Artist celebrates life in Day of the Dead works

Come October in San Diego, colorful Day of the Dead imagery is a vibrant counterpoint to the dark specter of ghosts, witches and vampires associated with Halloween. Local artist and illustrator Nicholas Ivins brings an engaging and relatable vision of the holiday. Available at a variety of price points and mediums, it’s an art that is both addictive and collectible. DiscoverSD sat down with the artist to find out more:

DiscoverSD: How did you get into Day of the Dead imagery?

Nicholas Ivins: It started it five or six years ago. I did one piece, “Muerta,” to explore the holiday, and it has become my most popular. Since then, I’ve gone to a lot of Day of the Dead festivals and taken part in a lot of events.

DSD: What inspires you?

Ivins: It’s just something that’s hard to describe. It’s a drive, it’s something you have to do. Like breathing, you don’t think about why. I get inspired by people and human form, like artists throughout history, and I’m no exception. As an illustrator, the goal is to tell a story in a single image, or the suggestion of a story. People have their own interpretations too; they pick up on their personalities, or project people they’ve known.

DSD: What artists do you look up to?

Ivins: Gustavo Rimada, in Los Angeles ( He does Day of the Dead, and art with Latin influence. He works in oil, and it’s insanely brilliant, but also culturally, there is a lot going on. I admire a lot of illustrators, both comic and otherwise.

DSD: Your color palette is so vibrant. Where did you pull that from?

Ivins: It comes from Mexican and Latin culture in general. It’s very colorful - a lot of the festivities are bright and festive. Day of the Dead is about celebrating the lives of people we lost. It goes against Western traditions of death, and a celebration of how they lived instead of “they are dead.” You create altars to them, with photos and objects that remind you of them. And who they were, in a way, they come back to life for that day.

DSD: Is there a comic book influence?

Ivins: Definitely. I grew up leading a lot of comics and watching cartoons. That had a visual impact on my work. People appreciate it because you don’t see a lot of art drawn that way. Comics are all about bright colors and bold imagery.

DSD: Are the people you depict based on real models or photographs?

Ivins: They are imaginary mostly, but occasionally I use someone. I try to make them as diverse culturally as possible, using black, Asian, Russian people, taking it to different places that are unexpected for Day of the Dead imagery.

DSD: Even though they aren’t real, they definitely have an energy.

Ivins: One of these things I am trying to do is to depict them as if they are real people, to imbue them with their own personality. Everyone looks like they are individuals, like people that have their own lives.

DSD: Where can San Diegans find your work?

Ivins: The best place is the online store on the website (; in Old Town, at Tienda de Reyes, and I will be there (Oct. 29), for their Day of the Dead event. (Oct. 30), I will be at the Oceanside Day of the Dead festival, and then at Noche de Altares (Night of Altars) Festival in Santa Ana on Nov. 5. Other times of year, I’m at the Adams Ave. Festival, North Park Festival of the Arts, and the Mission Federal ArtWalk.

Follow Ivins on social media on Facebook at and on Instagram @nicholasivins.

Laurie Delk is an avid art historian, holding a master’s degree in art history, with concentrations in the modern and postmodern movements. She has taught classes at Tulane University, and has been published with several art publications including Sculpture Magazine and New Orleans Art Review. Send ideas for art stories to