Nico Nicoson’s work isn’t the kind of thing you walk past without noticing. The Newtown artist specialises in vibrant, free-flowing murals teeming with rounded edges and nature imagery.

“I like to make things that are really, really bright and stand out from the natural landscape,” says Nicoson. “That’s my objective with colour. I’m trying to make a special treat for the eyes.”

The artist’s work often incorporates plants and animals, cutting across various demographics for a wide appeal. “That’s a timeless thing,” he says. “I like to make work that both children and adults will like, and those things are a common entry point for lots of people.”

While his indoor and outdoor murals around Sydney might be the first of his pieces to catch your attention, Nicoson is equally devoted to printmaking, hand drawing, digital work and fine-art painting. A now-sold out print he originally made for his son, depicting various cats around the message “meow”, was inspired by his own pet cat and his son’s love of felines big and small. “Having a kid has made me appreciate how he sees stuff,” says the artist. “My work has gotten even more naive, in a way.”

Nicoson landed on his unique visual voice through a combination of influences, from street art and mid-century graphic design to the nature-based works of the late American artist Charley Harper. He’s also found the boldness of his work translating well to tattoos, with many people tagging him after getting inked with his images. But Nicoson has also found favour in the commercial world, doing wine and spirit labels that circle back to his fondness for functional graphic design that catches the eye and lightens the mood.

“What I really want to do is give people something enjoyable,” says Nicoson. “I want to invoke childhood nostalgia and give people a break from everything. It’s really just about bringing a bit of happiness. I’m trying to capture a sense of whimsy and letting people have a little moment of joy.”

That’s especially true of his murals, which Nicoson takes great care to integrate into existing surroundings, even while dolloping larger-than-life splashes of colour. “I try to think about people’s vantage point, and how the viewer will react,” he says. “I also like to keep bits of the surface visible in my murals, because I’m interested in making them complement the surface rather than overtake it.”

It's also about simplifying visual language so it can have an immediate impact. A specially commissioned print for last year’s Negroni Week evokes a strong sense of relaxing by the coast using just a few shapes and bold colours. Inspired by Byrdi bartender Luke Whearty’s Negroni Week cocktail creation, the Mornington to Milan Negroni, Nicoson aimed to echo vintage Campari ad posters from the 1920s.

“I’ve looked at [those ads] a lot over the years, even as a kid,” he says. “But I wanted to make it more modern and tie in this idea of Mornington to Milan. In the background are the heads of the Mornington Peninsula.”

The woman enjoying a Negroni on the beach is wearing an orange-like hair pin, which both nods to the cocktail’s traditional garnish as well as Nicoson’s fondness for the shape.

“That’s a motif that runs through a lot of my work,” he says. “I often have citrus around the place. I like the patterning, and the feeling of citrus-y kind of zest, it’s evocative for me.” Auctioned off during Negroni Week 2021, Nicoson’s poster raised $3800 for charity. A print of the piece is now on display at Galleria Campari as part of the Biennale of Sydney, which runs until June 13 throughout Sydney.

Nicoson says, for all its different outlets, the fundamental aim of his work is to connect with people. “To make things anyone could take something from,” says Nicoson. “I’m always looking at making it as universal as I can.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Campari. See Nicoson’s work on display in Galleria Campari, open daily from 10am–5pm, and until 9pm on Wednesday nights for the live music series Art After Dark.