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 dream symbols as inspiration. Her current project explores dream interpretation through illustration, and will be available through Workman Publishing in Spring 2021.

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

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

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Contemporary Color Studies and Learning to Be a Good Author

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours & Before & After the Book Deal

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book in one (or two) sittings. Sure, the number of pages in Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is small, but “Before & After the Book Deal” is more hefty in size at 365 pages. Still! Both are beyond inspiring and page turners.

Deciding what color my boxed Rosé wine color is…

Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a recent gift from my boss, that she picked up at the beyond wonderful indie bookstore Pagination. (All you have to do is give them a call, tell them how much you want to spend, and they’ll curate a surprise package of books for you!)

This tiny book is beyond inspiring! In the 1800s, a minerologist and helped compile these swatches of colors for botanists, scientists and artists to use to help describe the natural world (in a time before color photographs especially).

With our current access to seeing colors in all media, it feels slightly outdated as a catalogue, but so fresh and new at the same time. And pure poetry! “Wine Yellow” is a descriptor of the body of a silk moth, white currants, and saxon topaz. “Pistachio Green” is the neck of an Eider Drake, a ripe round pear, and crysolite.

I decided to do my own color coordinating. The juicy pink of my Black Box Rosé wine looks to be compared closely with “Aurora Red”, as seen in the vent converts of a Pied Wood-Packer, red on the naked apple, and in the mineral Red Orpiment.

Photo by khloe arledge on Unsplash

Poetry! This tiny book and big concept has inspired me to start naming my own colors and creating a contemporary guide. Add that to the list of projects for later. Because right now…

I’m finishing a book!

The manuscript for “The Magic of Dreams” is due to my editor on May 1st, with the 150+ illustrations due on May 15th. I have a lot to do, but took two nights off to finish “Before and After the Book Deal” by Courtney Maum.

Wherever you are in your creative writing process, I can’t recommend reading this book enough. It’s the Dream Big power tool you’ll want in your toolbox. Maum writes as if you already have a bigtime book in the works, and cheers you on the entire way, even through the scary parts.

I wanted to share my copy with the members of my writing group, but I’ve highlighted and dog-eared so many pages that I think they’ll all just get a copy for Nibsmas (our gift-giving holiday).

The best parts of the book are because she allows you to think and dream big. Book tours! Nonstop email requests for writing blurbs for other people’s books. Speaking at conferences! At the same time, she acknowleddges that this is very rare for most authors, and cheers you on for the mere fact that you WROTE A FREAKING BOOK. It’s not an easy process, one filled with literal blood, sweat, and tears. So that whether you launch at an indie press with five friends, or a Big Five publisher with loads of publicity, it’s all a huge achievement and worth celebrating!

Once the whirlwind of edits are finished, and in the month leading up to launch day (July 2021), I can’t wait to revisit this! It’s making me feel like a smarter and savvier author-to-be.

What books have kept you up at night and inspired you to think bigger? I’m all ears!

Art is Essential

My entire life has been devoted to supporting and promoting the arts. This month, I am humbly asking you to help my efforts!

As we navigate uncharted territory, and talk about what is essential and not, the arts are being dismissed. In Congress, Republicans scoffed that the Democrats sought financial support for the National Endowment for the Arts and The Kennedy Center. Here’s some facts about why supporting these arts education organizations are crucial:

  • Students with high arts participation and low socioeconomic status have a 4 percent dropout rate—five times lower than their low socioeconomic status peers.
  • Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.
  • 72 percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring. (facts via Americans for the Arts)

Having access to the arts is VITAL AND ESSENTIAL for our children, especially those in under-represented situations. As the parents of these kiddos lose their jobs from the fallout of this virus, it’s more important than ever that the arts are integrated into schools, daycares, child centers, libraries and more. It ensures creative thinking, academic success, and more likelihood to finish school and become hire-able.

How do you do that?

BY SUPPORTING AND ADVOCATING FOR THE ARTS.

