Tag Archives: Northwest High School

Art Therapy

March 26, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Nick Rivers

Growing up in Omaha, 33-year-old Nick Rivers didn’t have many friends. His introverted personality made it nearly impossible to branch out into the social circles that surrounded him in school.

Instead, the Northwest High graduate immersed himself in art and would spend countless hours with a pen to paper. But unlike many of his peers, he was drawing ornate comic book characters, something he picked up from his father. Every Wednesday they would go to Dragon’s Lair on 91st and Blondo streets to pick up the newest comics. His passion for comic books eventually led him to his current endeavor—Omniclipse Comics.

“I got into comic books at a very young age, way before it became acceptable or popular,” Rivers explains. “My dad is a very avid comic book collector. He’s been collecting comics since the ’60s, and has always had them laying around the house [when] my older brothers and I were coming up.”

“I remember being the only kid in preschool who not only knew all the members of the Justice League, but also the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and so on,” he continues. “At this time, these characters weren’t featured in a lot of movies or TV shows.”

One of his older brothers—who Rivers calls a “perfectionist”—also drew and inspired Rivers to hone his craft. Once he felt comfortable with his progress, the blossoming artist was able to connect with his classmates through his work.

“I have always—and still have—difficulty making friends,” he admits. “Only recently have I been successfully able to ‘fake’ being an extrovert. So, while I didn’t have many friends, I dove into my imagination. I first started drawing very crude, ugly symbols that really only I understood on piles and piles of notebook paper. Then I started tracing and copying some of my favorite images from comics I owned. Once I felt like I could start taking a little pride in my work I started to share it with some of the other kids in school.”

His dedication to art over the years is staggering. With the goal of producing his own professional comic book at the forefront of his mind, he inched closer to that dream becoming a reality every year—starting in middle school.

“I would draw these really horrible comics back then and go to Kinko’s or OfficeMax to print out as many copies as I could,” he says. “I’d share them with my family and friends.”

Armed with a degree from Omaha’s Creative Center, around 2012 he started to take the steps necessary to create his first professional comic book. At the time, he was living in Florida and in between jobs. He had been working as a graphic designer, but was tired of the uninspiring work.

“I was burnt out on sitting in front of a computer creating things I didn’t feel like made use of the full extent of my abilities,” he says. “My old Creative Center buddy Brett Strong needed help on a project he was hired for. He was penciling a comic called Cursed Mountain for a small indie publisher, Dark Ink Pictures. He needed an inker, so he called me up. I turned in my inks and the creator of the project came to be with another project he wanted me to work on called Coven. It was a very difficult project since it was the first time I had that many pages to turn in and I was penciling, inking, and coloring on a tight deadline while also working two day jobs.”

That experience with Strong was the genesis of Omniclipse Comics, and in 2014 they put out their first comic book, The New Breed. Rivers felt like he’d found his counterpart.

“I personally look for someone who wants to create comics first,” he explains. “I feel like a lot of creators go into a project with built-in ulterior motives. The thing that made a lot of the early Marvel comics so great is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were only trying to tell the next great story—not the next great movie, cartoon, or toy. Those things came later. You have to be passionate about your vision above all. What can you create or show me that I can’t create myself? Also I look for a good, proactive work ethic. So many people think that good art is something that just happens overnight and overlook the many hours of patience, practice, and failure it takes to get there.”

Although Omniclipse Comics is on hiatus, Rivers is still heavily  involved in art. During his free time, he runs a YouTube show called Rivers Art Colors, where he showcases his digital drawing and coloring processes while ruminating on pop culture and comics.

“The last book I put out was Tyrannosaurus Hex No. 3,” he says. “I planned it to be a six-part mini-series, and I intend to finish the last three books once I get back to Omniclipse. Beyond that, I have a lot of stories that I hope to tell.”

illustration by Nick Rivers

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter

Nicole 
Carrillo

April 9, 2015 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Originally published in March 2015 HerFamily.

Nicole Carrillo says she can make friends anywhere. Even at the airport.

Case in point: On a chilly night in November, Nicole stood with her fellow Thrive Club members at Eppley Airfield holding colorful signs. Nicole’s read “WELCOME TO OMAHA!” with the O’s shaped like hearts. Moments later, wild applause, laughter, and some tears erupted from the relatives, students, and coaches gathered for this moment.

Nicole’s soon-to-be-new friends were a refugee family just arriving from Burma. Marisol, Nicole’s mother and one of the sponsors of Thrive, was overwhelmed as tears flooded her eyes. “It was life- changing,” Marisol recalls.

Members of the Thrive Club, along with Lutheran Family Services, provided a cozy home environment for the immigrant family in an apartment volunteer’s chocked full of groceries, clothes, and furniture.

Nicole, a junior at Northwest High School, had filled out a grant to present to her principal, Thomas Lee, to do something for a family that would be lost in a foreign world.

Emigrating is hard, scary, often emotionally draining. Nicole’s empathy stems from hearing the story of her parents. Marisol, a native of Mexico, left for the United States in her teens to pursue a cosmetics license. It was difficult, she says, but she argues she had it easier than her husband Joel, who she would later meet in English classes.

Joel started his first job in the “worst town you can think of”—Aguascalientes, Mexico. He loaded heavy bricks into trucks and, along with 15 or so other boys, sold them house-to-house. He was five at the time. Joel came to the United States when he was 15. Later, he worked 60 to 70 hours a week while attending college classes at night, sometimes even taking a course during his lunch hour.

Nicole sees what her parents had to go through—all their hard work. So she strives to be the best. As a 4.0 student, Nicole is currently right behind her best friend for the top spot on the GPA ladder. “It has been a long steady fight,” she says, “but it’s all in good fun.” However, like most high achievers, Nicole gets upset if she receives a B on a test or paper, but her parents do not.

“My parents are like ‘you are doing the best you can,’” Nicole says resting her hand on her cheek during a recent interview.. “Love them.”

Nicole says attending Northwest was one the best decisions she has ever made. “She is one of the best ambassadors for the school,” Lee says. Nicole is active in all aspects of the school, including student council, National Honor Society, and choir. She has won numerous community service awards and was one of five in the nation to be selected for the National Youth Advisory Council.

Nicole is now eager to show the Burmese family all the “simple things we take for granted” around Omaha—“like the mall and zoo,” she says.

“Nicole has the heart to help…to make a better world,” her mother says proudly.

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