Erik Pflueger has always been artistic; “It may very well go back to the crib,” he recalls. He notes that it was vital for him to start expressing his artistic side at a young age, even if that is not the path for all artists.
Pflueger started a graphic design firm straight out of college called Cygnus Arts; a firm which does architectural renderings, graphic design, and fine art. His deep and detailed artwork did not come about overnight, however, “It takes a lifetime to get there to begin with.”
Pflueger lives with autism and has personally had cannabis impact him in a positive way. He does not derive inspiration from cannabis in his art but he does recognize that the style of his art can be easily admired by the cannabis community.
In his work he brings real-life elements into non-reality. By using real-life effects, Pflueger notes that, “One little nod to reality helps sell the non-reality.”
We also talked about how an artist’s personality is in some way represented in their artwork, and Pflueger is no exception to that idea. He is an intelligent man and the priority he places on details are reflected in pieces such as “Relativity,” one of his favorite pieces that depicts a cosmic scape surrounded by a futuristic frame.
“It’s not always the message but capturing attention,” Pflueger understands that people today have short attention spans, and, if a painting cannot capture its viewer’s attention quickly, one may bypass the work altogether. He uses visually striking images and strong colors to draw the viewer in and then keep them there with profound imagery and stunning detail.
James Joyce’s concept of aesthetic arrest is what Pflueger aims to emulate in his work. “It’s supposed to neither make you want the object represented or not want it, it’s just meant to hold you in place and be fascinated by it.”
Most of Pflueger’s works are about the size of a record album, but for his latest piece, he is working on a roughly four-foot-tall canvas. The painting is called “The Force” and will depict the interconnected relationship between the living force and the cosmic force. He chose to do such a large piece to challenge himself, dipping his toe in the water to see if he can translate his work from a smaller surface to one that is almost four times its usual size.
When asked if there was anything he wished to pass on to our readers, Pflueger shared two quotes that have had a great impact on him. The first is a quote from Joseph Campbell who said, “Follow your bliss.” The second was imparted to him from actor/comedian Kevin Smith who shared the philosophy of asking yourself why not, instead of asking yourself why. These quotes showed Pflueger that he should love the work he does and do the work he loves, and he hopes everyone does the same.
The brothers Kole and Kyle Trent from Nugtopia are a force to be reckoned with. Kyle, the older brother is 25 years old and handles the business side of things allowing Kole, 23, to focus solely on his art.
The trent brothers grew up with paintings by Michael Goddard in their childhood home. Goddard is an artist who would bring to life olives from martini glasses, giving them arms and legs and have them moving all over his pieces. Kole drew inspiration from Goddard and would later do for the cannabis flower what Goddard did to the olives.
Kole is all self-taught and has been a gifted artist from a young age. This dates back to his senior year of high school when he started painting the bottom of his surfboards, which his friends would see and and ask Kole to do theirs. Kyle, recalled that his brothers paintings were, “well above where someone should be that has no formal training.”
Kole talked his parents into letting him pursue art during a semester break before he was supposed to start studying nursing. As his brother Kyle remembers, “he did a bunch of shows, a bunch of different events around the state, and within that six months he did well enough that he could open up his first gallery.”
About three years ago, their mother Patricia had been diagnosed with benign nodules in her breast tissue. She went to Colorado to receive medical cannabis treatment and when she came back to Florida for the surgery to remove the nodules the surgeons couldn’t find the tumors at all. The two nodules had been reduced to the size of, “grains of sand.”
“Thats really where it had all derived from, was our mother and her journey through that and Kole wanted to continue to help people like our mother was helped, just the way that he can.”
Kyle Trent explained his brother Kole, “wanted to take the taboo out of the industry because of how it affected our family and helped our mother.” The only way he knew how to do that was through his artwork. Kole painted a piece called “OG Kush” which turned out to be the genesis of his work bringing the flower of cannabis to life.
Kole created a whole line of cannabis characters with different looks and personalities to go along with their individual strain. He also paints his characters in different scenes like his painting Maui Waui’s Luau, in which all of his cannabis characters are on the beach surrounded by palm trees having a Luau.
