Travis Nichols: Wholly DIY

To say that Travis Nichols’ recent event at the Bronze Doors Academy simply functioned to support his new book, Matthew Meets the Man, ignores other, clearly salient reasons: interacting with the community and having fun.  When you watch Nichols perform or speak, you see someone enjoying life as much as possible.  As a comic artist, author, and songwriter, he’s the kind of kid that never outgrew drawing monsters and inventing stories.

After a short set of songs about topics ranging from touring the country to monsters, Nichols pointed out to the crowd various stations surrounding the room where participants could complete already half-done monster drawings with dry erase markers, add a pane to a communal comic, or make their own mix-and-match drawing booklets.  Unsurprisingly, Nichols’ event focused less on selling books and more on empowering people, particularly young people, to create and imagine.

Nichols, who began self-publishing comics now has books out on both McMillan’s and Penguin’s imprints.  He says that a job working for Nickelodeon magazine was a pivotal turning point.  When I spoke with Nichols during the event, he talked of his creative process as a self-feeding cycle.  “I can’t write music when I’m sad,” he claims, “everything I do comes out of joy.”  When asked what he does to stay happy, he responded, “Fortunately, it’s perpetual…drawing and writing make me happy.”  Without a funny metaphor, it wouldn’t feel true to Nichols’ identity.  He wrapped his comments up by adding, “It’s a snake eating its tail…and liking it.”

His positivity is contagious to those around him, a fact made obvious by the natural ease with which he interacted with some of the youngest future-artists, helping them create books and draw comic panes.  This infectious joy makes sense considering the ideas Nichols, whose last book was called Punk Rock Ettiquite, shared with us about the connection between fun and punk rock.  Nichols holds the belief that being inspiring and joyful can be as powerful as direct critique of politics or social problems. His response to worldly stress acts as a way to combat sadness and despair.  He referred to this process as “shoveling joy onto misery.”

Nichols has something for kids of all ages, whether they’re eight or thirty-eight.  His comics and drawing books are visually engaging and filled with fun activities, but he also creates fine art – paintings infused with tiny reminders of the same joyful energy.  You can find him online at or he may be through your town soon for an event in support of his work.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.
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