Monday, December 31, 2012


Happy New Year, Friends! I hope that you had the best holiday season. It is always a busy time of year for my business, but this year, the Christmas commissions have extended well into the new year.
This was my solution for people giving gifts of art that wouldn't be painted until after the holidays.
I'm booked solid through the beginning of June. As you can imagine, this is both a thrilling and exhausting prospect.
Every January though, I reread Jackie Battenfield's guide for artists. I am so looking forward to making myself a big pot of coffee and going to town plotting out goals/filling in my schedule for the new year. Having a plan = clearing out a place for the muse to dance.

Bring it, 2013! I'm so ready for you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The World Just Got a Little Smaller

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is opening holiday cards from friends near and far. Today there was an envelope in the middle of the pile whose return address I didn't recognize. It was a Christmas card from the sister of a lady whose portrait I painted for AS IS! 
I have been struggling like everyone else to wrap my mind around the horribleness of so many little lives lost recently. During a time of such awful sadness, it gives me some comfort to think that this project might be touching a few lives and helping our world to feel just the tiniest bit smaller.
Wishing you all much peace and love this Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Anatomy of a Commission

Remember this beautiful old farm? I visited it in the Fall to shoot reference photographs for a painting commission.
The property is quite large, and has so many amazing little vignettes and beautiful textures. Someone could literally spend an entire lifetime painting there!
So I started off the commission process by drawing a loose sketch of my idea for the final painting. That way the client and I could be sure that we were on the same page in terms of the composition.
Next, I translated the approved drawing onto a canvas, and set up color keys to guide me.
The rest of the painting unfolded fairly seamlessly, just in time for Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seeing Like an Artist, Tip 2

Narrow Your Gaze
If Tip #1 is to Consider All Possibilities, then Tip #2 is to narrow your gaze. An artist studies the subject at the center of his/her work with a focus not dissimilar to meditation. 
After considering a world of possibilities, an artist tunes out all outside information to consider an idea, object or event in intense detail.
This might mean examining a single subject over and over in order to understand it's core.
It is safe to say, for example, that Monet knew the Rouen Cathedral like the back of his hand after painting it more than thirty times. Of course, what he was really studying was the way that the light affects a scene. He could have chosen to include details such as the particularities of its architecture, or the life congregating outside its entrance as well, but this series is so powerful because it involves a narrowing of gaze.

In fact this is one reason why artists tend to exhibit series of work together, submit their related work to competitions, and be historically remembered for a certain type of work. A serious artist knows that every moment is full of mind-blowingly exciting information, and decides to jump right into one aspect of that fullness with gusto.

Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Tips for Seeing Like an Artist

I am blessed to have friends working in just about every field imaginable. Scientists, Architects, Coaches, Engineers, Teachers, etc. -- it's fascinating how differently we all see the world!
Of course there are as many artists as there are people, but this week I am writing a series of posts about what it is generally like to see the world through the eyes of an artist. So without further ado, Tip Numero Uno:

CONSIDER IT ALL POSSIBLE (And Be Just A Tiny Bit Insane)
 An artist does not consider reality in terms of its limitations. Where other professionals may look and see what is, an artist looks and sees what may be. 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are a classic example:
Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin
Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin counties, California

Wrapped Trees, Riehen, Switzerland
Over The River, 6 x 40 miles of silver fabric suspended the Arkansas River in Colorado
The pair viewed landscape and architecture as jumping off points for their creations. 

Or you could consider Adonna Khare, the elementary school art teacher,who took home ArtPrize 2012's grand prize:

Khare dared to imagine a drawing which used the humblest of materials, the carbon pencil, included an exhausting level of detail, and wrapped around multiple floors of a gallery. Can you even imagine the stamina that would take?
Of course, seeing the world in terms of possibility does not apply only to thinking in terms of extreme scale. 
Capri Battery, Joseph Beuys
No matter the form of the work, an artist sees the conceptual possible in what is.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Saying Much With Little

Friends, thank you to everyone who came out to the Holiday Open Studio last Friday! The night was such a fun way to catch up, share some art and toast the future!

This week I am back to work on holiday commissions. I've told you before how I love the challenge of finishing art under the pressure of a deadline. There is nothing like slapping on the last few brushstrokes, and crossing my fingers that a painting is dry enough to ship in the morning. I relish that adrenaline, but every holiday season I run up against the same problem.