Kyle’s favorite piece is one that Kole had painted him after his dog, a Bishon Frise named Snoopy, passed away. It depicts that classic Snoopy the dog cartoon character, in cannabis form of course, laying on top of his dog house looking to the sky surrounded by a galaxy scene.
All of Kole’s paintings are three-dimensional. They may not physically pop off the canvas but the layering of acrylic paint that Kole uses make his pieces come to life when you put on three-dimensional-glasses.
Kole does most of his work on canvas but recently he has expanded to much larger surfaces. Kole has been commissioned by the City of Cocoa Beach to paint six murals across the town as part of the Cocoa Beach Mural Project.
In the future, the Trent brothers are looking to expand Nugtopia to reach as many people as they can by breaking the stigma and helping people to see cannabis in a different light so others can be helped just like their mother.
Kole and Kyle Trent are here to challenge cannabis stigma, one painting at a time.
Kole Trent, artist and cannabis entrepreneur, is a difficult guy to get ahold of these days and for good reason. As the talent behind the website Nugtopia.com, Kole splits his time between two visual ventures.
“Nugtopia is only half of what we do,” says Kyle Trent, Kole’s brother and manager. “Kole has a whole different side to his art aquatic land and seaside paintings that I manage for him.” Balancing a dual role of Artist Manager and Operations Manager, Kyle spends his days managing Nugtopia’s inner workings and handling all business aspects of his brother’s art. “My role is taking any stress off of Kole so he can freely create,” Kyle explains.
When he’s not painting cannabis flowers or seascapes, Kole spends his time traveling the country, donating art to cannabis activist groups like Regulate Florida and Cannamoms, and painting large-scale wall murals to donate to local schools and communities. Participation, education, and contribution to the cannabis community is at the heart of what Nugtopia does.
Kyle Trent wasn’t always a cannabis advocate. In fact, until recently, he actively avoided it.
“For a long time, I was completely against the plant,” Kyle says. “I was very ignorant in that sense.” But when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and headed to Colorado to explore cannabis therapies, his perspectives took a sharp turn. “It wasn’t until my brother, Kole, educated me on the medicinal aspects of cannabis that I felt the logic of the situation,” says Kyle. “I looked at the cold hard facts of what cannabis is, and what it can do.”
Kole and Kyle’s mother soon returned to Florida and, to the surprise of her doctors, was pronounced cancer-free. Her recovery inspired her sons to build what would soon become Nugtopia.net—a website featuring hand-painted, caricature-style representations of cannabis flowers. The whimsical images are available for purchase as signed originals and prints, as well as on apparel and gifts like shirts, coasters, and dab mats. They even offer cannabis-friendly painting classes!
While helping people has always been the focus, it was his mother’s recovery that inspired Kole to enter the cannabis space. “Nugtopia came from our mother in almost every way you can think about it,” says Kyle. “Her story was the drive behind how it all originated.” Kole had always been a cannabis advocate, but after this experience, he felt even more drawn to enlighten people all over the world about its therapeutic potential. “Kole wanted to help people see cannabis as something helpful rather than harmful, and he did this with his artwork,” says Kyle.
But he couldn’t do it alone. After some convincing, Kyle agreed to take a leap and leave nursing school to help his brother with
his business. “It’s been a lot of fun so far,” he
says. The future looks bright for Kole and Kyle Trent, who hope to continue to use Nugtopia as a tool to drive positive change in the cannabis space, removing the stigma that surrounds the industry and plant. To them, at the end of the day, it’s all about helping people like their family and friends.
“My mom’s side of the family has a long history of cancer, and we wanted to help our family members get away from the opiates and hard narcotics that they were using to help with the pain,” Kyle says. And from the looks of it, their work is having a strong impact. “Our grandfather just started taking CBD after having been against it his entire life. It’s amazing how a little education goes a long way.”
In their journey forward, the duo plan to continue building relationships with cannabis advocacy groups and helping to raise money to remove the stigma that so often surrounds both the industry and the medicine.
“In summation,” says Kyle, “Our purpose is to help people and drive awareness to the medical benefits of this amazing plant—that’s why we got into it, and that’s what we hope to continue to do moving forward.”