By Andrea K. Hammer
Some portrait artists have the capacity to capture and convey their subjects' essence. Others have the ability to use their creative gifts to help others heal and overcome challenges. Stephanie Nicholson – a Masters in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations student at Moore who teaches at a live-in care facility for adults with intellectual disabilities called Emmaus Home – does both.
Specializing in pastel portraits, printmaking and illustration, she is also slated to teach a few workshops to adults at Believe In Me 2 Art Boutique and Studio, which recently opened in Maple Glen, Pa. The gallery also carries Stephanie's work, which aligns with its mission of artistic empowerment. Here are some insights into the inspiration behind Stephanie's work and the ways that her portraits impact others in positive ways:
What inspired you to create pastel portraits and pursue printmaking and illustration?
I enjoy creating art that is uplifting. I enjoy the jewel-like dustiness of pastels and the incredible flexibility of printmaking.
What is the most engaging aspect of your studies at Moore, and why?
The most engaging courses are the ones that focus on art education for special populations. It's exciting to discover the ways creating art can help people overcome challenges in their lives.
How do you balance your coursework with your time as a portrait artist and other areas of your life?
It's been busy this fall being back at school, being a mom, as well as teaching and somehow still finding time for my art. I try to do a little bit of each aspect each day and prioritize what is most important. My family, of course, comes first and on Sundays I try to keep the whole day free to be with my family and I give them my full attention. I work hard and play hard.
Why did you become interested in doing portraits of children, and how do others react to these images?
I've always admired portrait art, specifically John Singer Sargent. I enjoy seeing a person's soul through their eyes. Children's faces can be especially emotive. So far, people enjoy my portraits and sometimes liken them to the work of the Impressionists.
What has enabled your clear affinity for expressing children's innocence and joy?
Probably the love I experience being a mom to my own two children.
What are some of the challenges and rewards during the portrait-making process?
A real challenge is creating a portrait that the client likes. The portrait can be accurate and beautiful, but if it does not capture the client's perception of the person it can lead to disappointment. The rewards are that moment when you know you and the client have clicked in terms of your vision for the portrait.
Please describe your experience doing portraits of women at Dawn's Place:
It was such an honor to volunteer at a place that is doing such important and meaningful work for women. It was humbling to meet victims of human trafficking who had become such strong women and who had developed a positive and even joyful way of living despite all that they had been through. Creating portraits of them was a way of celebrating how they had overcome.
How and why do you think that art can help in the healing process?
Some experiences can be too difficult to relate or express in words.
Creating art is a visual way of communicating what might be too hard to communicate through words.
Please describe how you first exhibited your work with the American Color Print Society as well as ongoing experiences:
I found out about the ACPS online and applied to join. My work was quickly juried in, and I learned a lot from the shows I participated in. Members are quite distinguished in their field.
When commissioning portraits, how do you use a business mindset to advertise and complete these projects?
I communicate my pricing clearly to the client and keep track of the cost of my materials. I usually send a few proofs as I work so the client can approve that the portrait is headed in the desired direction.
Andrea K. Hammer, a freelance writer specializing in the intersection of art and business, is the founder and director of Artsphoria Magazine & Boutique. Her articles have appeared in international publications.