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(Images: Joel Nunn-Sparks)

Artist of the Week: Joel Nunn-Sparks

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Joel Nunn-Sparks: I've been creating, in some form or another, for most of my life. Growing up, I would create music, hip hop beats and dance mixes, family videos, etc. About 12 years ago, I purchased my first DSLR camera, and that opened up a brand new world for me as an artist.

Do you work with other mediums?
All of my work stems from my love for photography. Recently, I've been experimenting with mixed media art on plywood sheets, using my photography as a base.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
I really try to let my heart guide my lens. If I overthink with a camera in my hand, I know right away that I am not going to be fond of the photo I just created. Music plays a huge part in my creative process. Being able to "absorb" the creativity...helps my creativity tremendously. It's hard to put into words.

On top of that, I've been a high school photography teacher for (almost) three years. Anything that I create has to have the approval of my board (my students). They tell me when an idea I have is "whack," or worth investing my time in. They have yet to be wrong; they've been taught well.

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Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
Watching and following the creative process of others is a HUGE inspiration to me. I've made it a point to surround myself with artists that I can learn from, whether they use my medium or not. Two artists that I follow in Tri-Cities are Saul Martinez and Madison Rosenbaum. They are constantly stretching me to be a better artist. Shoutout to you two! My mixed media art is loosely inspired by New York City street "art."

Do you have a specific "beat" you like best, nature, food, profiles, etc.?
Humans, and nature. When I can combine the two, I'm happy!

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Not exactly, I definitely try to pour my heart into each piece that I create.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
After the death of my aunt in 2015, I realized that life was way too short for mediocre and that I needed to find joy in the work that I was doing/creating. During that discovery, my art focus shifted from normal "commission" type work (weddings, etc.) to making art that personally moved my soul. I still do weddings, senior photos, etc., but it's rare. Though it's been a long journey, I am excited to see where art takes me in the future.

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If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it? and on Instagram: @jnunnsparks (come for the art, stay for the memes).

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're excited about?
This year has been full of firsts for me. Not only did I submit my first art piece to a gallery (DrewBoy Creative's Blue Show), it was selected as the cover art for the show. I also created art and hosted my own birthday art show for family and friends. As stressful as it was, my limits were stretched, and there's no going back.

One of the things I am enjoying about this countrywide lockdown (thanks COVID-19) is that I actually have time to meditate on the idea of "What's Next?" There is so much I want to accomplish with my art and so many directions that I want to take it. I am the type of person that is constantly trying to one-up myself, so even though I don't have a definite "What's Next" project, I know it is going to be something amazing, if not my students will shut me down!

Being involved in the community is something that I strive to do more of this year for sure. Madison Rosenbaum and I are in the process of creating a mentor/mentee type program for photographers in the area. The specifics are still being ironed out, but I believe it is something that will benefit amateur and professional creatives alike.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
STRONG! Quad-shot over ice with oat milk (or coconut milk).