Whether it’s buying a ticket to a show, going to an art museum, or reading a book about Frida Kahlo to your kids, SUPPORT THE ARTS. Local arts organizations work at a community level to provide opportunities for all. Whether its free admission to a symphony, theatre outreach from a local troupe, or teaching artists visiting schools, they can’t do this work without funding at the organizational level.

I work for the Springfield Regional Arts Council. It’s a non-profit dedicated to the promotion and advocacy of the arts in the region. We did a survey a few years ago that showed that the arts in Springfield bring in 29 million dollars in revenue. We provide multiple free arts education opportunities to the at-risk kiddos mentioned above (it usually costs us about $40,000 at the bare minimum). We give artists exhibition opportunities and have sold over $32,000 in their artwork. We help offset THOUSANDS of dollars of operating costs for various arts organizations, including The Springfield Ballet, The Springfield Regional Opera, The Springfield Little Theatre, and The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, plus Springfield Sculpture Walk, Any Given Child Springfield, and the Men’s Chorus of the Ozarks. That’s the short list.

This month has been stressful. We’re all seeing the belt tighten and the uncertainty of what the future holds. As we stay locked up in our houses, everyone is talking about supporting essential business like restaurants. I’m begging you, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE donate to one of the arts organizations below. $5 is amazing! $50 is better. $500 would make an impact! Without financial support RIGHT NOW, they will not be there when we get to finally leave our houses. Think about what you’ll miss on a personal level:

  • going to the movies (because who is supporting the creative writers, actors, filmmakers during this?)
  • seeing a musical that your child is in (who’s making the costumes? Where are the sets being built? Who is thinking up lighting and sound?)
  • strolling through downtown looking at public free art (it’s made free to you because arts organizations PAY ARTISTS to show you the work)
  • attend your favorite arts festival, like Artsfest on Walnut
  • get lost in a symphony or opera or concert performance (the performers won’t have time to practice if they have to get extra jobs to make ends meet!)
  • look at a new exhibit featuring art by your emerging artist friend (galleries will shut down)

It may not seem essential right now, because we are all worried about our health, food scarcity, and access to our basic needs. But trust me, when those needs are met, you’ll be wanting more. And the arts organizations can give that to you! Please consider supporting today, and sharing this urgent message!

DONATE TODAY to these non-profits:

Let me know if you help support any of the above. I’ll brag about you, shout from the rooftops, and mail you an SRAC sticker that you can use to show you support the arts!

Yours in creating,

Nicole

Cyanotype Love

Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A few years ago I bought some sun print paper (aka cyanotype paper) to work on a collage idea. Have you ever used official paper, or have you been like me, and let construction paper get bleached by the sun? Either way, I used it for its purpose, tucked the packet of paper away, and really forgot about it.

Until this month! In early January, I went through all of my art books and picked out 12 small projects I could do in my art journal throughout the year. One was pulling out the cyanotype paper and making another collage. I laid out some eucalyptus leaves, let the paper do its magic, and then painted over it. My tendency is to go more-is-more, so you can barely tell the initial inspiration:

With the paper out and ready to play, my head is exploding with ideas for new projects! I want to learn more! I’ve added a few books to my wish list:

The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs

Sun Gardens: Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins

And during this January exploration of sun prints, I’ve also been reading Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, which is filled with STUNNING artwork. The author uses cyanotype, but because of her technical skill, I didn’t realize what I was looking at until I finished reading the book and its notes in the back.

Even cooler…this book LITERALLY GLOWS.

I do not have 1/100,000th of the skill set that Lauren Redniss has, but it definitely inspired me to try a few new things with the cyanotype paper. I used ink and colored pencil, plus the sun imprint, and rubbed as much off as I could. I’m so eager to try more with this, and figure out how to take this process to the next level!

Do you have any process or skill you are itching to try? What are some go-to resources to help you succeed?

