July - September, 2018: A selection of my artwork is now available for the summer season at Evrgreen, a charming coffee shop in the townsite of Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park!

Representation: I am honoured to have my work represented by these well-respected professional galleries:
Darrell Bell Gallery located in the Canada Building in downtown Saskatoon
Assiniboia Gallery in Regina, 2266 Smith Street- a vibrant, bustling part of town.

November 10, 2016: I was interviewed by Daily Paintworks as their Spotlight Artist for a week! Read my interview on the DPW News blog!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Comfort Zone Here

The Small Cowper Madonna (detail)
oil on paper
Challenge #11

Well, here it is. Whew. Very nerve wracking posting this. So not in my comfort zone, but that is good, right? 

I have been talking about attempting portraits because they fascinate me, but I have just not been able to motivate myself. I have really been struggling, since our rotten stinkin' car accident, to get my head in the game again, but I have been only moderately successful. I just can't seem to get a clear focus. As well, there have been other distractions (child related) that have definitely kept my head space cloudy. If I could just get away from drama I would be a happy gal. Anyways, while I flounder around waiting for focus to return, I thought it would be a great time to try an online challenge. When I saw the Following The Masters blog for the first time a few weeks ago I thought that it might be something I could get interested in depending what the next challenge was. Sure enough, when Michelle (the FTM blog creator) announced that the inspiration for Challenge #11 was The Italian Renaissance I knew I could find something to work with. I loved this period when I studied Art History many moons ago. And my favorite artist for a long time was Raphael. So I pulled out some gorgeous old textbooks that I kept from my studies and chose this beautiful Madonna. I decided to only work on a detail of the actual painting for a few reasons: 1) I haven't done a portrait since first year university, so I didn't want to make my comfort zone even less comfortable by having to paint two portraits! And b) I didn't want to commit a crazy amount of time to the project. (Humph, upon reading that back, maybe my lack of motivation really has more to do with laziness! I guess I have something to think about!)

As much as I know it does not look like the face of Raphael's Madonna, I am excited I tried this challenge and I learned a lot in the process. And I used oils for this, not acrylics! I definitely have lots to learn about colour mixing and, where oil paint is concerned, how to keep the colours looking clear and not muddy. So while I tread water in artistic No Man's Land waiting for focus to return, maybe I will try to follow a few other portrait masters like Fred Varley or John Singer Sargent and get some learnin' done.


-Don said...

Nice job, Nicki! I'm a firm believer that we have to stretch outside of our comfort zone in order to grow. It's great that you are trying new things, challenging things, fearful things. Not only do we learn more about our work when we push our limits, but we learn more about ourselves. I can't wait to see more! Keep up the great work.


JRonson said...

it's so diferent of your works, and results very well !!

so powrfull, nice influence by rafael i think, u have to try more of this work :) contratgs

Tammy Hext said...

Nicki this is just gorgeous. I enlarged it and then you get a real sense of how lovely it is.

Barbara M. said...


You do not need to get any learning done. This is fabulous. I'm so sorry the accident made a fabulous artist like you doubt herself. You are just so incredibly good.


suzanneberry said...

This is lovely Nicki!! This certainly looks like you're IN your comfort zone. beautiful job!

Sheila said...

Oh Sweetie! You did such a wonderful job for your first portrait in oil! I would be embarrassed to show you my first. He looks like a paper doll and not in a good way. You should be very proud of yourself.

jdr said...

WOW, Nick! I am loving this one! Look at all the detail you put in and it looks so dreamy and angel-like!! I'm proud of you!

Nicki said...

Thanks Don,

Yes, it is good to push oneself.... I certainly find I have a lot to learn every time I pick up the paint brush.


Hi JRonson,

Yes, it is very different from what I am used to and there is much more experimenting to do. Thanks for the encouragement.


Hi Tammy,

I enlarged it after I read your comment and it actually shows the softness much better in the larger format. Interesting.


Hi Barbara,

For some reason I am full of doubt right now...What do I want to paint, What subject? Loose or tight? Should I really get into portraits and figures, but is it too overwhelming right now? I don't know. I hope this rut passes soon. Thanks for your upbeat words every time you stop by. It is very much appreciated.


Thank you, Suzanne. I guess it's good that it looks like I am comfortable even though I am so not!

:) Nicki

Hey Sheila,

It turned out better than I thought it was going to just based on my memory of the self portrait I recall doing in university, but I ain't no Raphael!

I really like the da Vinci inspired sketch you did for the challenge.


Hi JJ,

Thanks man!
I miss you... must visit soon!

XO Nicki

Anonymous said...

hi Nicki, she is beautiful! well done you for going for this 3 way challenge and pulling it off not only in a medium that is strange to you but also a subject that you are developing your eye on. r.

Anne Campbell said...

Your amibtion pulled it off and really well too. This is a lovely response to Raphael's work and you have definitely captured the artist's stylistic essence.

Nicki said...

Hi Rahina,

Thanks for your sweet words. I always admire your portraits, so your reaction means a lot.

XO Nicki

Hi Anne,

Thank you so much for taking the time to make a comment on this painting. You have said some very kind and encouraging words and I do appreciate them more than you know.

Please stop by again,


Chartan said...

I love Rafael, I copied this very painting in a class once. You've done a great job!

Nicki said...

Hi Chartan,

Wow, The Small Cowper Madonna has been a good teacher! Thanks for stopping by to have a look at my blog.


laura said...

Hi, I came over from FtM to say how much I like your painting--the expression on the face is so striking--it's a real "expression" (which I think is hard to do?). I also like the soft way you've handled the background.

Nicki said...

Hi Laura,

Thank you so much for coming over to leave a comment. I really appreciate it. And aren't you ambitious?! Two entries! They are both great- I especially like the vibrant colours you used in "St. Catherine of Alexandria".