Hi, Everybody! Today, I’m going to introduce you to one of my best friends, artist Nicki Forde. I’ve known Nicki for years, and though we began our friendship as gardening buddies, it has transcended far beyond labels of any kind. Simply put, Nicki is one of the nicest, most talented, and truly generous souls I’ve ever met!
Years ago, Nicki told me I needed to start blogging as a way to express myself, so I did, and nearly 20 years later, I’m still going. She also told me I should start writing books, and I did. Whether I’ll hit twenty years doing that is doubtful, but I can still count on her for encouragement and steadfast support. And best of all, when Nicki was still a graphic designer, she began creating my book covers, which I LOVE. Happily, even though she’s moved on from graphic design to some wonderfully beautiful and often whimsical art of her own, she says she’ll always find time for my books. How lucky am I?
I’ve asked Nicki here today to tell you a bit about herself, and to share some of her fantastic art with you. Yes, she takes orders and does commission work. Here is a painting she did for me of our late dachshund buddies, Maks & Potter. More below on how you can reach Nicki to commission portraits of your own pets and much more. Now, without further ado, please welcome a very special guest to The Write Stuff. Take it away, Nicki!
Thanks for having me, Marcia. Hi, everybody!
I’m a Native Floridian from Okeechobee with a lifelong desire to create. I began drawing as a toddler, doodling horses and eating crayons. My mom said I must have been impressed with the Budweiser Clydesdales when I saw them walking up and down our street by the train tracks in Fort Lauderdale. I’m not sure where those horses were headed, and I have only the faintest memory, but it was my good luck they needed a break from their journey right then. I can say, I’ve never been the same since.
Moving to Okeechobee only fueled my love of horses since it was cowboy country, and there was a horse on every corner. I knew where each horse was within a walkable distance from my home. I’d jump fences, crawl through barbed wire, dodge angry bulls … all to reach a horse peacefully grazing in a pasture. I trespassed, and had no shame. I braided manes, added flowers to tails, and petted and loved on each horse that would let me. When I wasn’t trespassing to pet horses, I was home drawing them.
I went on to study Commercial Art at International Fine Arts College in Miami. From there I began a 25-year career as a graphic artist. My days of doodling horses were over, and instead I found myself working insanely long days meeting media deadlines and unrealistic expectations. In 2014 I discovered the love of my life, and with this sweet man, I found myself thriving. I was inspired to paint illustrations for our wedding invitations and reply cards, and after that I made time to paint a few more until I had enough to open an Etsy shop with the idea of making wedding invitations based on my paintings. I joined the local art center and started exhibiting in festivals, art markets and local competitions.
The more art I made and shared, the more commissions I began receiving. I quickly discovered fine art commissions are far more rewarding than graphic design work, so I began pruning my graphics customers until I found my core group. This group happens to be all women-owned or managed businesses, where they value the work and experience I provide and respect basic boundaries. Initially it wasn’t easy to fire my clients because our societal constructs tell us we should strive more, work harder, display our stress induced, sleep-deprived high blood pressure as a badge of honor. But I was truly tired and decided to follow my heart.
I’m happy to say, the majority of my time is now spent making art and running my fine art business from the studio in our historic downtown Leesburg home. It’s work that fills my soul. I have a wonderful problem of not having enough time to add new art to my Etsy shop because of the commission work that comes in, such as pet or people portraits, murals, and hand painted furniture. Right now I’m finishing up a 20”x20” painting of a large mouth bass as a birthday gift for my customer’s husband. Also in the works is a 3’ round table that I’m painting luna moths and fireflies on. Next up are 3 old saws that a customer wants paintings on. My style is somewhat loose and intuitive, and it’s evolving. It’s always surprising to me when I finish a painting because I just never really know what the final result’s going to be. It’s a joyful process that’s taught me to trust in my ability and in my inner voice.
Goals for my art business this year are to create several series of paintings to submit to licensing agents so my art can be applied to fine art prints and home decor and be sold in stores like Hobby Lobby, Target, or Home Goods. I’d also like to get my art in a few more galleries and have a space at Queen of Hearts Antiques in Buford, Georgia to fill with hand-painted vintage furniture and original paintings. For my Etsy shop, I plan on adding small original paintings on wood panels or chunky canvas. The few times I’ve been able to add original pieces to date, they’ve sold right away.
Horses remain, to this day, my favorite subject to paint. They hold a special magic for me, and when I paint them, I feel a connection to something divine. So follow me on instagram (@nickiforde) or check out my website: www.drawingonmyheart.com to see new horse art, among other subjects, as I complete them. If you would like a commissioned painting from me, you can reach me through my website, Instagram message or Facebook Messenger.
“My mission as an artist is to create a positive impact by making art that uplifts, and my mission as a human is to live with joy and compassion. “
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Nicki, and I want to take a moment to let folks know that very soon, Nicki and author Melanie Wagner will be publishing a brand new children’s book. I’ve seen the proof copy, and it is adorable! As soon as is Wailin’ and the Chicks is available on Amazon, Melanie will be visiting us to talk about their collaboration on this project. And you’ll get a sneak preview of some of Nicki’s fine illustrations, too. Here’s a little taste to whet your appetite.
In the meantime, you can contact Nicki at the links below to commission a painting of your own, to order things like boxed greeting cards and prints, or just to let her know you’re a fan of her work. She’d love to hear from you!
Drawing on My Heart Website: www.drawingonmyheart.com
Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/shop/DrawingOnMyHeart