Discover more from Arts and Climate Change with Nicole Kelner
How I became a full time artist
The last art class I took was in high school. I grew up loving art and took as many art classes as my school had.
I even painted 2 murals in my high school.
But when I got to college, my school wouldn’t let me take art classes unless I was an art major. I used to say I stopped making art after high school, but as I look back I see all the different forms my creativity took.
I started my first business when I was 18. It was a handbag brand called SmartPurse. I taught myself how to sew and designed purses that let you use your phone through a plastic pocket. I learned about pattern-making, color theory, manufacturing, graphic design, and website design. I hadn't set out to collect these skills, but I sure earned those girl scout badges.
One summer while interning in NY, I decided to make a purse a day for the whole summer. I made 55 purses in 55 days. I took photos of the world around me and turned each into a purse that matched.
I essentially lived out of Mood Fabrics that summer and made my childhood Project Runway dreams come true.
When I graduated, I co-founded an afterschool program to teach kids how to code. I did that for several years and we sold it in 2019. Art faded a bit to the background during that time, though I did all of our graphic design.
After The Coding Space, I solo traveled around Europe and Southeast Asia for 8 months. I took a 1 hour watercolor class in Malaysia and immediately fell in love with it. I did some painting throughout that trip but not on a regular basis.
After my travels, I lived in LA for a year. At one point I led an arts and crafts workshop at a conference where I taught people how to make friendship bracelets and paint pet rocks. Then I moved back to NY right before Covid and hosted a workshop on how to mend clothes.
During Covid I moved home to be with family in PA and started watercoloring again. I was going through some major health issues at the time, and I found it to be very therapeutic.
Enter a very abstract era of my watercolors…lots of feels.
As I started healing, I worked on a bit of fun climate art.
When I moved back to NY, I landed a job at a climate startup. On the side, I decided to paint a watercolor a day for 100 days. That’s when my whole world changed.
Watercolors went from being an occasional hobby to something I did everyday. My paintings quickly took off on Twitter, and I decided to quit my job within 4 months.
The first few months after I began painting full-time, I shied away from calling myself an artist. I hadn’t taken an art class since high school! I am not ~professionally~ trained! Major imposter syndrome hit. But the fact of the matter set in: I was making a living off my art. So I finally started calling myself an artist.
Now, it’s the coolest title I’ve ever had. Little Nicole would be so proud. I get to research climate concepts and find ways to paint them in simple, beautiful ways. I work with incredible climate organizations to help them communicate the impactful work they’re doing. I’m even making a coloring book about clean energy. I’ve never felt more creatively fulfilled!
Bonus footage of little Nicole. I still make that face when I paint btw.
I hope this is a friendly reminder that anyone can be an artist. My art “career” started with a fun challenge to paint for 100 days. I wasn’t trying to become an artist, I just wanted to do something that would bring me joy each day.
I think trusting my curiosity and giving myself the permission to follow it as a daily practice allowed me to discover this new chapter of my life.
Tips for pursuing creativity in your life:
Set a big goal. Create a 30 day challenge for making art daily or come up with an idea for a project you want to do by the end of the year. This helps form a habit of following your curiosity every single day.
Do Morning Pages. This is from the book The Artist’s Way. The idea is to start each day by journaling 3 pages.
Meditate. Getting quiet helps tap into your intuition and spark new ideas.
Set weekly and daily goals. I set 3 weekly goals for my business and art. I do one newsletter, one coloring book page, and one regular watercolor. When I do my morning pages I pick one goal to work on that day.
Surround yourself with other creatives. Try to find local art classes or meetups to get more in touch with your art community.
This newsletter is made with lots of love. If you’d like to support more climate art, please consider becoming a paid subscriber 💖
Ways to support my art:
Sign up for the waitlist of my coloring book about clean energy here.
I’m open for contract work or commissions. I help climate organizations simplify their messaging into pretty art!
Ok my climate cuties! That’s enough of my life story for today 😅