Nicola Holland is a free spirited, yet tertiary trained visual artist with a nomadic streak. She loves to help others get their their artistic juices flowing by combining technical skills with art meditation.
Carrie: Nicola, how would you describe your art to Artist Strong readers?
My art is a bit like a dance on paper. I don’t see myself so much as the creator, but rather more as a channel. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s really true! I get myself in the zone and my paintings and drawings reveal themselves to me. I love exploring them and seeing what asks to be done. It’s like a game of finding hidden worlds!
Carrie: How did you discover your interest in the arts?
I think I have always loved art. As a kid I was often drawing, painting and taking photos; I remember getting so much joy from this exploring. I would always be so amazed and excited to see how my sketches came out. I think this is where I started to train myself to really see the world a bit differently… through artist’s glasses you might say! I’d see exactly where the light was hitting things: how the light was dancing, what shadows and areas of darkness were created and how hidden worlds appear. I still love seeing the world this way. Then you are able to see beauty in everything!
Carrie: How does your life experience and emotional state feed into your art?
I love this question! Both of these have had a huge impact on me as an artist.
I actually went back to uni (that’s what we call university in Australia) as a “mature aged student” (cringe!) after a decade of travelling through and exploring developing countries and my own back yard. I’d spent a few years in India, travelled through south-east Asia a handful of times, worked in the mountains in South Lake Tahoe, CA, travelled around Mexico, lived in my old 1976 VW van for a year travelling through Western and Northern Australia and lived in Africa for a year teaching sexual health. I definitely had a fair bit of “life experience” in my back pocket when I decided to go back to uni to study visual arts (painting).
In some ways that first year felt a little awkward at first as most of my class peers were 10 years younger than me, though I soon realised what a gift it was to have already spent a considerable amount of time getting to know myself and the world around me. I was able to relate to my teachers in a more human to human kind of way and the extra time had allowed my unique style to develop.
It really showed me the importance of having both skill and intuitive flow in making great art. If you don’t give yourself time to breath, live, explore and be still… if you don’t nurture the connection to source that we all have (not really true… we all ARE source, but that’s a whole other interview topic!)…
“De-gunkifying” my nonsense ideas about what I am through meditation and the patient guidance from beloved spiritual teachers has truly helped create a space for art to flow freely through me. Art is meditation.
Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
I hope they look at it and something within them stirs. Some sort of recognition of their true self. My art won’t resonate with everyone, but for those who it does, I hope it touches them in a way that feels familiar, warm and sacred.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
Firstly, vulnerability is damn scary, BUT… it is an incredibly beautiful place to be in. When you step out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to feel vulnerable (not in a “walk down a dodgy dark alley” kinda way) you are opening up a huge amount of potential for yourself. This is definitely a huge lesson I learnt from countless years of un-planned solo traveling. Put yourself out there and trust: the universe will catch you and reveal treasures you never imagined possible.
When we put our art out into the world it can be a little scary. Art is such a personal expression, that it can feel a little bit like posting nude photos of yourself until you get used to it. We get worried that people won’t like our work or that we’re not good enough. Well I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that not everyone is going to like your art. No artist has ever created something that every single person on the planet liked and nobody ever will. So we can take a deep breath and let go of any unrealistic, impossible expectations of being liked by everyone. Phew! Your job is not to please everyone, it’s to be authentically you.
The good news is that some people will love your work! You’re putting your stuff out there to make the world a more beautiful, exciting and inspiring place for those people so keep shining your gift!
Carrie: Tell us more about “Show Me Your Art,” (an activity you conduct via your Facebook page)?
Show Me Your Art is a fun, weekly Facebook thread that I run on my Facebook page every Wednesday. It’s a place where artists from around the world gather to share their latest work, promote their website or Facebook pages at the same time and get to know and support each other. As artists, there really is no such thing as competition. Everyone’s styles are unique and will appeal to different people, so I love connecting with other artists in this thread, supporting their work and helping to share their incredibleness with the world! Everyone is welcome!
Carrie: You describe yourself as an Artistic Nomad. Tell us more about this. How does this impact your art and process?
Well I’ve touched on the ways it has impacted my art in a spiritual and intuitive sense, but in a practical sense, being a compulsive traveller can have it’s complications as an artist too! I’ve always had some sort of base to come back to in between travels or storage area, etc. so that has meant that I’ve been able to keep hold of my work in a safe place over the years. While I was studying, I had access to the university’s large painting studio and was painting rather large canvases. Obviously if you’re travelling out of a backpack, this isn’t really possible!
I like to be really selective with what art supplies I take with me on my travels. I wrote a whole blog post about what I like to pack, but in a nutshell, I make sure I take small sized materials and only the things that I will actually use.
