'Artists can be just like anyone else—what is special is not the artist but the art. Create good, honest work and it will connect with others.'
Nicole Sleeth is a figurative artist working from a studio in Victoria, BC, Canada, in Chinatown. Nicole brings a classical understanding of the human form and oil painting to her contemporary representations of the female figure. Her figures are real, raw, powerful, and each brushstroke describes the flesh in a way that bring it to life - tactile and mobile.
Do you prefer to work in silence or does certain music inspire you? I almost always listen to music or an audiobook. If I'm doing something that doesn't require much creative energy, such as mixing colours, I'll usually listen to a book - artist biographies are a favourite genre. While painting, I prefer to listen to music most of the time because I need more of my brain to make decisions about the painting. The more complicated the area, the more familiar my music picks. Do you have a personal mantra or quote which serves to motivate you? "Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof. Never let the fruits of action be your motive; and never cease to work. Work in the name of [art; higher power], abandoning selfish desires. Be not affected by success or failure." I found this in a book my partner gave me called "The Mindfulness of Knitting" by Rachael Matthews (knitting is a hobby of mine). This quote, Matthews says, is yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar "translating the writings of the Bhagavad Gita, [explaining] the term 'yoga'." I think it can apply to creating art as well, and it reminds me that the act of painting is the most important thing, not what happens to the painting. Serving the painting and making the best decisions possible is my task, and as long as I do that, what happens to the painting is irrelevant. If you could time travel, what advice would you give the younger you, regarding pursuing your artmaking? I would say that this is what I am meant to do, so stop messing around trying to find an easier path! Though being an artist has its challenges, it is much easier than trying to move through a path I'm not meant to travel.
What do you hope to convey through your work? I hope to convey my deep respect and love for women and for oil paint. Beyond that, viewers will have their own response to the work and I don't seek to elicit a particular reaction, or to convey any one message.
Where is your current studio? What would be your dream studio? My current studio is in an old building in Victoria, BC, Canada, in Chinatown. It was built around 1893 and only minimally updated; it's a large space, full of character with beautiful north light and a lot of history. It pretty much is my dream studio and I love being here. Is there something you regard as essential to your preparation or process?
I like to plan my paintings fairly thoroughly. This helps eliminate uncertainty for the essential parts, and also frees up cognitive energy to experiment and abstract. I start with a photoshoot with a model, work in composing my photo reference, create a pencil or charcoal sketch, create a colour study in oil, build a strong underpainting, premix my colours, and finally create the painting. It forces me to make necessary decisions about the composition, colour scheme, and drawing, which means I don't usually run into major errors once I'm well into the painting process. Follow Nicole!