behind the pop art with @fkanico

behind the pop art with @fkanico

My timeline really delivered last week—amid a zesty wash of lime-green Brat memes, I witnessed a standout tribute to Charli the form of a sculptural reference to the hedonistic track "Everything is romantic"...oh my god, it's JESUS CHRIST ON A PLASTIC SIGN!!!

The artist slinging these fabulous items is Nico Loreto, aka @fkanico, and a quick sweep of Nico's Twitter showed a wide range of incredible art that glorifies the pop gals of today, with a special focus on Lady Gaga...we're talking the evolution of Gaga in the form of that "Bimbo Picks Up a Book" meme...

...concept art for Joker: Folie à Deux...

...custom-designed merch ideas for the Chromatica Ball tour??

I was totally blown away by the creativity and style and execution and knew I needed Nico's backstory so I DM'd a bunch of questions over—please enjoy this interview, whose themes include vibing on religious art, mainlining pop stars via "unrestricted internet access," getting your art stolen, and of course, using excellent graphic design to trick people into thinking there was a special Starbucks promotion for listening to the song "Shallow"...

Would love to hear about your artistic background first — how long have you been making art, and when did you start making art inspired by music?

I have been making art since as long as I can remember. My mother used to tell people I was born with a pencil in my hand. Growing up, my favorite activity was always drawing. I would choose a pen and paper over any toy I was given and I could spend hours laying on the carpet of my living room making art.

I would say I probably began making art inspired by music as I grew into my adolescence, since that was when I started to listen to music mostly on my own. My teenage years were kind of sad to be honest. I spent a lot of time alone and with that time alone I became obsessed with different musicians, and art became a vehicle for expressing my admiration for them. I feel very lucky to have grown up alongside the careers of who I believe to be some of the most incredible female artists. People like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Charli XCX, and FKA Twigs to name a few are some of my favorite musicians. I think what’s missing from a lot of pop music today is people are afraid to let their artistry take the front seat. I think these artists I grew up listening to allowed their artistry to shine through, and that authenticity made a deep connection with me and my own personal art.

What was the process for making that Brat crucifix? (and how soon after hearing "Everything is romantic" did you realize you needed to make your own Jesus Christ on a plastic sign)?

The need to make a BRAT crucifix hit me pretty much instantaneously, I fell in love with “Everything is Romantic” as soon as I heard it. I think the lyric “Jesus Christ on a plastic sign” stuck out to a lot of people who listened to BRAT. I think there’s a genius to romanticizing a holy figure reduced down to a material as unorthodox as plastic. A couple days after BRAT came out I noticed people making edits of neon green crucifixes and a lot of tweets talking about how it would be a cool merch idea.

I love when religion is referenced in pop music, and I especially love collecting merch and memorabilia from my favorite artists. Personally, I was born and raised Catholic so I’m no stranger to Catholic imagery. While I personally do not practice Catholicism anymore, I have a deep love for Catholic imagery and art. Growing up, I hated having to go to church every Sunday. I always felt ostracized in church and it always made me uncomfortable hearing such hateful messages being preached in a place that is supposed to be filled with love and community. The only thing that I felt to be worthwhile being at church every week was being able to stare at the artwork and imagery within the churches I went to. I would spend the entire time looking up at the massive paintings on the ceilings, making excuses to go to the bathroom so I can wander the halls to look at the statues and paintings on the walls, etc. In a way I feel like this connects to the idea Charli was describing in “Everything is Romantic.” There is beauty in every situation, for me I found beauty in absorbing art in a place that wasn’t ideal.

I see you also have made lots of Lady Gaga art—when did you start listening to her? And kind of a silly/maybe obvious question (I'm a huge fan of hers) but what about Lady Gaga do you find inspiring?

I am VERY proud to say I am a die hard veteran little monster. In a way I’m glad I had unrestricted internet access as a child. I know a lot of people say they were there from the beginning but I really was there to experience the birth of her Lady Gaga persona. I discovered Gaga after seeing the Just Dance music video on MTV while at a friends house. Since that point, I have been absolutely obsessed with her music. I remember using my childhood friend’s family computer to watch her interviews, performances, and music videos and forcing her to watch. A core memory for me was her mom walking in on us watching the “Paparazzi” music video when it came out and her later calling my mom because she thought I was forcing her daughter to watch pornography. Regardless, I was always unapologetic about my love for Gaga. I admired her fearlessness, especially as a child who was often told “No.” It felt like I was able to watch her do everything that I wish I could be able to do, and I basically lived through her. Her commitment to art and fashion and executing a vision was so admirable to me as a child.

