Introduce yourself and describe your work and the media/genre you work in.
My name is Linda Nickell and I am a local Kansas City artist primarily developing contemporary landscapes using oil and cold wax medium. I enjoy creating art in my studio space located in the Crossroads as well as a studio located in my house. I am a former manager of school programs at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and for many years enjoyed opening up the world of art to students of all ages through creative programming. Previous to employment at the museum, I was an educator in public and private schools and a graphic designer/illustrator for corporations in the Kansas City area. With an education and museum background, I love to explore and investigate various forms of art and art making.
A couple of years ago, I left my full time position at the museum to pursue my personal art career. In the past few years I have enjoyed selling my art and have had several gallery shows in Kansas City and Dallas.
Recently, Truman Medical Center purchased several of my paintings for their Healing Arts Collection which will be featured in one of their new buildings.
How has your background in the art education field impacted your creative work?
Working as an arts educator throughout the years has enabled me to experiment, learn and instruct students in a variety of mediums. Teaching has been a collaborative experience where I instruct and impart my art experience however equally important is that I learn from my students. Thinking outside the box is important in the creative mind and being engaged with others has provided growth in my personal art. I enjoy experimenting and exploring new ways of using materials and new ways of looking at things.
Describe your creative process. How often are you creating, and where is your studio?
I have a studio space in the Crossroads as well as a studio in my home. Having a place at home to create has been helpful throughout the Covid stay-at-home restrictions. It seems like every day I am going into my studio to work on some form of art whether it is adding another layer to an oil/cold wax painting I am working on, creating Gelli plate prints to use in collaging, experimenting with new textures and materials to use with cold wax, or doing some quick acrylic studies in my sketchbook.
For the past 3 years I have focused my attention on painting with oil and cold wax medium on cradled birch panel boards. This process begins with applying multiple layers of textured gesso to the substrate. After drying time, I apply many layers of mark making and paints. Building layers of oil and cold wax takes time due to the drying time of oil paints. Eventually, I focus on a composition (either abstract or representational). The wonder of using this method comes when I can create a history in the painting with layers and textures that I add, remove and scrape into. So a field is not just green but many layers of colors which makes it rich, deep and interesting. I usually work on several paintings at once since drying time between layers is essential to prevent creating muddy colors.
What types of inspiration do you gather from nature? Do you find yourself drawing inspiration from a particular location?
I am inspired by the colors, shapes, lines and textures in nature. When I am outside on a walk or driving somewhere I am always taking “resource” pictures with my phone. I don’t specifically copy the photo but use it to investigate color combinations, shapes that create an abstraction of the landscape, lines, patterns and textures. Living in the Midwest many of my paintings represent the fields and vast expanse of Kansas farmland. But when I drive across Kansas and end up in Colorado, I enjoy exploring that location as well. With a pond behind our house and many beautiful trees that change colors in the fall, this is another area I use for inspiration. Sometimes the things around us that we take for granted can be a great inspiration if you look a little bit closer.
You've said that you hope your art expresses "the beauty, intrigue, and depth in the world around us." How does this beauty, intrigue, and depth around you inspire you personally as an artist?
There is so much more to discover than what we see on the surface. This applies to everything in life including people, relationships, art, etc. Being able to look deeper to see things underneath the surface is a beneficial skill. So as I drive through Kansas (yawn), I think there is more than meets the eye when seeing the expanse of flat farmland. There is a beauty in the colors under the surface that make up the landscape like crimson, gold, purple and yellow ochre underneath the green field. The landscape is not boring but serene with the under layers teaming with life. As an artist, I need to remember how to see things more fully and be able to express that to the art viewer.
“I think the job of an artist is to keep people’s eyes open…” Robert Rauschenberg
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
I’m not sure I have been given this advice but rather learned it. That is to take everything one step at a time. What can seem daunting can be accomplished with calm resolve and doing a little bit at a time. I can’t say I always succeed in doing this but I try to remember it when I am overwhelmed!
Linda Nickell's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.
Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle. While reading this book I had a book study with a friend. Very thought provoking and great discussion topics.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Richard Diebenkorn: Figurative Works on Paper by John Bergruen Gallery
Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin. I was hooked with the title! I find this to be so true even as I begin to create art. I routinely organize my studio space so that when I go there to create, I do not have a cluttered mind.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. As a historical fiction novel this book brings history to life with the characters, families and settings. I related to the people in the book and was able put myself into the situation.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I read this book as a teen and again as an adult. So touched by the steadfast and Godly quality of Corrie Ten Boom. This book brings to life an awful and unimaginable time in history.
Becoming by Michelle Obama. It was great to read about a strong woman that I admire.