Nicole Chilton

Nicole Chilton is a multi-media abstract artist and writer living in Southwest Missouri. She works quickly and intuitively, capturing emotion rather than reality, and uses vivid color and floral motifs as inspiration. Her current project, The Dream Diary Project, explores dream interpretation through art journaling, and can soon be found in workbook format for all dreamers.

The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

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Life Is Funny…

A few years ago, I wrote about applying for a dream job that I wanted SO BADLY but wasn’t quite ready for. Partly because my children were still so young, and partly because I wanted to continue exploring my painting and writing path, which was just getting started. I didn’t get the job, and was okay with that. In retrospect, I am happy I could devote almost 2 years exclusively on my creative endeavors.

But guess what.

This summer, I am beyond honored to accept that role I wasn’t ready for in 2016. Starting on Friday, I will be the Director of Marketing & Development at the Springfield Regional Arts Council.

The Arts Council!

I’ve admired this organization for the past 15 years. I’ve volunteered for them and served on committees for the past 4. They gave me the courage to display publicly a piece of art, something I hadn’t done since I was 13. And for the last year, I’ve been working part-time for them as a bookkeeper. I haven’t been sleeping well at night lately, and it’s because I’m so excited for getting started. The next few months will be a large learning curve, transitioning into a full-time role, brushing off the marketing skills, and shifting priorities to fit my day.

I’ve wrapped up almost all of my side projects, commissions, and workshops, so that I can focus my efforts on a just a few main creative tasks: My Dream Diary Project. Writing for MetBride’s blog. And the Arts Council. The last two years have shown me how crucial daily art is to my happiness and well being, and it will still remain so. I have journals and canvases always at the ready, and itch to get to them, making the process that much more thrilling!

Life works out the way it needs to, more often than not, I’m learning over the course of this ol’ life. And if you’re able to trust your intuition and listen to the signs, you’ll find you CAN do all the things. Not just at the same time.

Mover & Shaker: Laura June Topolsky

In my beloved collection of autographed books is a small hand-crafted volume of poetry by Laura June. I received it back in 2010, and was immediately mesmerized, inspired, and blown away. What an amazing thing, to turn your work into something tangible. Back then I was busy running a business and taking care of my first child, so the thought of writing and painting for pleasure was years and years away in the distance. But to this day, I constantly think of Laura as a source of motivation.

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Photo by Sylvie Rosokoff

Laura worked with my husband in the tech industry for a while, and I would be SO JEALOUS when he would take NYC trips and come back saying, “Yeah, you should really hang out with Laura.” Well, I’ll do one even better: I’ll let us ALL hang out with her, virtually.

Laura’s memoir Now My Heart Is Full: A Memoir comes out this summer, published by Penguin. So excited for it!

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  • Current City: Armonk, New York
  • What did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher.
  • What are you now? A writer, which is like a teacher, but without the students.
  • How did you get to this point? About ten years ago I got a job blogging. It was in tech, which was sort of the first wave of professional blogging, and I did that for several years over two websites. I worked with my husband, and over the years moved from blogging to writing longer pieces about subjects which interested me a lot more than technology, but which were still related to technology. Pretty much everything *is* related to tech, somehow, now! After I gave birth to my daughter I began writing essays for The Awl about motherhood, and eventually got a full time job as the parenting editor at The Cut, which is part of New York Magazine.
  • Current project(s): Almost exactly when I was hired at The Cut, I sold my first book to Penguin. I’ve spent most of the last year and a half writing and editing that. It’s done! It’s a memoir about my daughter and my mother called *Now My Heart Is Full: A Memoir* and it’s coming out in July.
  • What are you reading/listening to/watching/making: I just read *The Custom of the Country * by Edith Wharton. It was, I think, the *last* Wharton I hadn’t read which has put me into a period of mourning. It might have replaced *The House of Mirth* as my favorite of hers. Now, I’m reading *Kudos* by Rachel Cusk, which is not out yet but soon, and is SO good. It’s also the last of HER books I’ve not read, so I need to slow down on my most beloved authors, I keep running out. I don’t watch very much TV anymore but at night my husband Josh and I have been working our way through the several seasons of Black-ish very, very slowly. I love it.
  • How do you express yourself creatively? Almost exclusively through writing. I’m a terrible visual artist, I can’t even furnish rooms well. I keep several diaries and notebooks, one which records my daily activities and the others which I use to take notes on reading and write longer stuff. I have never published fiction before, but in the past few months have started trying to write a few short stories. It’s hard but very fun. A lot different than writing about myself.
  • Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom? Yes! The only one I can remember writing and sending was to a British band called Lush. I have no idea what I said, and I was *not* even that young — I’d say about 17? Anyway, I mailed it then proceeded to feel very embarrassed about it for years. Weirdly, a few months ago I began a correspondence with one of the members and she’s become someone whose emails I look forward to most.
  • Three little luxuries in your life: Books, Perfume, Pens.
  • Who inspires you, and why? My daughter. She is endlessly energetic, original, and hilarious.
  • Favorite tool to stay productive: My daughter. Lol. She has made me, late in life, an adept time manager.
  • Something you have learned this year? That the soda Tab is still made, and it’s very good.
  • How can people find you? I’m on Twitter @laura_june but I’ve met a lot of amazing people who commented on articles I’ve written. I’m all over the internet.
  • What can people do to make the world a better place? Stop eating meat. But I don’t say that much because what people eat is very much a part of who they are, culturally, and saying it implies a judgment which I don’t really have. But still, it’s the best thing we could do for the environment, hands down.
  • Brag about yourself. It’s okay. If you don’t, I will. I have excellent handwriting.

