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“My heart runs on six cylinders” – Nikita Karagozov

08.05.2024 By Richard Lindhorst
“My heart runs on six cylinders” – Nikita Karagozov

A Porsche is not just a car to us enthusiasts, but a driving work of art. Sports cars from Zuffenhausen fascinate with their design from every angle. For some of us, it’s not enough to see them just in the garage or on the road. Instead, we’re looking for ways to have them in front of our eyes even in our homes or offices, for example. Düsseldorf-based artist Nikita Karagozov is no exception. He offers individual, exclusive Porsche art via his label sechszylinder. After his “exhibition vol. 2” in Düsseldorf, Nikita took the time for a Porsche Talk. He spoke about his formative apprenticeship, what shapes his style today, but also about personal fears and insecurities.

Welcome, dear Nikita Karagozov! What should our readers know about you?

Thank you for the invitation! I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1989. I left the country with my parents in 1999 and moved to Germany. Today I live in Düsseldorf with my wife and our three-year-old daughter. This is where I realized my big dream in 2020 and started pursuing my passion – cars – professionally with the label sechszylinder! I would describe myself as a very creative, imaginative person.

Why did you emigrate to Germany back then? And how did little Nikita take a liking to cars?

Politically and economically, these were very turbulent times in Ukraine and that’s why my parents emigrated. I often asked myself how it was possible to make a new start as an adult without knowing the language. Now that I am a father myself, I understand the drive to make great sacrifices for a better future for my child.

But even in Ukraine, everything revolved around cars for me. Before I was able to put words together in a meaningful way, I could tell car brands apart. My father was a mechanic, but he also made tuning parts such as skirts and sills himself. He took me everywhere with him. I was obsessed with cars. And there were only Ladas back then!

As a young boy, I thought cars would age like us humans.

Nikita Karagozov

My later stepfather then had a BMW E34 525i. There were maybe three of them in the city. I can still remember the sound of the M50 six-cylinder engine. The sound of that perfectly balanced engine was the sound of my childhood. I grew up with it, resonated with the vibrations of the engine and simply enjoyed it. I had a model of the car and it was my favorite for many years. So you can imagine my joy when I was able to afford my first six-cylinder car. A BMW E36 323i Coupe with exactly that engine sound.

Six-cylinder engines are still your passion. But today the focus is on Porsche. Why is that?

That started in my mid-20s. I like to compare Porsche to a fine whisky. You need time and maturity to really get it. Back then, young adults were fixated on Ferrari or Lamborghini. But I thought Porsche was much cooler because of its understatement. Of course, BMW is also a nice entry-level car to “learn” to enjoy driving.

My heart runs on six cylinders!

Nikita Karagozov

But the older I got, the higher my design standards became. I developed a different approach to aesthetics. And Porsche’s design fidelity, even beyond the 911, fascinates me. What’s more, no other manufacturer manages to combine aesthetics and functional versatility like Porsche. Whether it’s everyday qualities or suitability for the racetrack – the 911 can simply do it all.

What was your path towards art and design?

Even as a little boy, I was always making sketches. This continued in school. I drew car silhouettes all over my math, physics and English books. Of course, there was always a lot of stress with the teachers. After all, the books were the school’s property. My mother then had to pay for the books. She asked me if I liked drawing. I said yes and since then she has always encouraged me. By the way, I still always got an A in math. (laughs)

© Finn Nawin & Jakob Otto

After leaving school, I studied communication design for a year. I quickly realized that the academic approach didn’t suit me. I kept having discrepancies with the lecturers and decided that the traditional route into the advertising industry wouldn’t work for me. Instead, I started training as a media designer to learn the basics of the trade. I had a great trainer and was even able to shorten my training.

You need to learn the rules before you break them!

This sentence from his trainer shaped Nikita Karagozov’s professional development

At some point he asked me again what I had done when he saw a draft for an ad. I said that I had played around a bit. His answer was short but very formative: “You have talent and that’s good, but we have to work on you. You need to learn the rules before you break them!”

What was your apprenticeship like? And how did it shape you?

My boss was very demanding. We sometimes had up to 30 correction loops for one ad. The exact positioning of the image and text was often an issue. After all, there is a difference between geometric and optical center, for example. Just because something is measurably centered doesn’t mean that we perceive it as being centered. It was very important to him that I see the process and understand how everything develops. At some point, I got the hang of it.

That’s how I learned to make simple sketches that describe the essentials. I can easily visualize what others find complicated. After my training, I set up my own advertising agency. This certain lightness of line was and is a trademark of my work.

What do you use to create your prints and designs?

It starts with the photos of the car. Either the customer sends them to me or we organize a shoot ourselves. I always make the first sketch in analog form on paper. Based on this, I discuss the feasibility with the customer. For example, I also need to know where the picture is going to hang later. Because I try to adapt it to the architecture of the room as well. That’s why I have photos of the room sent to me to assess how the picture will look there. Because in the end it shouldn’t take up too much of the room, but enhance it.

I do the work digitally on the iPad Pro. The Apple Pen is my most important tool. I can pick out different acrylic brushes and have unlimited access to colors. For contrast, I have the very precise Vector brushes, which allow me to draw fine lines. I also have the skills I learned as a media designer to emphasize the beautiful curves of the car. Although I draw on a screen, I have to change four Apple Pen attachments a year. Similar to the rear tires if you like to drive sideways.

