My name is Nicole Johnson and I am a surface design artist. I graduated cum laude from Moore College
of Art + Design in 1998 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Textile Design. Since graduating,
I have worked in both creative and non-creative work environments. Currently, in my full time day job, I
am an Executive Assistant. Outside of the office, I spend my time balancing my two amazing kids and
time in my home studio. For a long time my personal art and creativity had taken a back seat to being a
mother and working full time. The art supplies sat untouched, sometimes used only once or twice a
year. Self-expression through a creative process seemed out of my grasp for many years, and I gave up.
As a Textile Designer, creating was regimented always with plans and restrictions; emotions were not a
part of my earlier work. My beginner’s portfolio consisted of works created with color forecasted by the
fashion world. Theme, subject, and specific sets of repeat guidelines dictated my design. My own
enjoyment and expression were not often a part of the process. Even while working towards my BFA,
the freedom of self-expression seemed just out of my reach and at times a luxury I wasn’t afforded. I
envied the 2D and 3D fine artists around me. Their freedom to choose their own process and vision was
fascinating to me, how did they connect to that? Finally, after facing a few major life changes, I felt it
necessary to make the time to be creative, quietly and personally; creativity on my own terms. I kept it
private so that I could explore my new creative space and thought process. With no pressure to
complete a project, no request to make a family member a piece of art or craft, no plans to make
money, no deadlines, the only purpose was to create whatever felt good in the moment – for me. There
has been an amazing cathartic release in processing my feelings through my work.
Through exploring these creative possibilities I purchased a faded print in a beautiful frame at a local
Goodwill store. In local consignment shops and thrift stores one can find canvases with printed and
painted images. Some are merely discarded, others are often stretched on frames that are the wrong
size, the frame is damaged, the art is faded, or owners are just tired of looking at it and replace it. I
purchased a few with the intention of seeing if I could repurpose something once discarded. Currently, I
have a collection of canvases, board and frames and use them in my own artwork. It has been a
wonderful process to leave areas of the original work (memories) as inspiration and guidance for the
new art (possibilities). I feel positive about the “recycle/repurpose” part of this journey. Not only am I
finding a way to bring something old or used back to life, I keep it from the landfills. I am teaching my
children that we can reuse things that we might otherwise discard and above all I am challenged to use
what was there in a new piece of artwork. Often artists find a blank surface intimidating but having a
surface with something present to work with, as a springboard to create is exciting to me.
Through experimenting in painting, drawing and rekindling my artistic voice I have found that I make a
lot of circles and spirals and that the process of making this circular motion is relaxing and healing.
Patterns and colors are what soothe my soul and circles are the means to express it. Circles are present
in all of my current work. They not only are relaxing to make they represent my continuous spiritual,
emotional and creative journeys. Circles are always progressing and spiraling forward, they are a
metaphor just as the recycling of an old canvas represents the forward movement, and so do they.