Portrait of an Artist: Nicole Northrop


Portrait of an Artist: Nicole Northrop

(Editor's Note: We're proud to introduce you to Nicole Northrop, this year's Caregiving Art Show winner. You can connect with Jane, Nicole's mom and family caregiver, on her profile page: @jbones1961.)

Nicole Northrop wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up, until a rare, life-threatening diagnosis derailed that dream when she was 15.

But that hasn’t stopped her from planning an interesting future. Nicole, who has recently turned 20, is enrolled as an online student working toward a fine arts degree in illustration. And her love for animals lives on in her art.

One of her entries in the fourth annual Caregiving.com art show was a “selfie” of sorts that is as charming as it is unexpected.

Together Nicole's entry features a pair of fanciful and engaging creatures

Inspired by a photo taken of Nicole with a friend, she transforms the two of them into fanciful creatures who look nearly human. Although they both have cat-like ears and fur, they look out at the viewer with warm, wide smiles; one wears a magenta-pink T-shirt and a collar with an image of a cross. They stand very close with their heads tipped together, ears touching. Clearly these two like each other very much. The colors are electric, the lines bold and clean, and the impact is of two individuals -- be they people or animals or some intriguing combination -- you’d really like to get to know.

NicoleNorthrop The photo of Nicole and her friend that inspired her entry

Nicole is an artist of the digital age, so she relied on a software program called Paint Tool SAI to create her work. She uses a stylus, not a paintbrush, and the screen of her tablet becomes the canvas. But regardless of the medium, the impulse to create is as old as time and the spark of inspiration is all Nicole’s own.

She was self-taught until she enrolled in the Academy of Art University in the fall of 2013. Nicole admits that she was surprised at how difficult it’s been. “The teachers are pretty strict,” she says. Clearly, studying to be an artist is not for the faint of heart.

Her motivation to continue? “I really enjoy when I learn something that will help me in the art that I already do (my personal art), especially when it's something I've struggled with in the past,” Nicole says.

Perhaps most important, “Art helps express what I think and imagine.” And it keeps Nicole moving forward, as she puts it, even when life threatens to keep her “in a rut.

"So far, I've taken two general art/illustration courses, a photography/Photoshop course, a writing course and a figure drawing course.  Right now, I'm taking a perspective course and an art history course."

While it’s clear that Nicole is very talented, she thinks the transformative powers of art are available to anyone who’s willing to give it a try.

“Everyone enjoys creating something, whether it's sculptures or paintings or something else,” Nicole suggests. “Just create, and remember that practice will make you better.”

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