Making art about pop stars means you can also share it far and wide via social media. How would you say social media has affected the way you approach art? Are there any downsides to social media popularity, or have you had a good experience overall?

I would say social media greatly affected the way that I approach my art nowadays. Growing up, a lot of my art was made with the intention of nobody seeing it. I wasn’t really worried about making it look the best I possibly could. Now when I make something, I have the looming idea of thousands of eyes looking over my shoulder. There are many downsides to posting your art on social media. I would say there is a lot of pressure now to be making artwork because I know that there’s a possibility that many people will see it, and there’s a possibility the pop star themselves might even see it. Seeing people’s unfiltered comments and feelings towards my art is also very scary at times. I usually try not to let it get to me, but I feel very defensive towards my art. I’m always scared I’ll end up being that meme you see of a laughably bad drawing.

Also, similar to the topics Charli touched on in BRAT, I think there’s also an unspoken competitiveness in these online art spaces. A lot of the time it feels like people are competing for their fav pop star’s attention or competing for the most likes or reposts. It gets exhausting. I took a year long break off of Twitter because I was tired of the behaviors I was seeing on there. I’m back now but I approach creating my art a little bit differently now.

Another downside of sharing on social media is the fact that my art is constantly being stolen from me. It’s impossible to get stolen art taken down completely. Once your art is published on the internet, it’s everyone’s to consume and it no longer belongs to you. I see t-shirts being sold online all the time with my work on them. I remember going to Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball concert in LA and at one point everyone around me was wearing shirts I designed but never sold. I never made a penny off of those designs. I’m grateful there are people that like my work and that it is profitable but I am always thinking about how people are going to take advantage of my art. At the end of the day though, I am extremely grateful to even be able to share my art with so many people. It’s a conscious decision to share my work on social media, nobody is forcing me to do it, but I do it because it gives my art purpose. I can only imagine how difficult it was to be an artist before the internet. It’s a privilege to be able to spread your art to the entire world.

Is there a particular artwork you've created that you're most proud of?

Honestly, with every piece of art I make, that one becomes my favorite and most proud piece. So I never really have one that is my favorite. I think what I am most known for is my “Shallowbucks” graphic that I created to promote the Lady Gaga song “Shallow.”

Even though that graphic is pretty much seen as just stan twitter trolling, I put a lot of my graphic design knowledge into creating that and making it as believable as possible. I mean it worked, it went viral and made headlines, and that “scam” technique is still used today by a lot of stan twitter accounts.

Other than that I’ve had a couple drawings and edits noticed by celebrities like Gaga and Ariana Grande. I made a “Rain on Me” edit that was really popular when it came out.

Ariana ended up tweeting about it because she thought it was a real photo. One time Charli XCX reposted an edit I made of an alternate “CRASH” album cover to her story.

I’m always proud when my art gets noticed by the people I base my art on. That’s always the dream. My art comes in many forms, I don’t like to limit myself to one medium. I love painting, drawing, photography, sculpting, and graphic design all equally. So to pick a favorite piece feels impossible.

Favorite song off of Brat?

All of it is just SO good. It’s the perfect mix of hard hitting electronic Charli bangers and thought provoking vulnerability. It feels very full circle for her, you can really hear how she has evolved as an artist and it feels very reminiscent of her career yet somehow completely new. My favorite tracks are “Everything is Romantic” and “365.”

I’m a big fan of “Everything is Romantic” because I love lyrics that paint a picture for you. It reminds me a bit of Lana Del Rey’s writing from her “Born To Die” era in the sense that images are presented to you and you are transported to a very specific place. The romanticization of images feels very Lana coded. I love el Guincho’s production on that track. It sounds a lot like one of my favorite FKA Twigs songs off of Caprisongs that he also produced, called “Darjeeling.” It’s full of energy and I love it.

“365” is such a great album closer since it ties to the opening track, “360.” I love how it explodes as the song progresses, the song takes so many different forms. How can you not say “bumpin’ that!” at least 300 times throughout your day?

Thank you Nico! Follow @fkanico for more great pop art. And thanks for reading I Enjoy Music. If you like it, tell a friend!