I admire Jessica Nichols and think she is extraordinary. She is genuine. She's thoughtful. She finds beauty in everything, even when those times are quite hard. She writes candidly, eloquently, and speaks the truth, even when that means being vulnerable and having to let go of things. She has a huge heart, and it's evident when you see what she is doing to help others with self-care based on her experience and strength as a five time lymphoma survivor. Jessica won a Bloom True painting course by Flora Bowley and fell in love with painting. It was a joy to watch from the sidelines, and to see how it helped her heal and even blossom. In true Jess fashion she auctioned off her first painting to pay the Bloom True course forward for someone else in need. Isn't that special? Thank you so much for sharing, Jessica, and for being a lovely friend to me over the years since the Flickr days!
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
I am primarily a fine art and commercial photographer on a mission to let people know that self care happens bit by bit. Taking photos in particular is a form of a self care for me. Sweet Eventide is where I share the calm, beauty and grace I find with my camera. I am going to begin sharing my favorite positive mantras, wellness tips and book reviews too. I have survived lymphoma five times now and those experiences helped me to build up my own self care tool box. I want to help others round out their self care tool boxes and art is a very healing way to love and care for ourselves.
I’m also a fairly new abstract painter and painting makes me swoon on a completely different level from photography. I have one child, a 12 y.o. son we call “The Noodle.” You can find me on my website, Instagram and Pinterest.
- Website: http://www.sweeteventide.com
- Photography on Instagram @sweeteventide
- Paintings on Instagram @jessicanicholsartist
- Pinterest: Jessica Nichols
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
Everything has changed for me since I became a mom. For most of my life, my main creative outlet was writing and that continued with the start of my first blog when my son was three years old. It was through blogging that I fell in love with photography, but photography was in my blood. My father was a photographer and I took it in high school and then forgot all about it. In 2009, I definitely shifted almost entirely from writing and simple crafting with my son to fine art photography. And in 2012, I fell in love with painting. It is so different from photography. It’s not digital and it challenges my brain in all new ways, especially with composition. I am constantly composing photographs in my mind’s eye as I walk through the world. I really struggle with composing my paintings but I love engaging with that struggle.
Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
With only one child who is in middle school, it is fairly easy to find time to create. The trick is managing those hours well while he is in school. For many years, I have used the school hours to volunteer at school, run errands, go to doctor’s appointments, take care of the house and squeeze my creative business in after all of that. Now I’m shifting to only working or volunteering during the school hours and taking care of the household business at other times. For me, painting is a form of creating that is more free, it’s not tied to my business and I tend to be more inspired in the evenings to paint. I also feel it sets a good example to my family of doing something analog, I love for my son to see me not working and being more playful.
My advice is to work with yourself and build your routines around your strengths and weaknesses. It is not good for me to work on my business at night. I’m tired by then and it’s difficult to be strategic or focus. Although I knew years ago my best energy is during the day, I was using it on lower priority tasks like errands and appointments. Aligning all of these things takes time and flexibility to shift and shift again.
How does being an artist make you a better parent to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
Being an artist has taught me over and over that you can turn any mistake into something better. I have taken as many opportunities as possible to talk with my son about how that lesson applies to many areas of our life from something as simple as cooking to something as vague as our attitude. I learn all about color from paying attention to nature and whenever my son is with me, I point out what I’m seeing verbally as well as documenting it with my camera, so hopefully he is learning to have a deep appreciation for Mother Earth. I hope my son is learning that art is a healing practice for anyone.
Art is about connecting with our soul through whichever medium we are using to express ourselves. I also hope my son sees the rituals that go with my creating, especially with painting. I usually smudge my space, I stretch, I listen to different music than normal, I clean my palette from last time and all of this is an enjoyable part of the painting process. I notice when I’m painting, my boys (my husband and son) gravitate upstairs for a visit. I feel the positive energy draws them up. When I’m creating with my camera, it is not as engaging for my boys because the camera is a physical barrier between me and the world.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
I am very fortunate that I have my own office and studio painting space on the second floor of our home. When you come up the stairs, there is a wide open area and to the right is where my office/desk lives and to the left is the painting studio. I paint directly on the wall and I have room for three large canvases at a time, although the height of the wall is only 57” before the baseboards. I used to have a tarp pinned to the wall that extended over the floor and I only painted on one canvas at a time over the tarp. Recently I took the tarp away and I’m embracing the power of home ownership and letting paint onto the wall and even on the baseboards and floor! Gasp! It’s another way to free myself up.
My favorite thing about my space is that I have a space. What I would improve in my studio/office is the lighting. There are only two windows and it is not nearly enough light to paint by or photograph in. I would love to put skylights in so my canvases and palette are bathed in natural light. I could also do product photography and photography my own art at home much more easily.
As my son grows older, we don't create together as much as he did when he was a little guy. He is very supportive and protective of my art, he likes to be sure I'm having fun with my paintings and photography and he also encourages me to value my work properly. He's an old soul!
Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?
I really let things go at home until I hit a limit and then I make time for the highest priority things. I do not have a Pinterest perfect home. I don’t outsource much but I do regularly ask for help from my boys when I need it. I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, tackled my closet and then went back to creating. My office supply closet is a disaster, I have a paper clutter problem, but I do know where my camera, lenses, paint and paint brushes are. I do have a Roomba for the dog hair and I highly recommend investing in one of those!
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
For my painting, my big goal is to paint every day. I am not afraid of a brand new canvas like some people are, where I get stuck is finishing one up and then I go weeks between painting sessions. I feel if I paint daily, it will help me break that cycle of having many unfinished paintings. I know the only way out is through. For my photography, my big goal is to do more client work. I love connecting with florists, makers, indie shop owners and holistic health coaches. I also want to improve my styling skills!