Art Journal Prompts

A blank page can be intimidating. Hundreds of blank pages bound lovingly into a journal can be even more so!

This weekend I’m presenting 30-minute workshops on how to get started with Art Journaling. It’ll be a crash course, without much hands-on time, so I’ll mostly be sharing resources and tools. Here are some:

Tools to get started:

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  • Journal or paper (I personally love when the pages ripple and warp with paint, but not everyone does. The heavier the paper weight, the less it’ll ripple.) Canson makes a great sketchbook, perfect for art journaling. My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE are the Refillable Leather Journal Refillable Travelers Notebooks. They have refillable inserts, look beautiful, and are easy to carry with you at all times. They are a bit smaller in page size, which might be a great start if you do find a blank page intimidating. My other favorite is a daily/weekly/monthly desk calendar. I use the “Our Country Diary” every year, or the Barnes & Noble Desk Diary. The paper weight is a bit thin, though, so if you really want to do a lot of gluing and painting, it might not be the best fit.
  • A travel set of Watercolor Paints.
  • Watercolor Brush Pens. These are great, because you don’t have to worry about traveling with a cup for water.
  • Washi Tape! Lots and lots of washi tape. (Careful, this stuff is addicting)
  • Glue Sticks and a variety of writing utensils. Colored pencils, regular pencils, Micron pens, crayons, etc. Whatever you have lying around is completely fine.
  • Scraps of “ephemera.” This can be pre-purchased, or collected over time. I like a mix of both. Vintage stamps, wrapping paper, chocolate wrappers, playing cards, notes from high school your mom gave back to you when you last visited her, your kiddos’ drawings, etc. etc. Everything is valuable! If you have a hoarding problem, this is a great hobby…or really bad for you…
  • A pouch to hold it all together. I LOVE these Blue Q Bags Jumbo pouches made of recycled plastic bags.

Now what?

I always suggest you start with writing yourself a letter. This journal is as private as you want it to be, so you can tape in an envelope and stick the letter inside, or write directly on the page. Pretend you are writing to yourself as a secret admirer. What makes you special? What are you good at? Why do you like you so much to send yourself a letter? Focus on your amazing and wonderful traits. It’ll help you set the tone for gratitude and exploration.

In my own personal journals, I write down fragments of my dreams every day. I also use it as a place to collect ideas for bigger projects, through collage. I insert pages to practice illustration, make monthly mood boards, and record every book I’ve read. Each morning I spend anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour with it. Some examples below.

Are you still stuck? You’re in luck! I’ve started adding digital prompts on my Etsy shop, so that you have a few tucked away for those intimidating days. Each prompt gives you a starting point and theme, to get you thinking. Then an activity, with a follow-up exercise. Then I list a few extra sources of inspiration, like a song to listen to, or a book to read. You can find them HERE on my Etsy shop.

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And if you’re like me, you might want to flip through other people’s journals for inspiration and ideas. Here are some of my pages:

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One week, every day I drew a skyline of a city that was important to me, and then on the corresponding page wrote about that city.

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Great Buddha Study. Watercolor & micron pen on paper. 2.5″ x 7″

Each month I insert a piece of watercolor paper and draw out 4 playing-card sized rectangles. Each week I then do a miniature illustration to practice realism and watercolor, both of which I lack in skill and patience.

artjournalpageKeepsakes

I LOVE LOVE LOVE sending and receiving mail. Anytime I get a postcard or letter in the mail, in it goes to the journal. It’s a great way to keep those floating pieces of paper and still have easy access to them.

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After a particularly wonderful tarot reading, I created a collage-inspired interpretation and wrote the highlights of what I was supposed to remember.

