I recently interviewed Nicole, the artist behind Blue Bicicletta. Nicole and I talked about her work as an artist, what her experience has been, and even caught a glimpse into her home. Enjoy…
How did you get started with Blue Bicicletta?
The first thing I ever wanted to be was an artist. As a young kid I was always drawing—cartoon characters, fashion designs, landscapes. It was a no-brainer to me that I would be an artist. I would make photocopies of my drawings and hand them out to the customers at my parents restaurant, and I once wrote an essay entitled, “Michelangelo and Me,” about a day spent with the great artist.
I did art very seriously all the way up through high school, but at some point, me being an artist for a living began to feel impossible. I suppose the idea of “the starving artist” and a realization that I wasnt at the top of my art class scared me away from it. I got more interested in English and creative writing and that is what I focused on in college.
A few years out of college, and several dead-end jobs later, I started to realize that something was really missing, and what was missing was art. I read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, and that helped a lot. I started making art again, and that helped even more. Seeing how so many artists were getting their art out there through blogging, I started my blog, Blue Bicicletta (named primarily after my love of biking, and how free it feels—kind of like art).
At the time, I was making all types of art—collage, painting—really anything I could think of. I had an interest in words and making them more visual, so I started doing some large, colorful, word paintings. Then one day, my then boyfriend, now husband, saw me doodling with a black pen, and he asked, “Why dont you do that kind of art more seriously?” The clouds opened and a bolt of lightening struck, or really, I just started putting my black pen to larger pieces of paper. At first, I did lots of abstract pattern drawings, but then I got the idea to bring words into my drawing, and thus my most current style was born.
After blogging for a while, I started seeing that most artists seemed to have an Etsy shop. Etsy seemed like a really easy way to get started. Then, a lovely reader asked if she could buy a drawing on my blog, and that really sealed the idea for me—there were people who wanted to buy my artwork! Shortly after, I launched my Etsy shop, and other things like craft shows, art shows, and other creative projects have snowballed from there.
Is Blue Bicicletta your full time job?
As of this October, Blue Bicicletta is my full-time job. Right now, Im in a transition phase of figuring out just what pieces will fit together into a viable income. I worked part time before that, and I always found myself fitting art into every bit of time around my day job—really, all of my free time. It is an amazing experience to be able to make art my primary focus, and then still have free time afterwards. I hope to make this a permanent situation.
Name your three favorite artists.
This is a tough one. Im inspired and involved largely with words, maybe even more than visual images, so here are three visual and written artists I love. Visual Arists: Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt, Marc Chagall. Poets: Mary Oliver, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot.
Name your three favorite makers/crafters.
All of the artwork in your shop is black and white, no color. Why have you chosen to omit color from these works?
As I talked about a bit above, I kind of “fell into” my current style. I never really made the active choice to work only in black and white, at least not at first. In hindsight, this choice seems so obviously suited to me—I used to be really into black and white photography, and have always loved the simplicity and richness that comes out of that limited pallet. My current style is the absolute extreme of that—there arent even gray tones.
I want to say that I like the challenge of conveying something without any color—trying to create visual interest with such a limited pallet, but in another way, it might be considered more challenging to have to manage a full spectrum of colors. In a more direct answer to your question, I dont really consider myself as “omitting color,” its more like Im reveling in the richness of black and white. A very base answer is that I get a kick out of it. As I like to say, I love putting black lines on white paper—it just gives me a buzz of energy. Also, the whole decision is based on what the specific drawing needs, and there has only been one drawing, actually a set of two, that called out to me as needing color—theyre called “Dream” and “Make your dreams happen” and they have a touch of color.
Who or what do you draw the most inspiration from in your own work?
I draw inspiration from the medium itself, like I said, black and white drives me wild. I also draw a lot of inspiration from nature, everyday life, poetry, words, and the alphabet. I also get inspired by thinking of new ways to simplify an image—youll see some human profiles in my work, and I just love the compositional element of a simple line drawing of a profile, filled with white space. Right now Im working on a small book that uses a female profile as the central compositional element, and it has so much energy in it.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to start a craft business or trying to promote themselves as artists? Any tips you can share?
Every day I am learning something new about this process myself. What I am learning is: never give up and keep trying new things. Always be open to new ideas. I think its most important to find your own way—look at what everyone else is doing and then figure out what you are going to do. As everyone says, dont compare yourself to other people. Find what you love and go for it, and keep going for it. I apologize for not having any sage business advice, but I often find that too much business advice jut messes with my head and fills me up with “shoulds.” Instead, Im trying to find my own road by taking in what everyone else is doing and saying and matching it with what sounds good to me.
What do you like most about your studio/ workspace? What do you like least?
I like most all of my little bits of inspiration. They feel like home to me. I like least, the amount of space. Right now, I share an office with my husband. I dream of having a studio of my own with many tables, drawers, and shelves, and lots of light. One day.
Do you think your style as an artist has influenced the way you decorate your home? If so, how?
I think my style as an artist has really influenced my home, also, just my interest in art in general. I really love word art and letters, and I dream of developing a large collection of big letters. Im beginning to collect whimsical art prints. Right now though, I think the way I decorate my home is most influenced by where Im at in my life. Were renting and still in the pre-settling down and pre-investing in good furniture stage, so right now, my style is mainly manifested in small pockets around my house. One day, I hope to have the budget to make stylistic choices about all aspects of my home.
What is the most prized possession in your home?
Oh, I have many prized possessions—lots of chotchkies that my mom has given to me over time (tiny bottles and boxes), some books I absolutely die for, (Mary Oliver, E.E. Cummings, Isabel Allende) and loads of family photos that pull on my heartstrings (like my grandparents wedding picture).