In conversation with

In Conversation With: Nicole Rose

For today’s In Conversation With column, we have the pleasure to share with you our interview with artist and designer, Nicole Rose. Read below to explore the natural world through emotions.
8th September 2021 | Image Curators Advisory
Nicole Rose, Crimson Shadows, 2021, Oil on Canvas, 80x80 cm
Nicole, you are an abstract artist, but you had a successful career as a graphic designer. What prompted you to become a full-time artist and what have been some of the challenges you have faced?
I’ve always had a great interest in art – my own drawings, paintings, and mark making as well as visiting exhibitions – and always knew I would have a creative career. I chose the design route as I knew it was a discipline that would give me a good long-term career. I had a fantastic and very creative art education studying for my BA in Graphic design at Central St Martins and subsequently the graphic designs I produced reflected this creativity. Having my own design studio did mean greater control over the creativity of the work we produced, but ultimately, I wanted more freedom of expression in my creative work without the boundaries and rules set by clients. The wish to keep painting had never left me, but the studio was so busy and time consuming, there was never much time to make my own art. So, I carved out some time and joined a weekly art class around 5 years ago, where I had the opportunity to paint again and learn some new skills, whilst still working in the design studio. Finally, I stepped aside from the studio two years ago, made a studio space within my home, and began making art full time.

As I’ve never had a formal ‘fine art education’, a lot of my practice at first was trial and error, which has presented challenges. As a digital designer working on a computer, mistakes are incredibly easy to rectify, a file can be saved many times and the ‘back’ and ‘save-as’ buttons are your best friends. It’s not like that when I paint. If I make a mistake on the canvas I have to wait for the paint to dry (which takes time when you paint in oils) and redo whole layers. So, I found the process initially very time consuming and often frustrating.

Also in the design world, much of the studio work we do is collaborative, with other designers to bounce ideas off and brainstorm with. And as I was a designer for so many years, I mentored younger designers and worked regularly with design students. Now I was in the position of being on my own in my art studio with no-one to share ideas with, and that took some getting used to. I didn’t have a network of other artists that I could ask questions to or get advice from, and I found that quite isolating at first. That soon changed though. Instagram has been great for chatting to other artists, as well as going to open studios, meeting local artists and building up a new community.

Nicole Rose, From the Rose, 2021, Oil on Canvas, 100x76 cm
I love the push and pull of oil paints and the process of an image evolving on the canvas. I like the uncertainty of the outcome, along with a story unfolding.
Nicole Rose
Tell us more about your paintings and digital work? What is your approach and your message? How do the two compliment each other?
The art I create is based on my emotional response to the natural world around me. The process starts when I’m out (usually walking my dog). I see light shining through trees, the sounds of the wildlife, or an interesting vista. It’s more of a feeling I get than seeing an incredible view. Add the music that I’m listening to at the time, or the conversations I might be having with a walking companion – all of that feeds back into my work.

Painting in oils, and using photographic imagery I have captured on my walks as a starting point, I layer and blend various shapes of colours to recreate that emotional response onto canvas. I love the push and pull of oil paints and the process of an image evolving on the canvas. I like the uncertainty of the outcome, along with a story unfolding.

I can’t be rushed when I paint – I need time to work the colours into the canvas and as the process of painting, for me, is quite meditative, I have to be in the right mind-set; however, being in front of my mac with my design hat on, is a place I can dip in and out of, and as I am so comfortable with this medium it felt inevitable that I would take my paintings back into the mac to rework and reimagine them in a digital landscape. I also want to use my skills as a designer to differentiate my practice from other artists. I use my camera to take close-ups of sections of my paintings, then in photoshop, I blend, blur, and reimagine the original to create an image, or set of images, bringing with it a new balance and perspective. These are made into limited edition giclée prints and are abstract landscapes in their own right.

The prints I make are inspired by my paintings and the consequent paintings I make are often informed by the previous print I created. A circular creative and complimentary motion that allows me to work both as an artist and as a designer.
When people see my work, I know they often feel a sense of calm as memories of places they have visited are triggered, and that’s when I know the visual messaging within my work has been successful.

