The driving instinct to create is something that any artist, writer or creator is intimately familiar with. It doesn’t matter what your chosen means of expression is, if you consider yourself creative then you know what it feels like to wade into the murky waters that exists between something and nothing.
You are equally likely to be familiar with that dreaded question: how do you do that?! For people who are interacting with your work, especially if they do not create themselves, there will always be fascination and even awe in that elusive process that takes the spark of inspiration and turns it into a fully fledged piece of art or media to be experienced.
If what I said resonates with you, then the answer that artist Nicole Dolson gave to a very similar question posed to her likely will too. The truth is that Nicole doesn’t have a secret formula to her paintings; there is no set of hard and fast rules that she follows to ensure the metaphorical benchmark of “success” is met. Instead, Nicole simply experiences life and the world, letting it all sink in, so she can discover where that initial spark may be hiding. It might be an object, an image, a snippet of conversation or even just a notion that she woke-up with in her head that morning. Whatever it might be, she always follows it, open to accepting the journey that it will lead her into the whole process of creating.
That creating spirit, as Nicole calls it, has always been a part of her, though painting has just been one stop on her journey. Nicole’s background was initially in music. She holds several degrees in music and enjoyed a long career in that medium. It was only once she retired from that, that her painting journey really started. Her first step was to take a five year, part time course at The Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, and she continues to keep herself open to learning experiences, studying the works of artists that she admires, even studying with those artists themselves, to help her own work grow.
It’s important for Nicole to do this because it’s her belief that it is only through education and creating a solid foundation to work with that the creative spirit can grow, allowing it to achieve its fullest potential. Oil painting is her current focus; however, she has also worked with woven wall hanging and watercolour painting. As Nicole is always open to wherever the process will take her, she considers no medium ever closed to her. What she is doing now does not lock her into what she’ll be doing in the future.
Presently, Nicole is working on the third painting in a series called “Reflections”. These paintings diverge slightly from her previous work, with a focus on a single natural subject (a cow horn, a tiger conch, and a piece of driftwood respectively thus far), and their reflections. By painting these items on blank, dark backgrounds she has been able to really draw attention to the object itself, which feeds into Nicole’s intentions for these pieces. The focus here has been on nature, natural objects and the beauty that comes with them. It is her current expectation to do seven of these paintings and she is excited to discover what will catch her attention, asking her to paint it next. After all, it’s by being open to what the universe can bring that you will find your biggest potential.
One of the highest compliments that Nicole has received came from a friend and fellow artist who told her that her work has soul. This comment has continued to resonate with Nicole because, at the end of the day, that has been her goal with her work. She wants to create art that engages the viewer, causing them to feel something, a connection to the subject matter. The best way to do this is to work on subjects that speak to you as well; if you do not connect with what you are painting, neither will the viewer.
There are, of course, many ways to create, but Nicole often comes back to words that she read in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which stated, “Just show up”. The first step, regardless of what you are creating, is to get in front of your materials and just start. If you wait for inspiration to find you, you will only be stunting your own growth; if you have a solid foundation in the skills and trust the universe (even if sometimes you don’t think you trust yourself), you will be sure to come up with something beautiful, something that resonates with you and with those who view it. Which is all we can ask for, when it comes to art.
WRITTEN BY: JILLIAN KENT | PHOTOGRAPHY & RESOURCES: NICOLE DOLSON