Nikki Newman

"I think of art as having always been in my life. Perhaps I should call it creativity.

Growing up in Devon in the South West of England, I remember the wonderful prints and fabrics of the 70s that my mum used to wear, and the textiles my grandmother had. Her home was filled with creative, quirky things, quite bohemian really, and as well as her watercolour and oil paintings, her garden was her canvas.  At the same time, both she and my mum taught me to sew, knit, crochet, bake, so that I was always busy with my hands and making something. 

Later, my dad's love of and incredible talent at photography fed my creative appetite further. Creativity is something that I think of as just having been there in my life, like the food you're raised on or the love you're given.

I fell in love with fashion in my mid teens and spent hours designing and illustrating my own fashion lines, but when it came to choosing my university studies, I went for a more academic course, thinking that by keeping art as a 'hobby' I would keep it 'safe'; I didn't want to have it ruined by formal education or by making it my work. 

But I spent my whole time at uni missing it and longing to have it in my life. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to study fine art in my final year and relished the experience, putting on my first exhibition before graduation, an exploration of the human form, with large paintings of nudes, photography and sculpture celebrating the body in motion.

Eventually, I went to work in London in the world of film, TV and theatre but still, art didn't have the place in my life it needed. I took evening classes at Central Saint Martin's which went some way to satisfying my thirst for creating art, but it was about another ten years before I took the step to put my work 'out there'.Chronic illness and the changes it brings was one of the biggest reasons I realised that was all I had ever wanted to do and could not delay it any longer.

I began by selling small paintings online, exhibiting in local galleries and taking my art and craft items to fairs. Then the opportunity to move to Qatar with my family arose, my health improved, and with a move to a new place, I felt emboldened to be braver with my art.

I entered the Harper's Bazaar Fashion Illustrator competition in July 2010 with an illustration of a DKNY look from the AW10 collection and was thrilled to be shortlisted as a top ten finalist. A series of joint exhibitions, displaying my work at fairs, selling work privately and illustration work for T Qatar, the New York Times Style Magazine, meant that my work started to reach many audiences in the region. 

In October 2011 I won the title of Harper's Bazaar Fashion Illustrator of the Year with the Gucci look you can see in my gallery. A dream come true. I now work broadly in two areas of art: painting (my own work for exhibitions and commissions for private clients) and illustration (mainly fashion, for designers, boutiques and publications).

During the art-drought of my 20s, I retrained to be a secondary school teacher of English, literature and writing being another of my great loves. Over the 7 years I taught, I saw the creativity slowly drain out of education to be replaced by a results-driven race of targets and levels. The final part of my job as an artist brings together all these experiences into the role of teacher. My belief is that there is no right or finite way to teach art, that it should be student-centred and about 'drawing out' more than merely 'putting in'.  I think that's why I made that decision all those years ago not to study it formally but find my own way. I wouldn't say it's been the easiest route but it's certainly been empowering.

 


 



 

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