Art of Drive: Illustrator Adam Nickel

Interview: Karlee Sangster.

Our Art of Drive series interviews artists, designers and photographers to find out what inspires them.

Tell us a bit about what you do and your background.

I’m an illustrator, most of the work I do is for magazines and newspapers. I don't always get to work on motorcycle projects so it’s nice when I get the chance. My background is in graphic design, but I eventually decided I wanted to have a career in illustration because I found more room to be creative.

How did you get into the motorcycle scene in general and as a designer?

It all started with me modifying my sister’s bicycle when I was younger so I could cruise around town. As I got older I kept thinking it would be cool to modify bicycles again like I did when I was a kid, but I pretty soon realized as an adult it made a lot more sense to be customizing motorcycles instead of bicycles. I’ve always liked older stuff and so naturally I was drawn to the customization of vintage motorcycles rather than the newer stuff. I started doing illustration work that revolved around custom motorcycles and just thought I would send some of my artwork to the guys at DicE magazine. They had my artwork on the cover and then a lot of other motorcycle work came from my exposure from the magazine.

Describe your style of artwork and your creative process.

A lot of my illustration is influenced pretty heavily by mid-century illustration and design. I work completely digital on the computer with a Wacom drawing tablet. Which can be frustrating not being able to sell "original art" when people ask, but the ease and flexibility of working digital is hard to beat.

What's your dream bike?

This changes week by week if I’m honest! But at the moment I would really love a stripped down JDH Harley race bike.

Where can people find out more about you or buy more of your work?

My website is and I sell prints on there of my newer style of work, and also updates showing the various motorcycle and non-motorcycle illustration work that I do.

You mentioned your work is influenced heavily by illustrations from the fifties. This seems to be a style that the current custom motorcycle scene relates to well. What led you to start illustrating this way and why do you think it works so well with the custom moto scene?

I've always really like the simplistic yet stylish looks of 50s era illustration. The look and feel of much of my work has come about because of its suitability for editorial illustration. Creating illustrations for magazines, newspapers and advertisers to feed myself. Although I have now had a fair bit of work from the motorcycle world, mostly it started because I wanted to illustrate motorcycle related stuff in my spare time just for fun. I think it works well in the custom motorcycle scene because it looks a little different to the more common imagery of skulls and flames image that you often see associated with the scene. That’s my guess anyway!

What motorcycles have you owned and customised?

I have owned one motorcycle and it’s a 1955 Triumph Thunderbird. It’s been customized with mostly old parts and has a mix of 60s era chopper and drag bike look to it. It’s often changing but that’s how it sits right now.

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 01.

Follow Adam: @adamnickel.

Karlee SangsterArt, Australia