Former Rogue Yogi Turns Negative Space Into a Positive

John Nelson-Batovsky often uses a reverse painting process. He’s also moved back and forth between music and visual art. Photo by Paul Stebner.

The fluidly named John Nelson-Batovsky has a knack for finding his own way. When he was a teenager, he taught himself how to play the guitar, and only a few years later he and his band were opening for the Indigo Girls, Ziggy Marley, and other A-list acts. Later in the late 1980s, he got a job in a frame shop in Florida, where he found he enjoyed working with his hands in what he describes as “a sandbox of colors.”

When he moved to Asheville ten years ago, he continued his framing career at BlackBird Frame & Art, owned by John and Pat Horrocks. Soon enough, he formed a local band (The Rogue Yogis), but it never took off. So John began pushing the creative envelope at work instead. Long fascinated with “textures, relationships of color, [and] the use of positive and negative space,” he picked up a brush, beginning with acrylics but adding in ink, graphite, and sometimes collage.

Emotional Manifesto of Transfigured Spirit, reverse painting on plexiglass.

While his works have garnered praise, John says his art is still evolving. Fortunately, his framing career provides him with a certain artistic freedom. “I’m able to create in a fashion that I don’t have to be concerned if it will be accepted … it’s my therapy, not my next meal or rent check.”

He’s recently begun exploring painting layers in reverse on plexiglass. It’s an exciting process, says John, because he paints on the back of the sheet and doesn’t see the result until he turns it over and removes the protective coating. “The surprise can be pleasant,” he says. “Or not.”

John Nelson-Batovsky, Asheville. For details, visit Nelson’s Facebook page and also @pheonix216 on Instagram. Nelson’s work is on display at BlackBird Frame & Art, 365 Merrimon Ave., Asheville. For details, call 828-225-3117 or visit

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