Creative Quarantine: Artist Nathan Hiemstra

Parachute Sketch, Automata |©Nathan Hiemstra

Nathan Hiemstra is the kind of artist who will never cease to amaze you. The depth and span of the work he produces is vast. He spent some time talking to Esthetic Lens about his Automatas and was open to sharing his sketches, prototypes, and 3D drawings with us. We are working on having him contribute more of his expansive artistic endeavors to the magazine on a regular basis.

1. How are you holding up?
In the beginning, the introvert in me loved it. Now, I’m missing movies and flea markets. And I REALLY want to go swimming. But I’ve been through harder things in life than this. It’s fine.

Automata Ideas | ©Nathan Hiemstra

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Yes! I’ve finally started a long dormant project…

Several years ago I visited The House on the Rock and absolutely fell in love with their collection of kinetic dioramas. As soon as I got home a couple of dozen ideas for my own dioramas poured out of me. But to my great frustration, I never managed to get started on them. I don’t have experience in 3D and didn’t know where to start.

House On The Rock | Photo Credit: Nathan Hiemstra

Then when the quarantine hit, I restarted an Artist’s Way group with some friends, knowing everyone had ample free time. After doing this group in the past, I came away with something I had always lacked—a consistent art practice. This led to a series of “Secret Hideaway” drawings, which my diorama ideas are partially a 3D version of. 

Movers, 3D Model | ©Nathan Hiemstra

Movers, Prototype | ©Nathan Hiemstra

In doing the group this time, I used the prompt: “What’s the tiniest step I can take towards making my dioramas happen?” My goal was to spend 10 minutes only getting out materials but ended up having fun and three hours later I had made this floating sailboat in a harmonica case. From Googling how to add motion to the sailboat, I stumbled on a whole world of high and low fidelity, professional and DIY, crank-powered dioramas. Automatas, they’re called. This was the missing puzzle piece!

Automata, Movers | ©Nathan Hiemstra

Movers, Finished | ©Nathan Hiemstra

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?
The lesson I have to keep remembering, which is asking for help. And that doesn’t even mean directly, but making myself accountable to other artists and hearing what they’re doing always is effective for me.

Tornado, Sketch | ©Nathan Hiemstra

Tornado Automata |©Nathan Hiemstra

Tornado, 3D Model | ©Nathan Hiemastra

4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?  
I think I’ve been too quarantined to know!

Nathan Hiemstra | © Anonymous Camper

Nathan Hiemstra grew up in Michigan and graduated from The Atlanta College of Art. After swearing to never move back to the cold, he did. Nathan has been in Chicago since 2002 working as a web developer. Sometimes he takes summers off to work at a summer camp and for two months every winter will work remotely from friends’ houses in Atlanta and Los Angeles. His interest in art-making falls between drawing, documenting social interactions, examining cultural conventions, and now automatas. 

Sailboat and Sailboat Sketch | ©Nathan Hiemstra

You can find Nathan Hiemstra online: