Artist Spotlight :: Nicole Austin


Welcome! Every Tuesday and Thursday Tonia Jenny, the 21 SECRETS Creative Director & Course Manager, interviews one of the talented teachers in our 21 SECRETS program for an Artist Spotlight.

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Hi there, Artistic Seeker!

Just 13 days now until we roll out 21 SECRETS Face Time!

Let’s give three cheers to Nicole Austin—today’s Spotlight Artist—for encouraging us to make a mess! As you’ll read below, the “mess” is one of Nicole’s favorite stages of making art and in her Face-Time workshop, Say Yes to the Mess, she will lovingly grant you permission to explore many layers of your own process on the way to creating a face that tells a story as you go along. 

What is your earliest memory of a creative activity you enjoyed?

I used to spend a lot of time under the marble table in our living room as a kid, drawing with crayons and markers and telling little stories along the way. The funny thing is that my family didn’t discover my little secret until many decades later when my grandma had the table moved into storage. She was so pleasantly surprised by the discovery all those years later!

Name three words that sum up the three stages your current work goes through.

I would have to say “love, hate, love!” or “mess, regress, YES!” I feel like I often love what I’m creating in the beginning, making a big mess and allowing for all my creativity to flow. Then I hit the “middle” or “ugly” stage where I just feel lost or like I don’t know what I’m doing; this is often the gremlin stage and where I’ll back away from the edge and “regress” to a safer place, making smaller moves or just taking some time away for a while. Then I’ll come back energized or ready with the next move and I’m back to loving it again—the YES stage!

What could you bravely commit to here and now that would expand you as an artist?

I would say that I’d like to commit to more time just creating art outside of work or projects or classes. I do this quite often, but I feel like I really need to do this on a daily basis! I’d love to explore painting and creating on larger surfaces and also continue to take in-person classes from my favorite artists.

If we were lucky enough to see your workshop’s “outtakes” or “bloopers” video, what would be the scene?

Well, I have three kids and a cat at home, so often I have to film my workshops with the everyday noises and comings-and-goings of my little crew in the background! That gets edited out of course, but if you could just hear the conversations sometimes while I’m creating, you’d laugh! Also, my cat will ALWAYS jump up onto my art table as soon as I turn on the camera. It’s like she just knows I’m about to film and has to be the star of the show! haha. But it’s probably that she just loves the warmth of the studio lights!

Where will you be and what will you be doing five years from now?

I really hope that I’ll still be creating online and in-person workshops and that I’ll continue to share my love for creativity and art with everyone. It’s definitely a goal of mine in the next five years to travel abroad to teach workshops (I’m looking at you Italy, Australia and Bali!) as well as to continue to grow my business as an artist.

I wonder if Nicole’s cat’s fondness for sharing her studio table has contributed to her love of making a mess!

Ha, ha! Cats do love the spotlight, don’t they? I hope you’re looking forward to seeing more of Nicole and her sweet teaching style when you dive into 21 SECRETS Face Time.

💜 Tonia

About Nicole

I am a mixed-media artist, designer and instructor from San Jose, CA (currently living in Tempe, AZ). I believe that everyone has a unique style and desire to create and that we are born curious and creative. Over the years, many of us are discouraged from following our creative urges but I believe it is never too late to begin (or begin again!). My art is messy, colorful, layered and fun. I have been drawn to the creative arts for as long as I can remember. My first canvas was every surface in my grandma’s house: the walls, the books, underneath the marble coffee table in the dining room (she didn’t find out until years later)! These days, I love filling up pages in my art journal with bright colors and collage paper and if I can be outside on a picnic blanket in the grass, even better! I love inspiring others and cheering them on as they (re)discover their creative voice.


Nicole is teaching Say Yes to the Mess

Our lives and our stories are often complicated and messy. We often shy away from mess—be it making messes or embracing the mess. In this lesson, I’ll show you how to say YES to your mess and embrace every bit of the creative process. I’ll share with you my process for creating faces, beginning by building multiple layers with a variety of media, with the option of writing little messages, words of encouragement or just scribbles to get started. Slowly, the portrait starts to take shape and begins to tell a unique story. By giving ourselves the freedom to explore, make a mess and embrace the process, we’ll go from putting it all out on the journal page to carving out what layers we want to keep in our final portrait.

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