Artist Spotlight :: Noel Rivera


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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Happy almost-Friday dear one!

We have 16 days until we can dive into 21 SECRETS Face Time!

Today’s spotlight is shining upon Noel Rivera, an artist who not only creates amazing character works of her own, but who has also worked closely with other artists who love to create a variety of faces as well. I know this because I used to work with Noel on a team of book editors. It was fun to discover more about her through her answers to these questions.

And I know you’re going to have fun learning from Noel in her workshop, Creative Portraits where she encourages you to step outside of what you know to be “normal” and experiment with ways to add a lot of character to your . . . well, characters!

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

One of my earliest memories of making art is drawing faces with my mother. She always did what I call the “U” face—she drew a large “U” and placed the features inside it, then hair on top of it. A thin neck and shoulders followed. That was it; probably the simplest form of a portrait besides a stick figure. But as a kid, I thought it was the most amazing face I had ever seen, and I just wanted to be as good at drawing people as my mom.

What was your last happy accident?

My last happy accident was actually what inspired my process for Creative Portraits in 21 SECRETS Face Time. I was attempting to create a character portrait on a new watercolor paper I had recently purchased, but the results were washed out and not as clearly defined as I was used to. I pulled out a black brush pen and started inking on top, thinking that the image couldn’t get any worse, and what I ended up with was so unexpectedly atmospheric and interesting that I found I absolutely loved it. From there I started playing around with brush pens more and pairing that style of inking with my watercolor paintings.

Is there a “secret message” you often want your work to convey?

If there’s a message in my work, it’s that all things are beautiful and meaningful. You can make an amazing portrait based on a photo of an ordinary moment. I use that as a way to express how each moment in life is worth celebrating, even if it seems perfectly mundane.

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

I’m sitting at my recording spot, twisted around in my seat to look down at my cat as he eats from his bowl. The food pellets rattle around in the metal bowl just before he snatches one and crunches into it. I sigh and say, “Babe, can you hurry that up so I can get on with this?” Naturally, he just stares back at me for a moment, then returns to eating for another  five minutes or so.

When are you most courageous?

I’m at my most courageous when I’m doing something for someone else. Whether it’s driving somewhere I’ve never been, asking an uncomfortable question, or stepping between a friend and trouble, I always tend to go way out of my comfort zone if it means doing something for someone I care about instead of for myself.

It was cool hearing about how Noel came upon her focus for her workshop as a happy accident.

 I love seeing what new thing she’s always exploring when she posts on her Instagram feed and I believe her techniques are going to feed your creative spirit, too!

💜 Tonia

About Noel…

Noel Rivera is an artist, writer, and editor, and the managing content director for North Light and IMPACT Books. Art and writing have been her lifelong creative pursuits, and her interest in drawing people and creating stories led her to pursue a degree in animation and media arts. She believes that every artist should follow the path that brings meaning to their lives, and that they should never feel the need to apologize for the things they most love to create.


Noel is teaching Creative Portraits in 21 SECRETS Face Time

Using pencil, watercolor and ink, we will discover creative ways to draw expressive faces. Stylistic exaggeration will be explored along with “unrealistic” color choices to achieve a feeling in our portraits rather than realism.

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