Nathan Lam

I am a Chinese American writer and visual artist. I am Autistic. I don’t think my Autism is important in my practice yet, but I have thought about how to explore it more. I have nothing to hide. I may want to bring it up one day but I don’t speak for other people. I only speak for myself and my own life experience. 

My drawings bounce between realism and comics. Some of my writing is about humor. Some of my art is sarcastic or cynical. I sometimes use censorship as a form of comedy. I like adult or dark humor, such as the Pearls Before Swine comics. I feel that some of my art is too profane or dark to share at NIAD, so that art remains private to me. 

One of my major influences is the Chinese comic series Old Master Q. As a homage to Old Master Q, I include numbers in the top right of my cartoons. When I was younger Garfield was an inspiration to me; currently New Yorker cartoons and Silent Era film comedies are more often sources of interest. Some of my art is influenced by The Simpsons but that might be a mere coincidence.

Pencils are my primary material and painting is secondary in my practice. I like to use oil paints, watercolors, inks and pencils. Saturday art classes at Artworks in San Francisco got me hooked on oil painting when I was a teen.

I am interested in vintage ads and comics, which I look up on the internet as a resource. I like looking at things through a historical lens. Some social norms are the same and some are different. Sometimes I like to mock social norms that don’t age well.

The panels and shapes of my comics are important to me. Sometimes I’ve made circular or squiggly lined panels. I’ve eliminated comic speech bubbles because it makes things too convoluted on the page. I don’t usually show comic ‘action lines’ because I don’t like it in my visual language. I feel like ‘action lines’ waste space in a drawing’s composition. I’m interested in print making in regards to comic strips.

Some of the titles of my comics are not descriptive and some carry over from the comic strip’s story. Something that’s obvious but not too obvious so it doesn’t give away the whole story. Many of my stories and poems are just made up as I go along. I rarely have a whole story beforehand. I tend to write a story over a week, but they are more like extended jokes built up over time. 

I am working on improving my creative writing skills. I also write essays and poetry. My poetry is my hobby and for close friends. I recently made a zine with jokes about emotions. Sometimes my zines come from me watching crazy things on the internet. I am currently interested in developing a short book for NIAD about the exploits of my neighborhood cat.

 // Nathan’s available work //


recent exhibition history

Draw Your Letters // organized by Danny Floyd // NIAD Art Center // Feb 2021

SPEED // organized by Patrick Reed // NIAD Art Center // Jan 2021

Be Heard. Speak Up. // organized by Fenwick & West // NIAD Art Center // October 2020

Monochrome Markings // organized by Jennifer Gilbert // NIAD Art Center // August 2020

Night Vision // organized by Christina Linden // NIAD Art Center // March 2020