Nicola has not only thrived in this community as an Artist, she has been active and involved in the community of Artists since moving here. Dragging out two large file boxes of information she has collected over the years, in her possession is a semi-recorded Salt Spring history of Art. She reminisced fondly about the Vortex Galley, a commercial gallery that was formed by Kathy and Deon Venter after the artist’s co-operative disbanded.
Nicola credits the ASA (Alliance Salt Spring Artists) as the driving force responsible for bringing art into public spaces here on Salt Spring Island. She says prior to that the only venue showing the work of artists was Barb’s Buns. Later the Credit Union, Roasters and other venues began following suit and showing art. Another offshoot of the ASA was 'Art Night' a gathering once per month where artists socialize and discuss art.
Known for her curating skills, Nicola lights up when she talks about her love for designing space. Her love of designing space comes through strongly in her large format figurative and landscape works. Every inch of canvas has purpose, and every brush stroke is an observation of light.
When asked what drives and motivates her to paint she talks of her love for paint itself and the straight physicality of it. She says it is mostly “An unending stream of ideas and a never ending restless mind filled with energy. Art is all about resolving problems, it is a journey of taking it as far as you can, and for this, self-discipline is a must.”
Q) “In your experience with being represented by other galleries off-island what do you think would propel the Arts forward on Salt Spring Island?”
Nicola: “Not only do our local artists need to show off-island to be seen, but this is a draw for people from those places to visit Salt Spring.”
“If we also had a properly adjudicated annual show, like the annual show in Sidney, or even perhaps something similar to The Kingston Prize. A prestigious type show would definitely put us on the map. With Matt Steffich now past-president of the Chamber of Commerce & Ron Crawford on the board of the Salt Spring Arts Council, both of these changes will definitely be a positive step forward for the island as a whole. Anthony Matthews creating the Salt Spring Artist Directory is another step forward that we all needed to take.”
Q) What do you see as a benefit of the Arts that we have here?
Nicola: “With more galleries than Victoria, and all the Artist’s Studios and Galleries we definitely have an advantage to providing interesting art to the public. For example Duthie Gallery is now beginning to draw some very big names from the contemporary art world.”
Q)What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Artists in this community?
Nicola: “I love to see younger artists living here, but for them housing is always an obstacle as well as affordable studio space. If people could help out in anyway they can to provide affordable housing and studio spaces this could be effective.”
Q) Okay back to your Art for a moment, people wonder about the self-portrait subject. What interests you about painting self-portraits, or more specifically why do you paint so many self-portraits?
Nicola “Because I am cheap! (She laughs at this juncture) “I am not only cheap, I am available and always there. It is not always possible, nor prudent to have to pay models, and with painting oneself, there is no pressure of the dollars adding up as time ticks by. When you have yourself as a model you can take as long as you like. I’ve sometimes used two or three rigged up mirrors to view myself from different angles. Self-portraits are challenging because people always have preconceived notions of what they look like. It takes discipline to stop and see what is really there.”
Q) You’ve mentioned the word discipline a few times, would you say that this is one of the keys to your success?
Nicola: “Discipline is important and integral to my practice. I paint every day and I treat it like my job. I am in my studio every day from 9am – 5pm.”
Pointing out to me that she states that she has a “hard- arsed side”, and credits this quality for her disciplined approach. It is not difficult at all to pick up on this side of Nicola. For three years she worked on a body of work that was shown in several public art galleries called “All Of Our Daughters” a large installation piece comprising of forty life size figurative paintings of adolescent girls. Each canvas measuring 30” x 72”
When asked what she defines success to herself as an artist she says; “
“ Real success in my mind is creating a strong body of work in ones life time. And this can only be done by painting continually, putting the time in and discipline.”
Not only has Nicola created a significant body of work at this stage of her life, she inspires others and enjoys sharing her skills in a teaching capacity. If you are interested in some Plein Air painting this summer she will be offering small personal classes starting July 8th & 9th through to September. In August her Gallery/Studio located in Merchant Mews, will be the scene to view her latest works open to the public. For more information regarding her show or upcoming classes you can reach her via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Two hours passed by rapidly listening to rich stories and experiences of this island artist sprinkled with snippets of good humour, laughter passion, insight and a refreshing forthrightness. Nicola like her work is refreshingly real.
Photo of Nicola Wheston is by Ariane Colenbrander. visit her website.
Visit Nicola Wheston's Directory page for more about her art.
Interested in being interviewed? Contact Leanne at email@example.com