Nathan Cole is an artist, photographer, and writer working out of Toronto, Canada. A graduate of the Honours BFA program from Western University in London, Ontario in 2003, Nathan is now emerging as a professional artist after rediscovering the scratchboard medium in 2013. He is best known for his intricate and emotional portraits of highly expressive animals on scratchboard. He carefully uses negative space and the starkness of black-and-white to create engaging chiaroscuro compositions, sometimes playful, sometimes profound. The intensity and diversity of the lines created with the quill depict colour, texture, and depth all at once. The painstaking, slow, and unforgiving nature of quill on scratchboard works relates closely to the careful approach that must be taken for conservation efforts with these animals and their habitats. The combination of wildlife and domestic animal portraits is meant to create a commonality between the two, asking whether one has more inherent value than the other.
Nathan attended the Mauser EcoHouse artist residency in Costa Rica after winning the Nanci Christopher photography grant and participated in the Farm Studio residency in Andore, Rajasthan, India. He has exhibited his work at the Super Wonder Gallery, Queen West Art Crawl, and Beaux Arts Brampton, as well as Eduardo Lira Gallery in Miami where he was a semi-finalist for ARTBOX.Projects and The Treasury in Pontiac, Michigan where he won 3rd place in the Handcrafted Category. Nathan’s art work has also been featured in Murze and ArtAscent Magazines.
Scratchboard, by its very construction and purpose, is a very fragile medium - you create by taking away and any missed stroke could ruin what you have created so far. Humanity and its relation to nature is quite similar. Humans create their society by taking away, cutting down and stripping the resources to create their cities and culture. Their impact on the wildlife and habitats around them is deeply affected by this process, but also in how they build their culture, the stories told and myths created. The perception of particular animals due to their place in history can very well determine their livelihood. Are the animals viewed as a threat to humans, are they treasured for their fur or meat, do they have mythic properties on the black market, or are they perceived as a pest to be rid of? Does your pet have more inherent value than a wild creature? Creating expressive animal portraits with scratchboard creates a tenuous relationship between viewer and creature, where historical and cultural perceptions can deeply affect how they see the animal in front of them. The painstaking and slow process of creating the art is echoed by the careful approach that must be taken for examining some of the myths and perceptions of these animals and how that may affect conservation efforts. In this way I hope that by creating art, I can improve the relationships of humans and the cities they live in to the wildlife surrounding them.