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I hope these are some great starting points for you! Remember, if you start embarking on this wonderful journey of art journaling, I would LOVE to see some of the work you are comfortable with sharing. I have a private Facebook group set up, or you can tag any photo #wooyourcreativity on Instagram.

Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to comment or message me, too.

March Gratitude: Books!

Every month this year, in my art journal, I am getting specific on gratitude. In January, it was cozy little luxuries, and in February, I listed creative women who made an impact on my life. You can see that list HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

In March, I decided to list BOOKS that I am grateful for. Reading has been a daily part of my life since I was old enough to…well…read. I started reading chapter books in first grade, and the best present anyone could (and still can) get me is a stack of new books, or old books, or used books, or their books. I love them all. I love reading so much, I even have an e-reader. I will read books in any shape or form.

The books listed are ones from throughout my reading history, that I remember fondly, started a new phase in my reading life, or are ones I love to pass along. I hope you enjoy, and maybe find a new book to add to your own list!

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A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet) – according to my notes (I’ve been keeping track of every book I’ve read since 1992), I’ve read this book at least 5 times now. Over at my other blog, we have an inspiration page about the movie and book.

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The Dark Secret of Weatherend by John Bellairs –

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I vividly remember being at a bookstore with my family, and they said I could pick out a new book. I strolled the aisles and ran my fingers along every book until this one sang out to me. You know the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?” I totally did, because Edward Gorey did the illustrations, and as a goth-y reclusive 6th grader, you know I love Edward Gorey. John Bellairs became my go-to author for a good gothic mystery, complete with adventure, ghosts, and wicked magic. I can’t wait to re-read these with my kiddos.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes: A Novel by Ray Bradbury – Another one from 6th grade. My bff Amy and I both checked it out from our school’s library, because of the creepy cover.

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I would go on to read this book a handful of times, and still have a tattered copy from my youth.

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The Handmaid’s Tale – I was newly married when I first read this dystopian novel, and it changed my life forever. I had always considered myself a feminist, but this book cemented it and shifted my reading habits to be more aware of female authors and representation. I loved every page of it, and had never really read speculative or dystopian fiction prior to this book. I couldn’t get enough, of Atwood, or the genre. I’ve re-read it a few times, and watched some of the miniseries, and am so happy that it has a fresh new voice in our current society.

Once I had a friend ask me if I had ever read the book, and I laughed and sent her this picture:

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Without hesitation, I can list it as one of my favorite books.

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Gift from the Sea: 50th-Anniversary Edition – If you have not read this book yet, please get yourself a copy and hold on it to it tightly. Drive to the nearest beach. Open a bottle of wine and settle in with your beach chair. Make sure you have plenty of paper to take notes. And then go buy 100 copies to give to everyone you know.

My friend and writing group partner Sarah gave this to me, and at first glance it didn’t look like much. But diving into this collection of essays rewarded me with so much inspiration and treasures to last a lifetime. Ultimately, it is about the importance of refilling one’s cup, in order to be her best, both creatively and as a human. The author shows how our lives need different things at different times, by looking at different shells and treasures from the ocean. These are some of my notes while reading:

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Ahhhhh. I think I’m due for a re-read and a beach trip.

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I’ll have a list of about 20 more books posted throughout the next few weeks. Thanks for reading! What are some of your favorite books? I’d love to hear!

Show Your Work

Thanks for stopping by! If you are here because you went to the E-Factory’s “Business of Art” Q&A, welcome.

One of the biggest factors for me gaining confidence as a creative was reading Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work!

showyourwork

This tiny but powerful book is the best cheerleader you can ask for. Austin Kleon is writer who draws…or is he a drawer who writes? And he gives you 10 amazing ways to get past the self-doubt hurdle we all struggle with.

I get teased a lot because I take pictures of EVERYTHING I work on, in all its phases, whether I’m pleased with its direction or not. I do this for so many reasons, but most of all, it is showing that I’m working and doing, and that it’s a process. I don’t know if I could have gotten the courage to do so without reading this book.

A few books that help me stay focused, empowered, and challenged:

Water Paper Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media

Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity

Color Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Exercises for Exploring Color Concepts through Paint, Collage, Paper, and More (Lab Series)

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I also mentioned that joining my regional arts council was a great confidence booster. It gave me a safe space to exhibit work, with other artists of all skill and media, and at a very low commitment. Since then, I’ve sold at least three big pieces through them (including one at the Sky Gallery at the airport), and am part of their artist portfolio, in which the Structure Gallery Coordinator works with businesses to outfit their buildings with local and regional artists. Interested? Join here or call me one day at work!

Recent posts

  • Life Is Funny…

  • Mover & Shaker: Laura June Topolsky

  • Art Journal Prompts

  • March Gratitude: Books!

  • Show Your Work

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