On Her Art:
When I asked Nicole how she characterizes her painting style, she slowly explained that it was what she has come to view as "optimistic expressionism," but not (and she did emphasize the "not") because she wants to be known as the shiny happy portrait painter. Rather she views the "optimistic" aspect as a reflection of her paintings' vibrant effect on the viewer, both those who stop on the sidewalk to peer over her shoulder while she paints a cityscape and those who commission a portrait. It's rare not have an observer comment on her bright infusion of color, even in her moodier pieces. And most do so in the context of their new-found appreciation for the (often ordinary) subject. Because of this, she sees her painting as a vehicle for opening up conversation about art and beauty in the community. Art often accesses something intimate in the human experience, and so it's common for people to stop and share their somewhat personal reflections on life and art with her. We find that refreshing in a city that often gets a bad rap for being power-focused and unfeeling.
Nicole attributes the energy present in her paintings to direct experience of the scenes she captures. She rarely paints from photographs because she finds it necessary to take in the visual information of the scene — the quality of light and textures— as well as the less tangible informants of the subject: sounds, smells, quirks, and motions.
On Her Studio:
Nicole views her studio as a place where the right and left sides of her brain converge. For her it is primarily a creative space, but by necessity it also needs to be a place conducive to the business side of being an artist. Because it's a small space, this means furniture pieces need to suit a variety of roles. The arm chair she uses for reading and reflection also serves as the spot where clients sit for portraits, and the small table that holds her art supplies while painting also fills in as a place to sit with clients while discussing contracts over a cup of tea.
We asked her whether she ever considered creating a studio space within her home, and without hesitation, she answered with an emphatic "no." She sees her home a calm backdrop for her life that allows her to do all the necessities involved in parenting, and her studio as a space to create and house paintings where that life is expressed, which involves a certain degree of creative messiness.
On Her Business:
To learn more about commissioning or purchasing a painting from Nicole, contact her via her website.
She is currently exhibiting a series of DC cityscapes at the Avant Garde Gallery as well as participating in Art Prize in Grand Rapids with a group of thirteen other artists in a mixed media series titled, "The Portrait Alive (and Mostly Well)."
(Images: of studio: Leah Moss, of paintings: Brian Searby)