About Harrisburg Artist Nicole Simmons—20 Questions Answered

What kind of artist are you?

I’m a painter!! I love painting abstracts and portraits—in that order. However, you’ll catch me doing some landscapes and other miscellaneous themes as well. I love incorporating flowers or floral themes into my work too, so you’ll often catch that as well.

Acrylics or oils?

Well, I paint in both, but if you’re asking which I like more, then it’s acrylics hands down. There are so many things you can do with acrylics! They’re so versatile and I feel the most free when I use them. That being said, I’ve been working with them the longest. I’ve only started working with oils in 2021.

Do you enjoy drawing?

Haaaa no. I actually despise drawing. I think it’s because I’ve hardly ever drawn for fun. I’ve only ever done drills or seen drawing as a “skill” rather than something that’s fun on its own. I wouldn’t mind breaking down this barrier, but I have so much resistance to drawing that I think it’ll be really difficult.

Fascinating! How do you work around that?

I draw when I have to. I just see it as a means to an end with painting. Very Machiavellian in my approach, I know.

What’s your background in art? Were you an artsy child?

HA! Absolutely NOT! I was creative in other ways—writing and “inventing” things. At one point I wanted to briefly become an inventor because I loved taking things apart and reimagining them into something new. It felt so freeing to break what things were supposed to be and put them back together in a new way—much to the consternation of my parents when I would rip apart brand new toys… The only type of “art” that I was really drawn to was pottery in middle school. I was actually kind of good at it, but completely shifted focus in high school when I was encouraged to be more serious about academics and college.

What about college? What’s your education background?

I majored in Political Science at Gettysburg College. We were required to take an arts class and I chose music. I was horrible at it.

I picked up a brush for the first time in 2014, 5 years after I graduated college. I was looking for a hobby and at the time “paint n sips” were starting to become very popular. I was really curious, but I was with someone romantically who would’ve perceived me going to one of those events as cheating or a threat to the relationship. Instead I decided to create my own paint n sip at home with one of those cheap Michael’s art sets and some canvas board. As soon as my brush hit the canvas it was like a lightbulb went on in a room I didn’t know was dark. I knew I had found my passion immediately.

Wow! So you are entirely self-taught?

Not entirely. In 2021 I started taking the Milan Art Institute’s Online Mastery Program, which is a [non-accredited] certificate program. It’s a year-long program and it takes you from beginner to professional in that amount of time. I’ll be finished with the program in March 2022. I highly recommend it for those who are interested in becoming an artist. It’s an aggressive program, but I’ve learned so much. It’s been one of the most transformational parts of my art journey to date.

That’s amazing! Do you do art full-time now?

Nope! I have a whole other full-time career as well. I consider myself really lucky to have 2 careers at this point in my life. Both of them use different parts of my brain, which I think is really unique. As an artist there’s this whole creative side I get to utilize, but in my other venture I’m a researcher and data person, so I get to use my analytical skills too.

I bet that’s hard. How do you manage?

Easier than you think! I really believe they complement each other well. I need so many of those analytical skills for the business side of my art career and I need the creative side when I’m trying to interpret data or come up with solutions. I like that I have so many options in my day. Some days my brain is wired to be more analytical and others it just wants to be creative as hell, and I get to lean into those respective sides. Like I said, I feel really lucky that I get to have these well-rounded experiences.

You said you love to paint abstracts and portraits. What draws you to those themes?

Abstracts just come really natural for me. They are the most freeing and I get to experiment with whatever I want. I can’t imagine not creating them. I remember as a kid, maybe 7 or 8, being in an art class and my teacher introduced the concept of abstracts to the class. I literally remember having the thought, “Wait, so there’s a type of art for me?!” I was so excited. I was instantly bought in. So it’s no surprise to me that I would migrate towards them now.