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Local Artist Finds His Niche Drawing Caricatures

Photographer / Eli Beaverson

Nick NixStraight out of high school, Cicero resident Nick Nix went to work for his parents as a parts runner for an electrical firm. Through the years, he worked his way up to become an electrician. In his free time, he did what he had done since he was a young boy – he drew comics. Though he has always adored art, he never considered it to be a feasible full-time job.

“In those days, if you weren’t a painter or a sculptor, the idea of doing artwork for a living wasn’t a process,” Nix says.

When Nix’s parents’ company went out of business in 1989, he started working for a screen print company. He also began working on a cartoon strip and drawing caricatures. In the late 1990s, he and his wife Patty launched Cartoon Ups, a visual entertainment company specializing in live caricature and satirical cartoon illustrations. Patty acts as business owner and event coordinator, while Nick works as a cartoonist, illustrator and caricature artist.

“In those days, I had this idea of moving under the moniker of being like a car mechanic except I was a cartoon mechanic, so if people wanted to be drawn, I’d give them a cartoon-up and draw them as a caricature or cartoon,” Nix says.

Though things were starting to fall into place where Nix’s love of art was concerned, his health began to decline when he was diagnosed with diabetes. In 2002 he lost the lower part of his left leg because of the disease, and four years later lost the lower part of his right leg as well.

“It snuck up on me,” Nix says. “Unfortunately, with diabetes you don’t know you’ve got it until something happens. It was just a terrible set of circumstances.”

According to Nix, everything in his life changed at about the same time. He went from being an electrician to being an artist overnight, and along with that he started a faith walk that continues to this day.

Nick Nix“My faith is the one foundational cornerstone of my life that holds everything else up,” Nix says. “It’s the thing that wakes me up in the morning and gets me through the day.”

Despite his limited mobility, Nix is grateful that his gift can be utilized. Through Cartoon Ups, Nix draws at many types of events ranging from children’s birthday parties to corporate picnics.

Nix is grateful that his wife handles all of the odds and ends of the business, enabling him to focus on his craft.

“It’s hard to be an artist and a business person,” Nix says. “I’m lucky because literally my job is to show up, draw pictures for a couple of hours, and go home.”

Patty makes sure that Nix doesn’t tax his health or burn out creatively by working too many hours.

“In the old days, 18-hour days weren’t unusual,” Nix says. “No more.”

Typically, Nix appears at two to three events per week. Around the holidays, however, he may draw at more than one event per day.

Over the past three decades, Nix has drawn for the Indianapolis Colts, drawn caricatures of local celebrities such as radio deejays, and became the exclusive caricature artist for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of those organizations that takes care of their fans,” Nix says. “They have a Kids Zone, and they pay us to sit out there and draw for kids for free.”

When the movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love” was released in 2011, Nix attended a wrap party in Louisville where he drew Hollywood stars such as Maria Bello, Jeremy Irons, Karan Soni and Analeigh Tipton. He also drew a caricature of Steve Carell in a Willy Wonka outfit, which the cast of the NBC television show “The Office” signed and presented to Carell when he exited the series.

Nick NixNix feels strongly about donating his time to organizations that are near and dear to him, including the American Cancer Society and Riley Hospital for Children.

Nix’s favorite aspect of his job is the ability to make children laugh.

“The funny thing is that kids are probably the biggest critics,” he says. “I’ll draw a caricature of them and their mom will ask them, ‘Does that look like you?’ They’ll say, ‘No!’”

Nix loves when his sketching causes a large crowd of children to gather around his table.

“They almost hang on me when they watch me draw, but I like it,” Nix says. “When little ones show an interest, I’ll never discourage them from getting a closer look.”

Nix has four grown children and four grandchildren, whom he describes as his joy.

“My wife has said that when my granddaughter came along, she saved my life because my health was really deteriorating and she turned my life around,” Nix says. “It’s so much fun to be a grandpa. If I’d known how great it would be, I would have skipped the dad part and gone straight to being a grandfather.”

For more information about Cartoon Ups, or to schedule Nick Nix to draw at your event, call 317-319-8912 or visit cartoonups.com.

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