Harvey Nichol grew up with a single mother in the streets of Tondo, which he describes as one of the most populated and poverty-stricken-neighbourhoods in Manila.
When his mother passed away suddenly, he was passed from family member to family member, until his father decided to sponsor him to move across the world and live with him.
At the developing age of 14, he had to adjust to a drastic change in environment.
“The standard of living here is just on a different level. I mean, it is a first-world-country compared to a third-world-slum,” Nichol says.
Almost a decade has passed since, yet Nichol still emphasizes the importance of his heritage, by researching Filipino myths, and depicting them through painting. Nichol incorporates the aesthetic of the streets of Tondo, into his art, such as graffiti, and spray paint.
Art was always a passion of his, first introduced by fantasizing about comic books, and attending an after-school artistic hip-hop program. But he never imagined that it could pay the bills.
“When you think of art, you think of rich people, you think of rich kids who don’t have to pay rent.”
With lots of hard work and consistency, Nichol was able to establish a successful career pursuing art full time.
His social media showcases his vibrant detail-oriented paintings, culture-enriched sculptures, current projects he’s working on, as well as apparel available for purchase – for those who can’t afford paintings. This platform is where he attracts a lot of attention.
“I feel amazing. But it wasn’t easy, you know. It has been an uphill battle to get here.”
His job is far from a regular nine-to-five – if anything, he works more than the average person, consistently working on multiple projects at once. Work days don’t stop, and he rarely gives himself a full day off.
However, ahead is a year filled with many notable opportunities, the result of years of hard work. From producing his very own graphic novel with a full team of writers and illustrators – and an accompanying audiobook, to even starring in a short film.
Local filmmaker, and friend of Nichol, Asim Overstands, has been working alongside him on their upcoming film about family, with a Filipino element to it.
“My favourite part about that kid – he tries everything. That way, we can cast him as a Filipino rapper,” Overstands says. “We wanted him to rap in Tagalog, and rap like the kids in his neighbourhood – Tondo. And he’s like, ‘Sure.’ So that’s our next film.”
Although Nichol has little experience in rapping, he still pushed himself to take on this role, and is working with a local producer Eddie Pe$o$ to create the sounds for the film.
Nichol encourages local artists just starting out to be open to trying new things, but most importantly, staying consistent.
“One of the things that got me started, is that people know that when I say I’ll do something, I’ll do it. And I’ll probably do it pretty sick. You build a reputation by delivering,” says Nichol.
He hopes to grow the artist community in Calgary and reassures other artists not to be discouraged by certain narratives of the city.
“I feel like the community here is strong. It gets underplayed all the time, by everyone else. Especially the people who are not aware of what we have here,” he says.
“A lot of people think you have to move to Toronto or Vancouver to do these things, but I can do these things and still live here and pay less rent. If you leave, then you essentially abandon the quest here. What’s the point of that?”
Nichol’s partner, multimedia artist Payton Anthony says his influence on youth can hopefully spark headway for the next generation of creatives.
“He’s always worked with a lot of youth, to really motivate that, because it starts there. Getting the kids involved and meeting them where they’re at. All those small things really add up. All that community work that matters the most. Why not blend each other’s talent and make a team?”
Nichol’s recent partnership with Canadian clothing company Herschel Supply Co. introduces woodcut sculpture workshops at their new store in Chinook Centre, hosted by Nichol until June.
Nichol welcomes anyone to join.