Nicole Renee Ryan is a contemporary watercolorist, oil painter, and muralist. She is obsessed with painting her memories of the natural world. These memories are misremembered, wrong, overly romantic or tragic and are defined as much by what is missing as by what is present. Her landscapes are dominated by large clouds, gray skies, storms, and flattened patches of earth.
Landscapes are her perfect metaphor. Clouds and weather become mood and personality. Light and color shift and move to become a simple description of time when seen subtly changing over multiple paintings.
We visited Nicole in her Radiant Hall Lawrenceville studio complete with her studio pup, Pikey! We hope you enjoy our latest artist interview.
Where are you from?
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Why do you choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
There aren’t any artists up in my area. That’s where I grew up and where my husband grew up. But there’s nothing there. I want to be there and be a part of the Pittsburgh art scene, so I divide my time working here and there.
There are a few artists up there, some wildlife artists, but there isn’t a variety of art that’s nice to be around.
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
The food? But, really, I guess it ties into the previous answer but the other artists around. Being around other people can give you breaks from your work so you can get out of your own head. When I had a studio in my house, I would just be getting stuck in ruts and rhythms without even necessarily realizing it.
What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh arts scene?
Artists north of Pittsburgh. It’s really cheap up there.
What’s your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
I actually don’t listen to music while I’m painting. I listen to a lot of audiobooks or podcasts. Podcasts I enjoy are Freakonomics, Planet Money, This American Life, etc.
What other things do you do when you are not making art…that is, IF you have any free time?
Read. A lot, like obsessively, at least 2 hours a day. Give me any type of fiction and I’ll read it, like science fiction or young adult dystopian novels that aren’t very good. I might pretend I didn’t read those even though I did. But I also enjoy non-fiction. But usually I listen to those as audiobooks.
I garden, except right now we don’t have one which is depressing. I like to run when it’s warm.
What would you tell other artists who are just starting out?
Take a long view of it and be ok with failing a lot like having a painting not turn out or entering a competition and not getting in. It’s basically like trying 100 things and having 1 or 2 stick. If you can tolerate high rates of failure, then you can make it for the long haul.
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