Abstract Thought Delves Into All Things Artistic
Photographer / Michael Durr
As a contemporary artist, Nick Smith likes to use his podcast, Abstract Thought, as a way to sort through his own creative journey.
“It’s allowed me to talk through a lot,” Smith says of the podcast. “You keep stuff in your head, but in your head it’s kind of jumbled. The way that you can best come to an idea sometimes is getting it out of that mental cluster.”
Started in November of 2020, Abstract Thought discusses how to stay inspired as a creative, ways to navigate the business of art, and what to think of the art world in the modern era. With 13 episodes and counting, the podcast features conversations between Smith and fellow artists, usually at just over an hour in length.
A Hoosier native, Smith grew up in a farm town east of Indianapolis. Outside of art class in school, he says seeing graffiti on trains piqued his interest in the arts.
“I was introduced to other forms of art through seeing freight trains roll by with graffiti on them, and that sparked some of my street-art passion,” Smith says.
Smith would eventually move to downtown Indianapolis to study graphic design at Herron School of Art and Design. From there he found himself working in the world of advertising, which didn’t quite scratch his creative itch.
“It was cool and everything, but it just didn’t get my creative juices flowing like I had hoped,” he says. “I started doing murals on the side, on weekends or after-hours. I was basically doing two jobs at once.”
As the mural gigs became more plentiful, he was able to make the transition into being a full-time artist.
“I just realized, ‘I like doing this mural stuff a lot more. It’s more me, and I feel like I have more to say and can say more with it,’” Smith says. “I took that and ran with it. A couple years have gone by and I still don’t necessarily have a day job, which is awesome.”
Smith now has murals featured all over the city, including one at The Coil apartment complex in Broad Ripple and a few on the campus of locally based staffing company NCW. His murals often feature abstract, geometric designs, which he says are inspired by a fascination with architecture.
“I grew up in a flat farm area, so once I went downtown to go to school, I was now in this very angular, densely populated architectural space,” Smith says. “All of a sudden architecture was coming through in some of my line work.”
On Abstract Thought, Smith often talks about such influences with fellow creatives, working through an artist’s inner thoughts, feelings and struggles.
“I like to keep it very open-ended and almost talk about the philosophy of art, and the backstory and the trauma related with why anybody in the 21st century wants to be an artist,” he says. “I feel like I’ve had a somewhat unique path with that, so it’s cool to hear other people’s paths and how they got there.”
Initially, Smith’s plan with Abstract Thought was to predominantly highlight local and Midwest-based artists. As the podcast has progressed, however, his reach has shifted to even include conversations with artists from other countries.
“Due to the internet, I do have some wide connections,” Smith says. “There are people all around the world who are creatives that also have stories to tell, so I didn’t really want to pigeonhole myself to just Indy.”
Through talking with other artists on Abstract Thought, Smith has often felt therapeutic benefits when it comes to working through past obstacles.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes and have had to paint stuff I didn’t really like,” Smith says. “Some of the podcast touches on some of the mental struggle behind having to push through some of that. It’s just good to externalize some of it.”
He ultimately hopes that Abstract Thought simply provides listeners with new perspectives.
“That’s really what a podcast is about,” he says. “It’s sharing different perspectives and helping people along, because as an artist it can really be a lonely time. You’re by yourself with a canvas, and you’ve got to think a lot. Sometimes it’s good to let those things out and chew through them.”