A painting sings when it strikes that perfect balance between giving 'too much' and 'not enough' information. There is a temptation when working on depictions of real people or places for someone else though, to include more detail than necessary. The subconscious thought process goes something like this: "Mrs. X wants me to paint a portrait of her son, therefore I must be accountable for every last one of his eyelashes and freckles."
John Singer Sargent: master of the subtle portrait
Of course this logic is completely ridiculous! A person or place is more than the sum total of its parts. The job of the artist is to shift through mountains of visual information and re-present/highlight only the most  important or interesting details.
Richard Diebenkorn had a genius for conveying the simple. The importance of that cardamon orange plane against the cobalt sky would be completely lost if he had made this a painting about details.

this article from the Greater Good blog, I was struck by words to that effect: 
 (A)n author/artist used his or her skills to convey much with little—to articulate a complicated human condition in a few words, to relay reams of information in a few pictures, to turn a single memorable mental image into a take-it-with-you tool for understanding the soul and navigating change. And that, I suspect, may be the key takeaway for generating and sharing insights: it’s about finding a simple way to help a reader, an audience, a fellow human being make sense of complex things.
I've been awful about posting, but next week I promise to share a few "complex things" that I've broken down a bit!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The art has been hung, the lights have been strung and the alcohol has been purchased...
All that's missing is you!
Can't wait to see you all tomorrow night!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

...or at least I hope that you will!!
A few (awesome!) friends are helping me string lights and hang art tonight for Friday's Holiday Open Studio!
And I'm taking cocktail suggestions.
This looks good:
Also dreaming of some sort of spiked hot chocolate...
Any personal favorites? Do share!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Did I Mention the Monotypes?

I adore printing! I do. Especially when it comes to monotypes. I wish I had access to a press all the time. Sadly, I do not. BUT! You, my friends, can help yourselves to the infrequent fruits of my labor at the Holiday Open Studio on Friday!
Also, there will be large sketches for a whole lot less than a you would spend on that lame sweater for your brother. SOooo...stop by the studio and pick your poison!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Two More Reasons

In case you need a little more convincing to stop by my Holiday Open Studio, here are two more little reasons in oils and thread:
 Are you coming now? Say yes!!

Here is the deal in case you missed it the first time around: If you are a supporter of my art practice (which of course you are as a reader of this blog) I am inviting you to my studio for a little party to celebrate the successful launch of my Urban Portrait Project, AS IS. There will be paintings, sketches, prints and cards for sale at a steep discount by way of a big THANK YOU for your friendship and support! So come stop by 3838 Northampton Street, DC on November 30th from 6-9 PM for a cocktail or two!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dark Beauties

Here are two more little paintings that that I've been working on for the Holiday Open Studio on the 30th. I used think, glossy, dark oil paint to cover the top of the gessoboards. Then I carved and wiped away sections of the surface as I started laying in the lighter, brighter colors. The contrast between the fragile subject matter and the deep, heavy background feels very Victorian to me. It's a total departure from my usual work, but I'm kind of digging it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't Give Up the Ship!

Friends, if you are in the area please stop by on Friday, November 30, for a Holiday Open Studio! I am celebrating the successful launch of AS IS as well as the awesomeness that is your friendship with some seasonal cocktails and affordable art! All sketches, prints, studies and small paintings on display will be available for $10-$100 by way of a thank you for your support over the years. 

The two little paintings above will be there. They are the result of a little experimenting that I've been doing for my next project. Can you tell where the paint ends and the string begins?

I'll be mixing up the spirits from 6-9 PM! Pop in for a a minute to say hello-- I'd love to see you!

3838 Northampton Street
(Top Floor of the Circle Yoga Building)
Washington, DC 20015

Monday, November 12, 2012

Holiday Commission Season

How on earth is it already mid-November?? Friends, I apologize for leaving you in the lurch here with the blog. I finished installing my urban portrait project, AS IS,
 just in time to jump into my first scheduled holiday commission and I haven't stopped running! This beauty above is a detail shot from a series of reference photos for the piece that I am currently painting. Aren't the textures amazing?

While it was incredibly exciting to watch AS IS unfold, and while I certainly plan to push my work in new directions, I have to say that I really enjoy the seasonal challenge of these commissioned projects. When someone commissions a portrait, cityscape, house portrait, etc. they are essentially asking me to see with my own eyes what is so special about that person or place, and to produce something which they intend as a family treasure. These paintings mean more than a new tie or ipad because they represent something personal and beloved, and because they are intended to be passed down from one generation to another. I am grateful both for the challenge of really seeing the beauty in what others value, as well as the opportunity to play a part in that legacy.

