If walking for even a couple of blocks in the heart of Logan Square, one is bound to see at least one painting by Sick Fisher, who has more than 10 murals, signs and storefronts in Logan Square. His works typically feature dots and dashes on the borders, as well as a treatment of colors that makes the image almost appear to glow, allowing his work to be easily recognizable.
His Logan Square paintings include the Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles storefront and mural; the Milwaukee Avenue Dante’s Pizzeria sign; the Crown Liquors sign and New Belgium mural on the same building; the patio mural and window signage at Rocking Horse; a painted doorway at Gaslight Coffee Roasters; the bathrooms at East Room; the storefront for Temple of the Dog & Meow Lounge; Flying High’s storefront; the Patents + TMS office storefront and more.
When asked to describe his paintings during an interview with LoganSquarist, he made a farting sound with his mouth, jokingly displaying his distaste for the question. After some laughs, “I guess what I’m trying to do is make a living doing what I love that is still somehow helping,” he says. “I’m trying to toe the line between surviving and doing the right thing and doing what I love and working hard and getting enough sleep.”
One of the ways he helps is through his public artworks. “One of the things I notice is that art is just absolutely everywhere, and it’s needed everywhere. No matter how dull it is, it needs art.”
The Start of “Sick”
Nick Fisher is the actual name of the artist, who became “Sick” in his middle school English class. He and his crush were sitting next to a dry erase board, so he nabbed a red marker and a Kleenex, and he stuck the “bloodied” tissue in his ear. His crush freaked out, and the teacher thought he needed to see the school nurse, but it was all a silly ruse. In an unrelated event, Fisher’s mother wrote his name sloppily on a form, so the same teacher thought the “N” was an “S,” spelling “Sick.” The error reminded him of the prank. The name stuck.
Fisher grew up in Sebastian, Fla., where he would make videos with his friends. Showing these at talent shows grew into Fisher going to Florida State for film, but the program only accepted a few students, and he didn’t make the cut. Because he likes to draw, he switched to art, graduating in 2008. When he was looking to leave Tallahassee, it was brought up at a family dinner that his two sisters and an uncle live in Chicago. Everyone at the table seemed supportive of that move, so Fisher packed up and was off to Chicago within just a couple of weeks.
He now has wild, brown hair and a large mustache, and he enjoys riding his bicycle as his main form of transportation from his Humboldt Park apartment/studio. On the buildings immediately around his space, he’s practically blanketed them in his paintings made of house paint from Sherwin Williams. Although he sometimes uses aerosol, “my main weapon is a paint and brush.”
The environment in which he paints is important when creating the works. “When I look at the wall, the surface that I’m painting, I look outside the frame of the art. Well, that building over there is red, and that tree over there is dead.” He works with those elements because the frame of the piece isn’t limited to just where the paint sticks because “people who are experiencing public [art] take it all in context. They walk up to it, and then they walk past it. Maybe they’ll stop.” From a street-facing window of his apartment, he overlooks one of his pieces and often observes people looking at it, gauging their reactions. “I just love to creep on it,” he says in a tickled, goofy way.
Painting the Town
The first piece he made in Logan Square came about through Fisher seeing an ad on Craigslist in 2011, leading him to paint the Patents + TMS Office storefront on Armitage Avenue. When he returned a few months after completion, he offered to redo it each season. He’s recently painted it for the ninth and final time, according to an Instagram post he made.
He then painted some in Humboldt and at Bric-a-Brac, slowly building a portfolio of work. He’s approached for work through making cold calls, as well as through his network of Chicago friends. “It’s just getting outside and making your presence felt,” he explains.
Nick Mayor, the owner of Bric-a-Brac, said he met Fisher through Mayor’s wife, who worked with Fisher’s sister. “[Fisher is] an instantly charming person, so it didn’t take long for us to get close,” Mayor says.
Mayor says he remembers Fisher approaching him for work, as Fisher is “always seeking out new canvases for his craft.” Mayor mostly gave Fisher free rein, and the notable murals and storefront painting at the corner of Kedzie Avenue and Diversey Parkway are striking, which Mayor thinks has played a part in the growth of his business.
Fisher has been making art full time for about a year now. Last April, he was on top of The Bus Shop while painting it, when he got a call that he was taken off the schedule at his part-time restaurant gig. This push helped him have more time to devote to his craft.
His increasingly frequent work led him to a collaboration with Galerie F, as well as New Belgium. Steve Navas, field marketing manager of Chicago for New Belgium, saw Bric-a-Brac’s paintings, which sparked his interest.
“New Belgium’s culture and values are very specific, so when looking for an artist we wanted someone that shares those same traits. When vetting and researching artists, I always thought that Nick Fisher was our guy. His relationship to the city, the community and his art style just spoke to us,” Navas says. He wanted to have a mural space for Fisher, but it didn’t work out at first, so they created a video to celebrate the brewery’s 25th anniversary.
Because New Belgium focuses on bikes, as well as beer, the company commissioned him to paint a bicycle. There’s even a competition going on to vote for fan favorites. The artist who painted the winning bicycle then chooses a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice, and Fisher is choosing the American Diabetes Association’s Chicago chapter.
Since the start of that partnership with New Belgium, the company acquired a wall on the Crown Liquors building, which Fisher painted as a tribute to Tour de Fat early this summer. “Nick hit a home run,” Navas says.
Aside from murals, storefronts and signs, Fisher paints some more nontraditional items, such as the New Belgium bike, a trunk for a magician friend, a swing set for a neighbor and a wall in another friend’s dining room.
However, his murals are what he’s best known for in Logan Square. “There’s like a mural boom. A bubble. There’s something happening.” But it can be hard to add to the value of the neighborhood sometimes. “I had an uncle joke with me once. He said — it was a Facebook post — he said, ‘You should stop painting your neighborhood, or you can’t afford to live there anymore.’ And I laughed, and I was like, ‘Oh, damnit! He’s probably right.’ ”
To follow Fisher’s work, check out his Facebook and Instagram accounts. His Instagram is updated most frequently. He also has a website, sickfisherart.com, which is more of a process to update. “Summer is very busy, so it’s one of those things where once I’m done, I like to get home and turn my eyes off. Not my brain. It’s hard to turn my brain off. I love to just stare at the ceiling like this, thinking about what’s next.” He demonstrates by leaning back in his chair and looking to his ceiling for a moment. “Uh…What was the question?”