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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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):

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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 “Carefree, revelatory and intimate, this selection of unpublished letters between the six legendary Mitford sisters, compiled by Diana Mitford’s daughter-in-law, is alive with wit, passion and heartbreak.”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.}

Artist on the Go-Go

This week I am in Gulf Shores, an annual trek down South during the Thanksgiving break. It’s become a family tradition, to beach life it up for a week and leave the rest of the world behind. Full of food, sand, and sun, plus time to catch up on art journaling.

I packed almost an entire suitcase full of art supplies, because I have A LOT of catching up to do. Yet I gravitate toward the same few tools. I’m eager to hear what some of your favorite go-to supplies are! To see mine, keep reading…

{this post contains Amazon links that I may earn a percentage from}

These are my Jane Davenport travel tins. I love the compact size, the bold colors, and of course, the travel-ability. Plus, I just LOVE Jane Davenport.

Her line is sold at Michael’s, or you can find similar travel tins online:

These Prima Watercolor come in a thousand (slight exaggeration) different color palettes. Loving the pastel ones!

The ““Our Country Diary”” has been my go-to art journal for three years now. I love the weekly diary set up, the built-in prompts and inspirations (for example, a page devoted to quotes about tea, plus vintage illustrations to accompany), and great paper quality that can handle light watercolor.

Washi tape Washi Tape WASHI TAPE! I can’t have enough. This is versatile for sprucing up pages, making page tabs, adding add ins (do you like my techincal terms?) and more.

I can’t stop buying these silly cat pens. They are not good for layering with watercolor, but are perfect for writing down thoughts. Plus, I mean. Look at those cats! My handwriting looks so polished and professional when I use these.

Also on the list in my travel pouch:

  • Glue sticks
  • Micron Pens
  • Markers & Colored Pencils
  • Scrap Paper

This trip, I brought everything down in stackable buckets. For my daily travel kit that I keep in my bag or car, I LOVE the BLUE Q line, and have this Octopus Bag:

What are some of your favorite on-the-go tools? I’d love to hear. Follow @nicole.chilton.art and let me know!

Society, Man

If you are looking for a unique accessory, I invite you to look at my Society 6 store. I have about 50 different designs with hundreds of different options. Phone cases! Can coolers! Backpacks! Wall clocks! Pillows! You name it.

Here’s a brief sampling:

electronic-kabloom-casesPhone Case

broken-doll831604-bags

Tote Bag

kabloom-10-backpacks

Backpack

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.

Recent posts

  • 2020 Reading

  • Dream a little dream

  • Artist on the Go-Go

  • Society, Man

  • Life Is Funny…

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