{This post contains Amazon Affiliate links that I could earn income from.}

2020 Reading

There have been some years where I could read over 20 books (I’m looking at you, 2014). Now that I have two children, work full time, discovered the NYTimes Crossword puzzle app, and struggle with my thyroid disease, reading is not the joyous past-time that it once was.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying!

This year I’m hoping to read 20 books in 2020, and because I’m a ridiculous goal setter and planner, I’ve mapped it all out.

On New Year’s Day, I did my annual Tarot spread (shall I post about that another time?). One of the best books I own is called “The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life” by Jessa Crispin. In it, the author goes through the basics of Tarot, and then uses the deck as a guidebook for the creative process. With each card, she also includes books, music, poetry, and other art forms to enhance the reading. BRILLIANT!

This year I decided to research my own interpretation of the cards, and what book I could add as a supplement. Here’s my list:

In my loose and extremely distilled interpretation, I’ve picked the following books to match the cards drawn (the first two suggested by The Creative Tarot):

""

III of Cups (a card that celebrates female companionship and collaboration): The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, edited by Charlotte Mosley. “Carefree, revelatory and intimate, this selection of unpublished letters between the six legendary Mitford sisters, compiled by Diana Mitford’s daughter-in-law, is alive with wit, passion and heartbreak.”

***

II of Cups: A balanced relationship between partners: Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout. Through brilliant visual storytelling, Redniss walks us through Curie’s life, which was marked by extraordinary scientific discovery and dramatic personal trauma– from her complex working and romantic relationship with Pierre Curie, to their discovery of two new scientific elements, to Pierre’s tragic death, to Marie’s two Nobel Prizes. 

***

Empress: A long (creative) gestation that needs to finally be birthed. I looked for something that took an author years to write and found Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa Thong’o. A landmark of postcolonial African literature, Wizard of the Crow is an ambitious, magisterial, comic novel from the acclaimed Kenyan novelist, playwright, poet, and critic.

***

Judgement: A spiritual awakening and rebirth. Naturally this means I should FINALLY read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

***

The Sun: Warmth, Joy, and Playfulness. What better way to express that than with Julia Child’s My Life in France? Another book I can’t believe I haven’t already read. Julia’s unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia’s success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America’s most endearing personalities.

***

The Moon: Let your dreams be your guide. A perfect card for the year ahead, in which I’m focusing on dreamwork! It’s been decades since I’ve read Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges, so this might be the right time to revisit his surreal and twisted tales. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.

***

VI of Swords: Move forward, slowly but surely. Or in other words, Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott puts it! For a quarter century, more than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. 

***

Five of Pentacles: Rejection Shows You Tried. Keep knocking on those doors and if they don’t want you, create your own club. I looked for something about outsiders and found What Lies Between Us: A Novel, a story of a woman divided between two cultures and the crimes she commits.

***

Do you have a potential reading list for 2020? Or am I ridiculously crazy for even thinking that far ahead? Chances are, I’ll buy half of these, read a few pages of one book, and end up enjoying a stack of my kiddos’ graphic novels.

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Dream a little dream

In 2019, the Universe told me it was listening.

For the past few years I have been working on a series I’ve called “The Dream Diary Project,” where I write down my dream from the night before, pinpoint a few key symbols, illustrate them and research what they mean. This project came about with the help of one of my favorite artists, Crystal Moody, and her course “A Year of Creative Habits.” In it, she helped me distill all my ideas into something manageable, and I am forever grateful for that class because it unlocked so many new doors.

As the project grew, I realized that paying attention to my nightly dreams was crucial to my creative well-being. I was never at a loss for inspiration. I could write novels based on a dream snippet, and learned so much about the world around me. This could be a book, I thought!

For two years I kept working on this project, started a Patreon page, posted regularly to Instagram, and simultaneously worked on a proposal for a publishing company as well as mapping out the self-publishing route.

During a writer’s retreat, I hastily (in retrospect…more on that later…) put together a proposal and sent it to my dream publishing company, Storey Publishing. Their mission is “We publish practical books for creative self-reliance.” Perfect!