I don’t take paper that’s larger than A4, otherwise it’s too hard to stop it from getting scuffed edges in my pack. In fact I often cut my watercolour paper down to postcard sized pieces so that I can easily keep them on me from day to day and whip them out with my travel watercolour paint set while eating alone at restaurants. It’s a great way to meet new people and my paintings feel a bit like my little “friends” anyway so I’m in good company! 🙂
If I’m taking acrylic paints, I’ll be sure to only pack a warm and cool version of my primary colours as well as a white so that I can mix an combination I’ll need. Remember to pack your tubes of paint in your checked-in luggage! You don’t want them confiscated!
Carrie: What do you do when you feel creatively stuck?
So many things! It’s funny because I think people perceive artists as being people who never feel creatively stuck… like they’ve always got the flow on 24/7 and I simply don’t believe this is true. At least it’s not for me! I definitely go through waves of being really focused and zoned in on my drawing and painting, but then have “dry spells” where I’m more focused on other areas of my life. For me this feels quite healthy because to be honest, although I LOVE drawing and painting I also love so many other things in life like snowboarding, hiking, exploring different cultures, meditation… The tricky part I often find is getting the artistic juices flowing again after a “dry spell.”
Firstly I need to commit the time without feeling guilty about indulging in my art, while my ever growing to do list sits nearby. I make a date with myself… and do my best not to stand myself up!
Other things that help me are taking the time to center myself either through meditation or even just a walk through the forest in fresh air. A good dance to some great tunes also helps move any stagnant energy around and helps me to get inspired.
Another thing that helps is continuing to doodle while in a dry spell while on the phone or sitting on the tram. This keeps that intuitive, creative flow going throughout my day, so that the “dry spell” still stays a little moist!
There are so many other things I do that help and I’m actually in the process of creating a free mini e-course at the moment called “Blank Canvas Phobia” to help people get unstuck and their creative mojo flowing with confidence. Anyone can hop on the waiting list for it here and I’ll send it out to them when I’ve finished!
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
I’ve never really felt like I fitted in with mainstream society and I think many creatives feel this way. The thought of having a 9-5 office job is enough for me to break into a cold sweat! I simply knew I had to do things differently from a fairly young age and have just been paving my way as I go.
Instead I worked casual jobs where the hours were flexible and this allowed me to not feel suffocated or tied down and able to save money and then head of on my next adventure. This has worked well for me for over a decade, but a few years ago I started really craving the ability to generate my own abundance doing something that I loved from anywhere in the world without stopping and starting all the time.
After many half baked business ideas, I finally gave myself permission to build an online business around my art (I am a tertiary trained artist after all!). It’s funny how society tells artists that they’re going to be starving if they follow their talents instead of the grey cubicle. Luckily with the technology available, it’s never been a more fertile ground for artists to explore the ways in which they can use their skills to create multiple streams of income and reach people from anywhere in the world while doing so!
It’s all about thinking outside the square as to what you can offer the world.
Carrie: What are you creating at the moment?
I have a couple of projects up my sleeve. Firstly the free “Blank Canvas Phobia” mini course that I mentioned earlier, but also a more intensive drawing course “Art from the Heart” that interweaves technical skills with intuitive flow or “art meditation.”
It’s designed to help those who didn’t go to art school learn the technical skills to create incredible drawings while nurturing their intuitive creative flow at the same time! Once you understand the technical stuff, you can really let go and let it happen without thinking too much about it. That’s the aim of this course and I can’t wait to finish and launch it!
Carrie: Advice for people who are learning a new skill?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have to start somewhere. Every artist has painted some hideous painting in their time that didn’t get to see the light of day. You will too and it’s no biggie. By learning some techniques and allowing your own intuitive flow to do it’s thing, everything will fall into place.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Saunders Waterford classic watercolour paper! I’ve tried so many types of watercolour paper and I have to tell you that you really do get what you pay for. The same goes for good paint brushes. If you don’t invest in good materials, everything is so much more difficult. Even if you’re just getting started, it’s worth investing in good quality materials if you can afford it… you’ll be less frustrated and you’ll enjoy the creative process even more!
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is life source expressing itself as a dance through human expression.
Additional Contact Info:
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you observed a change in your creative practice when you let go of the need to please everybody? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
Join the Artist Strong Community
Meet wonderful, like-minded creatives and unleash your inner artist. Access free online workshops, share in behind the scenes stories from practicing creatives, and uncover strategies to enhance your artist practice.
(All of these bonuses and activities are part of what you receive when you join Artist Strong's newsletter.)