughing my head off while I’m on the verge of shitting my pants from fear.

Is there a reason you have chosen to use female subjects?

I’ve done a few portraits of men, but they are all trades with friends and some themed show pieces. Presently, I am working on paintings of Donnie Green and Richard J. Frost.  But men are very simple creatures compared to women.  The psychological aspects are more powerful when transferred onto a female.

art blog - Buddy Nestor - Empty Kingdom

The majority of your work is Acrylic, spray and graphite, which do you use first?  What do you use as a template?

This was answered above in Process.

How has your work been received at the Cabinodd show?  How has that been different between your other shows?

Ella Buzo, the owner of Cabinodd, has been amazing to me.  I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done for me.

It’s hard to gauge the difference of the reactions at different shows.  Every person that takes the time to say hello and discuss my work is always very positive about it, at every show.  All of the people that hate my work never come up and tell me that my work sucks.  And that’s great.  However, it makes it hard to see a clear difference between venues.

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What pieces are you showing at Cabinodd?

“Jessie Ahern”, “Carrie Ann Baade”, and “Marissa Olney”.

What have you learned from the shows you’ve been in?

I love that art shows give me an excuse to travel to see old friends and make some new ones.  All of the artists that I’ve looked up to for a long time, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet, have all been really friendly people.  The after parties are always so great, that following day is terrible.

I also learned that I hate everything about shipping artwork, especially return shipping.

art blog - Buddy Nestor - Empty Kingdom

Of all your work, what is your favorite piece?

I did a portrait of JL Schnabel a few years ago.  That is still my favorite.

What is your most recent muse?

Fiona Apple.  I really like her music.  Please don’t tell my metal head friends.  I’d really like to paint Fiona Apple.