If you are interested in commissioning a painting in time for the winter holidays, you can contact me by email or phone as listed on my website. I have two spots remaining on this year's calender.

Happy Fall, Friends!

Monday, October 22, 2012


Friends, thank you for all of the lovely notes that you have been sending me about AS IS! Please feel free to post them directly into the comment section of any of the blog posts. I really appreciate your thoughts on the project and think that other people would love to read them as well!

Also, a friend sent me this picture that she snapped
while grabbing coffee at this place in Georgetown:
Seems someone has hung one of the AS IS portraits up at the Bean Counter. Does anyone know the back story? I'm curious. Will you share?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

AS IS: A Recap

With the AS IS install behind us, and all of the urban portraits claimed, many of you have been asking: What was the result? What was the response? So I thought I'd share a few statistic with you:

* I knew exactly 0 of the people that I painted before I began work on this project.

*Since painting and installing these 10 portraits, I have gotten to know 7 of the subjects, 2 very well.

* All 10 urban portraits were claimed by the 2nd day after they were installed. 

* 8 out of 10 of those portraits were claimed by the subjects themselves, or were removed from the installation sites and delivered by their friends and acquaintances. 

* 7 portraits were taken in broad daylight.  

* 3 were removed during the night.

* Only 1 painting was left exposed to the rain. This portrait was installed in front of an art gallery.

* 2 portraits were tethered to nearby objects to prevent them from being blown over. Both of those were among the 3 paintings taken at night.

* 1 portrait is confirmed stolen.

* 2 of the  portraits' whereabouts are unknown.

Here are the portraits listed in the order that they were claimed or taken:

It has been very humbling to hear your responses to this project. I wish that I could share every word that every one of you have written. Short of that though, I hope that you won't mind me copying a few favorite notes that I have received here. (I have abbreviated any signatures to protect the privacy of those who have written.)

"I just came across an article about you leaving Portraits  of Strangers on the Streets Where you Saw Them with a note: "IF THIS IS YOU, TAKE IT"!
Such a beautiful and simple thing... This is cool! Its like a memory of a moment on canvas. I got a chance to check out the art and it's stunning!
Congrats! I love your spirit!


"Dear Nicole,
I hope that you are flooded with emails praising you for your AS IS project!

I've been doing portraits since I was 12 years old and it's always been a dilemma to me that to be successful (monetarily), I would need to paint people who are rich enough to buy portraits. I'd like to make money (so I could paint for a living rather than write grants!), but I'd much rather have people see themselves as valuable enough to have a portrait.

I carry paper and pencil and draw people all the time, and if the person wants it, I just give them the drawing. I've had people who were so happy and grateful for this little gift. But your wonderful and inspired idea is so much grander! I LOVE seeing the story of Keith Cook.

I also really like your response to the biker who took the portrait, hoping that he is appreciating the life and dignity of the man behind it.

So, I hope that not only you are lavished with blessings in your life, but that the blessings that your portraits bring to people's lives are multiplied as they see themselves through your eyes.

Hurray for you!!!

Truly best regards,
L. C." 


"Dear Nicole,

"I was pleasantly surprised to see the beautiful portrait of Feno at Ben's Chili Bowl this morning.

Your work is magnificent, and the WHAT touched me deeply.

email subject line: "Thank you for Restoring My Faith in Humanity"
Text with picture of one of the installed portraits:
"I came across this painting on my morning walk. You made my day! :-))

Thank you again, Friends! I treasure every one of your responses. In fact, I think that the success of this project can be measured in no small part by the community of notice that has sprung up around it!

 I would love to continue sharing your thoughts here. Have found your portrait,  or bumped into a portrait of someone else somewhere around the city? Care to share? You can posts thoughts here or send an email to

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Empty Nest

AS IS is as much a project about letting go as it is about anything else. (Thank you to my friend, Carrie, for her beautiful blog post on that subject!) I have to say that it has been strangely emotional to have worked on these portraits for so long, only to have left them on the street. Come what may. If I am being really dramatic, I might even say that it feels a little like I dropped my ten children on various doorsteps around the city, and hightailed it out of there, hoping for a better life for them...
O.K., O.K., that was a little Ophelia of me, but one thing is for sure, my studio is feeling strangely empty without those ten faces staring out at me this week.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Do You Know What Was Really Fun?

Sneaking around the city at the crack of dawn installing art on the streets! Thank you to my old friend, Marcie Revens, for not only coming along for the ride, but documenting the whole thing!! More of her awesome pictures soon...
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