Although I draw on a screen, I have to change four Apple Pen attachments a year. Similar to the rear tires if you like to drive sideways.

Nikita Karagozov

The level that I have now achieved with digital art would no longer be possible on a classic canvas. The great thing about digital art is that we can print the image on a fine art canvas as well as behind acrylic glass. Or even on a hoodie. So the customer can still order a print in acrylic up to 2m wide for the garage without any loss of quality.

How would you describe your artistic style today?

It is relatively difficult for me to describe my own style. Let me put it this way: Since I’ve been involved in art, I’ve changed my style so that the aesthetic is more in the foreground, but the lightness with the fine lines is emphasized. I try to combine dynamism, aesthetics and lightness in my work. And I believe that if I didn’t have a signature on my pictures, some people would still recognize that it was mine. In my eyes, that is also the greatest form of appreciation.

© Finn Nawin & Jakob Otto

What gave you the courage to break out of the advertising industry and devote yourself entirely to art?

I was commercially successful with my advertising agency, but I lacked personal happiness. So I realized that I wanted to do something new, preferably something with cars. And I could then use the skills I learned in the advertising industry for myself.

I had successfully blown my goal of becoming a millionaire by the age of 30. So I set myself a new one: retirement at 35.

Nikita Karagozov

It has always been my greatest wish to be independent of location. I am a person who loves freedom. I don’t want to be tied to anything, to always have the option of being somewhere else. That even starts on a small scale. I’m at my desk for maybe 30 minutes at a time when things get tough. I’m constantly wandering around. It’s important to me to have a base as an office, but I don’t want to be there all the time.

I had successfully blown my goal of becoming a millionaire by the age of 30. So I set myself a new one: retirement at 35. So I closed my advertising agency, threw myself into work and founded the lifestyle brand sechszylinder. I can now proudly say that I made it. But first you have to define your own understanding of retirement. For me, retirement means that I only do what I enjoy and what gives me independence. And I’ve achieved that through art.

What setbacks did you have to overcome? Is there anything you would give the young Nikita Karagozov along the way?

I think our society is too fixated on mistakes and setbacks. There are mistakes and setbacks behind every successful story. Both are part of it and you have to be able to enjoy them as a process. The regret of not having tried something is much greater in the end. When you fly high, you fall harder, but you heal. Phil Knight’s biography has always encouraged me to keep going.

Don’t listen to anyone else and do your own thing. Make your experiences and it will always be worth sticking with it.

Nikita Karagozov

I would say to the young Nikita Karagozov: “Don’t listen to anyone else and do your own thing. Make your experiences and it will always be worth sticking with it.” I have no regrets and would do everything exactly the same way again. Because you also have to make mistakes in order to draw the right conclusions. That’s the only way to grow.

Looking back, I am very happy with the development of the six-cylinder project. It’s nice to see that both art prints and merchandise have found many fans. Thanks, of course, to a great group of friends who have been with us from the start. We need people around us with whom we can have a good time, joke around and support each other even in bad times.

If there are no real setbacks for you, why do you need an environment that encourages you?

This has to do with the anonymous media world. It is a stumbling block for courage and creativity. After all, it is very easy to give negative feedback. And emotionally, this outweighs positive feedback for many people. As children, we build things in the sandpit and think they are the most beautiful thing there is at that moment. Nobody can take this pride away from us at that point.

Each of us can create something great, but the older we get, the more two hurdles crystallize. The first is the fear of starting and the second is the fear of finishing something. Because we are afraid of negative feedback. That’s why I try not to see the result in the output at all, but rather to enjoy the journey.

Do you always succeed?

Not yet! The last three months have been really tough for me. My life was really stressful during this time. The exhibition took a lot of energy to get everything ready, to organize everything… and yet, I can’t say that all of it worked out in the end. When my ideas for the 992 GT3 RS Artcar didn’t come to fruition, I was on the verge of canceling everything. And to make matters worse, the closer the show got, the worse my health felt.

But now, with a few days distance, I’m gradually coming to rest. I can also enjoy the processes a little on the side. I can enjoy listening to music or reading a book again, I can relax in the car without having deadlines in the back of my mind. It shows that even in bad times you should just ‘keep at it’. The result is definitely worth it!

Finally, let’s go back to cars. What is your dream car and which is the most beautiful Porsche for you?

My dream car is the Porsche 992 GT3 RS. The feedback that this car gives you makes you feel as one with it. No Ferrari or Lamborghini can do that for me. I don’t feel as comfortable in any car as I do in the GT3 RS. Of course, there is also a great deal of respect for the car. I know I have to be mentally and physically fit to drive the car properly. It also takes a lot of personal maturity.

The subject of beauty is more difficult. As an artist, you’re probably a bit erratic anyway. Especially as it’s a question of how you define beauty. If I think of a Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7, for example, then it is proportionally more beautiful, elegant and purist in its design than modern cars. But for me personally, the most beautiful Porsche is probably the Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0. Because in my definition of beauty, performance, technical perfection and a powerful appearance also play a major role. The 4.0 combines this like no other.

Thank you very much for your sincere words, dear Nikita!

Nikita Karagozov is realizing his professional dream with sechszylinder art. In doing so, he remains true to himself – open-hearted, sincere and always positive.

The photos are courtesy of Nikita Karagozov.

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