Elaina Nichols is an exceptionally talented and creative artist here at IUPUI. This semester will mark the completion of her second year of classes working towards a degree in drawing and illustration at the Herron School of Art and Design. She defines being an illustrator as somebody having an idea and she is the person who can put that idea onto paper for them in a way that looks good.
Nichols’ biggest inspiration, and deepest love as an artist is Vincent Van Gogh, noted by her “Vincent” tattoo on her right hand. Nichols experienced much of Van Gogh’s art first hand on an art trip to Europe when she was sixteen where she really found so much of her inspiration that she uses today. Her inspirational experiences there included seeing the Sistine Chapel, original Van Gogh pieces and pieces by Claude Monet.
When it comes to more recent artists, making pieces for other people and discovering conceptually better ideas, her inspirations come from artists who share their work on social media, and the contemporary artist Damien Hirst. Nichols explained some of Hirst’s work that conceptually inspired her the most, with preserved animals being cut in half and displayed, as well as his famous “diamond encrusted human skull made out of platinum” which is the world’s most expensive piece of artwork.
Nichols’ creative talents became apparent in elementary school when her teachers quickly noticed her surpassing other students when it came to visual learning and art classes. Her mother decided to sign her up for art classes at their local arts center.
“I actually hated it because I was like they tell us what to draw, how to draw and my mom was like that’s the point of taking an art class.” She shared with a laugh.
She eventually got out of art classes and her time was spent playing sports for her
middle school. When Nichols reached high school she could no longer play sports due to missing a conditioning practice, she decided to fill her time by taking part in her school’s live theater program. In the theater program, she created all of the prop work, painted backgrounds for the plays and started getting back into the world of art.
She has always enjoyed creating and having access to her more artistic side but what influenced her decision to pursue a degree in the arts was her theater work and art classes in high school. Nichols created some of her favorite pieces to date in high school. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about her favorite piece she has made is a project from her senior year of high school that took her months to create.
Nichols won $500 off of this piece in an art contest in her hometown, she described the piece as “this giant abstract piece that was an abstracted version of two people looking at each other so it was like two versions of me that had this disconnect,” she said. “They were connected but the connections were broken and there was line work that was identical of typography and fingerprints so it kind of tied in identity in that sense. I just really liked how personal I got with it.”
Nichols has received compliments from her professors for being such a well-rounded artist whose talents range through a number of different mediums. She uses acrylic paint, collage, Copic markers, watercolors, pigma micron pens, digital artwork and embroidery, and is quick to pick up new mediums. Her favorite of all the mediums she has used so far would be pigma micron pens because they give her work clean lines that stay in place without smearing.
Digital artwork is a fairly new concept to Nichols, her first experience with it was for an assignment in her illustration class this semester. She uses a Wacom tablet, Wacom tablets do not have a screen that you can view the art on as it is made, it is plugged into her computer and then viewed on her computer screen. Nichols said that it was very hard to get used to it at first because she is used to seeing the lines and details being made directly on the medium, rather than drawing on the tablet and seeing the product on a separate screen.
Nichols’ friend who gifted her this tablet helped her practice her digital skills and showed her how to successfully use the different aspects in photoshop like layering to give better detail in her digital artwork. The first finished digital piece she made was a character design for her illustration class that took her a couple of weeks to fully complete, trying to find the right brushes, colors and tools on Photoshop. Since then she has created intricate portraits of celebrities like Post Malone and multiple portraits of her friends. Digital art is now one of her favorite mediums to create on because of the versatility of functions.
Nichols has seen an exponential amount of growth in her artistic skill during her time in college between now and last year, or even last semester. The biggest growth that she has seen is going from high school into her first year of college and taking in the fact that art is not a finished process, it can always be changed and added onto.
Along with that something that has helped Nichols develop the most as an artist is the critique she receives from all of her different professors and classes. She said that the critiques have helped her have “thicker skin” not only as an artist but with life in general. Nichols views the criticism not as what is wrong with her art, but as things that can be changed in that piece and uses it to help give herself lead way on her future projects.
The professors in the Herron School of Art have made a very positive impact on Nichols and her experience here at IUPUI. She admires that the Herron professors frequently email students about internship opportunities and how they truly care about their students.
Nichols specifically noted Professor Reagan Furqueron, she was a student of his building and making course as well as his 3D art class, she really admires his open mind when it came to his student’s creations, lives and how much he truly cares for his students. She said that she still sees him around Herron and makes it a point to converse with him when she sees him because of the impact he has left on her as a professor and a person.
Bringing up the point that many people see art as people who just come to school to have fun and do not take art students very seriously, she made it clear that art school is much different than the stereotypes. She is passionate about the fact that art is not just fun and games, but a lifestyle that artists must dedicate a large amount of time to their pieces and creation processes.
Every one of her classes are a minimum of three hours long purely dedicated to making art. On days that Nichols has multiple classes, it is not uncommon for her to be working on different pieces of art for 6-9 hours on campus. This time does not include the 3-6 hours a day she is expected to work on her art outside of her classes and time put in on the weekends. She was open to the fact that dedicating this amount of time is a challenge but her deep love for art and developing her artistic knowledge helps to keep her going. Nichols said that if she was not going to art school she would not feel the need to be in school.
Being a freelance illustrator, coming up with her own ideas and creating original pieces that people buy, is Nichols’ dream job. She shares that the reality of being an illustrator is people coming to her with their own ideas and she works off of commission to make the pieces, a reality that she is not opposed to. Nichols also sees herself designing characters, backgrounds, and details of video games and cartoons as a career in the future.
Nichols currently sells her art and is willing to work off of commission, you can find her work on her art Instagram account @that_pickle_art as well as her Twitter account @elainapickles.