Synthesis, Giclée fine art limited edition print of 10, various sizes.
Amalgamation, Giclée fine art limited edition print of 10, various sizes.
Affinities, Giclée fine art limited edition print of 10, various sizes.
You talk about your work as being a combination of strong visual storytelling and emotional representations. Is there a particular emotion that you paint more than others?
Well, there’s a huge gamut of emotions when I paint – I think it’s how I process my thoughts and everything going on around me. Certainly, last year during lockdown when I had my family at home all the time, each trying to work, study, carve out a little personal space whilst spending many hours together, I spent a lot of time considering feelings of love and our relationships. In fact, I created a series of small oils entitled Subtleties of Love based on those emotions. Two of those paintings have just been bought as a wedding gift for a young couple, which has made me very happy as the theme of the paintings feel very significant.

Another emotion that often comes to the surface is nostalgia, often associated with music I may have on in the studio when I’m painting, or remembering snippets of conversation – what was said, what could have been said. I feel this plays a huge part in my work, and for me it is really evident on the canvas.

I feel that graphic designers can make great artists as they often have this inherent understanding of how to use blank space really effectively to impart their message.
Nicole Rose
Are you working towards any particular project or exhibition at the moment?
I’m exhibiting at The Other Art Fair, from 14-17 October at Truman Brewery, London, which I’m preparing some new canvases for at the moment.
I also have one of my giclée prints selected for the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair in November, which I’m really excited about.

I made some great connections at the previous Other Art Fair in July, so I’m hopeful for a collaboration with another artist early next year too.

Nicole Rose, Emergence, 2021, Oil on Canvas, 50x50x4 cm
What good advice can you give to help other designers to transition to a full-time career as an artist?
As a graphic designer, we have a set of guiding principles that we work to: symmetry and balance, knowledge of colour and combining palettes, positive and negative spacing, and telling a visual story. Guidelines that I feel transfer from one creative medium to another, especially into art and image making. I feel that graphic designers can make great artists as they often have this inherent understanding of how to use blank space really effectively to impart their message.

I would say to keep the day job (as that’s what will feed and house you) whilst you build up your art career and contacts. Perhaps join an art group or class, to learn new skills, or brush up on old ones, and start making contacts and building networks, as these are the places you may have the opportunity to have a small group class exhibition with. Look out for open art calls on social media to start submitting work, also have a profile on one of the art marketplace websites where you can sell work through. Keep on practicing and improving on your skills and once you have a good body of work, apply to some art fairs as this is a great way to show, and hopefully sell work and build up contacts. And, of course, your public profile is key – a great website, marketing material and a social media presence - which as a designer you should have a head start with!

Finally, you need a lot of perseverance, and resilience, as this is a career where you can face many rejections.
Where can we buy your artworks?
So you can buy my work, paintings and prints, directly from my website/studio, and I always welcome studio visits (by appointment) to see work in the flesh.

I also sell my paintings through a few art websites, and SingulArt.

You can also buy a selection on my giclée prints here

Nicole Rose’s work, as an artist and designer, explores the emotional response to the natural world around her.

She primarily creates abstract paintings based on the landscape. Using layers of oil colour and a sweeping brush technique the finished paintings take on an ethereal quality. Alongside her paintings she also creates complementary prints that are at once a reflection of the original painting – and a new perspective on it. Focusing on a photographed section of a finished painting, Nicole works in Photoshop to reimagine and rebalance, creating a run of limited-edition giclée prints that are both a part of the original works – and a fresh response to the landscape in their own right.

Nicole’s current selection of paintings and prints are created following visits to nature reserves where she records sights, sounds, colours and routes taken, to remember and work from in her studio.

Nicole graduated from Central St Martins School of Art in 1992 with a BA in Graphic Design. She has had a successful career as a Creative Director, running her own commercial design studio for many years, and now works from her art studio in North London.

Nicole has recently exhibited at The Other Art Fair in London and the Contemporary Art Fair. Her giclée prints and paintings can be found in private collections around the World. | @nicolerose_design_and_art