To nobody’s surprise but my own, I never heard back from them. It had been about six weeks when I realized, yeah, they don’t want this project.

I kept working on the project, but felt a tad defeated. I also started working full time for a regional arts council, which took out a huge chunk of my personal creative momentum, and my Hashimotos (an autoimmune disease where your body thinks your thyroid gland is a foreign object and attacks it) was going INSANE and I felt like I was on an emotional and hormonal roller coaster.

The Dream Diary Project got put on hold. I’d still work on it a bit, here and there. I’d talk about it constantly. It weighed heavily on my shoulders, that I had this idea, this project that was so close to being a REAL THING, but my momentum had stalled.

Thank goodness for my writing group, The Split Nibs! My judgement-free zone, a support group beyond support group. They knew how important this project was for me, and never let me give up. One night in September 2019, we were out for drinks, and I told them, I think I’m done with The Dream Diary Project. I need to take it off my plate. This was after spending a week in June telling them how I was going to finish this project by the end of the year.

Susan, soon to be the next name in best-selling fiction, said, “Don’t give it up completely. You’ll find time for it eventually.” I agreed. I wouldn’t give up on it…COMPLETELY. But I did decide to de-prioritize it until I could realistically focus more time on it.

Here’s where the world was listening:

THE NEXT DAY I received an email from an editor at Workman Publishing, reaching out to see if I wanted to talk to her about turning The Dream Diary Project into a book.

A project I’d decided to set aside. After saying it out loud. And now an editor was emailing me, in so many words, telling me my dreams were literally about to come true. I screamed in my office, took a screen shot of the email and texted it to my writing group and my husband. “Is this real?”

Turns out, yes, yes it was. AND even crazier: Workman is the parent company of Storey, who I had submitted a proposal to years ago. When I asked if she ever saw that proposal, she said no, she had come across my work through Instagram.

Even crazier: they publish a few of the books that have been instrumental in my creative path and starting my Instagram account, including “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon.

I honestly thought this was all a misunderstanding. Surely the editor saw a different Instagram account and reached out to me by mistake? I mean, the world doesn’t work this way does it? Having such a serendipitous connection? That’s only in the movies!

After chatting back and forth with the editor and talking to her about what I already had, she requested an in-depth proposal that she could show her team. I looked back at the one I had initially sent and cringed. Now that I knew someone was actually going to read it, I had A LOT of work to do. I worked on it every day for weeks, had multiple people proof it, and fine-tuned my illustrations in Photoshop. I did market research, wrote sample chapters, and outlined the book page-by-page. It was the most work I’ve done on the project in ages.

I submitted it on a Friday, and my editor said she would present it the following Thursday. In my head that equated to “we’ll talk about it on Thursday and it’ll take a few weeks to determine if it’s the right fit.” But no! By 11am on Thursday, she emailed me back saying it was a go! She would start working on the contract and we’d go from there.

!!!!!!!!!!!

This was in October. Since then I have been walking on air. The contract was signed by both parties on December 20th, and a proposed publication date in spring 2021.

I have A LOT of work to do, and I’m nervous. The Universe told me it was listening, and now I think it’s going to see just how bad I want this. What obstacles will it throw in my path? So far, since September, it’s given me crushing fatigue from Hashimoto’s, my husband had a spinal injury which cut out over a month’s worth of productivity, and December (because who can get anything done in December!?).

2020 is going to be a crazy year. It’s the year I’ve dreamed of my entire life. And it’s just the beginning! I’m going to follow the path of a bear this year. I’ll be hibernating with my full brain and full belly from a productive winter, and won’t come out until Spring when the manuscript is due. I am so grateful in advance for the support my family and friends give me, to ensure I complete this project to the best of my ability.

Cheers to you, the Universe, and our dreams!

{this post may contain Amazon affiliate links, where I could earn a percentage of sales.}

Recent posts

  • Contemporary Color Studies and Learning to Be a Good Author

  • Art is Essential

  • Cyanotype Love

  • 2020 Reading

  • Dream a little dream

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