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Feeling a strong connection to nature, this artist often employs an earthy colour palette in an abstract manner.

Nicole Maguire had no idea what to paint or how to begin. There was an empty room in her first apartment, so she thought it could be turned into an art studio. It was not meant to be - a pad of paper and a pencil sat on a table in the room for about six months! It would take the lonely experience of suffering her first heartbreak for Nicole to finally put pen to paper. 

"Depressed with the loss of my first love, I could barely get myself out of bed. Moping alone in my little flat, something came over me to try painting a little birds nest I had found."

Nicole will never forget the moment she stepped away to look at the painting she had just finished. Immediately she felt as if a weight had been lifted, "in a way, art was a very reassuring and grounding exercise at the time, which I will never forget. Finding a connection to something through painting is incredibly rewarding."

Nicole has found a sincere love for painting because it is "ultimately very rewarding in many ways." she says that when you get to a point in the work where it starts to 'sing' or come together, there is nowhere else she would rather be. "It is a grounding experience and a beautiful yet challenging way to express oneself. Sometimes it tells you what it wants you to do next." Nicole also loves what a painting gives to other people. "To observe a curious gaze and witness the viewers' inspired connectivity to the work is both humbling and satisfying."

Since the day Nicole found art, she has continually developed her own techniques through learned and experimental studies. Like any artists developing their technique, there have been many lessons to learn along the way. Watercolour painting taught her techniques in colour and dry on wet painting. Graphic design studies at Art School taught her the importance of sketching and composition. "My compositions are just as important in a piece to me as the techniques used in the actual painting of the picture."

Her oil painting techniques have been primarily self-taught and studying techniques of the Old Masters have provided some fundamentals. She says, for instance, that Rembrandt using only four colours is something she seems to adhere to. In following this, Nicole has tried to develop a similar formula for the mediums used with pigment.

As for applying paint, Nicole uses almost anything, from huge palette knives and brushes of all sizes, to the tips of her fingers. The latter was developed due to early onset of Osteo-arthritis a few years ago. sometimes being unable to hold a brush, she found  a way to keep painting with her hands only. Fortunately, Nicole no longer suffers with this, but still uses the technique at times.

Having grown up in Tasmania, Nicole says there are many artists from her hometown that inspire her. Chen Ping, Stephen Lees, Milan Milojevic, John Lendis and Geoff Dyer are just some of these artists. She also highly regards a number of Australian artists such as Michael Napper, Anthony Lister, Brett Whiteley, John Olsen, John Gleeson, Fred Williams. Nicole also counts Turner and the techniques of the Old Masters such as Rembrandt as a source of inspiration. Her favourite art shows include The Wynn Landscape Prize exhibitions and The Glover Prize exhibitions. The Moran Portraiture Prize and Archibald Prize are also top of her list.

Nicole's successes is evident through the number of exhibitions she has taken part in. In April this year she hosted her first solo exhibition at the Aro Gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Before this, she was exhibited in the Art Society of Tasmania and several group exhibitions in Hobart, having since moved to Sydney three years ago. she lists her first major achievement as winning the award for Best Use of Medium in the Annual Selected Art Exhibition with the AST. Nowadays, Nicole is a featured artist on Bluethumb, having exhibited online since the site started in 2012. She is now one of their best sellers with a steadily increasing following.

From Nicole's humble entrance into art, she says there are a number of lessons she has learnt along the way. First up, being able to draw is important. Next, that it always works out well if her heart is connected to the subject in some way. "Trying to paint something because it's what someone else loves never comes through in work." Being prepared and able to take criticism is valuable. Time to paint needs to be created, otherwise work and other parts of your life can very easily take over. And lastly, "inspiration can go awol and have you wondering if you will ever get it back. It does and it will."

This article was originally published in Creative Artist issue 19, 2017.

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