The Versatile World of Artist Nicole Slater
By Dana Koster
It’s difficult to pin down Modesto artist Nicole Slater’s work in just a few words— her art runs the stylistic gamut from old world to contemporary, her media from oil paints to vibrant plexiglass masterpieces to geometric creations on unconventional forms like cardboard and rubber. The two factors that unify her art, however, are her fascination with texture and a distinctive color sense that constantly draws the viewer in.
“I like playing around with texture,” Slater says. “I like whimsical and a little different. One day I’m in the mood for really bright and cheerful and another I want something really dramatic. It keeps me on my toes and keeps things interesting.”
In the backyard of her College District home in Modesto, Slater paints in a cozy studio not much bigger than a walk-in closet. Her background in interior design and penchant for reusing cast-off materials means the workshop is full of small space solutions—palates upcycled into shelving, a light box cobbled together from old table pads. Though Slater admits her studio is narrow, she actually prefers it this way. “I feel cozy, I feel comfortable in it,” she says. “I once rented a big giant studio and I felt lost. It was a weird feeling.” Currently, Slater has several projects in the works, including a series of paintings commissioned by a local box company. One of them, a vibrant, modern piece too large to fit into her small studio, sits propped up against a wall in her garage, layered with paint, gold leafing and abstract, three-dimensional shapes that she’s repurposed from box templates.
It’s projects like these—commissions for businesses and personal homes—that invigorate Slater the most. “You put your little mark, your little personal reflection of someone in a painting when it’s for them,” says Slater. “But for a gallery, you do a painting and you don’t know who it’s for. It’s like love—you hope the person and the painting find each other, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Still, it’s the challenges Slater has set for herself that she’s learned the most from this past year: since January, she’s completed one canvas a week in the style of the Old Masters, which is to say she’s painting the sort of moody still lifes, landscapes and portraits you’d find in the Renaissance wing of a museum.
The project, which will see her create 52 paintings in as many weeks, is one that she’s undertaken alongside artists from all over the world through the aptly-named website Weekly Paintings. “Every Tuesday we go online and we talk about our work,” Slater says. “It’s cool because you learn from the other artists.”
According to Slater, this generosity of spirit and crowdsourcing of knowledge is the best thing one can do for oneself as an artist. “The more artist friends I have, the more help I have and the more I learn,” she says. “So you kind of draw what you give. The more you give, the more they give.”
TO SEE MORE OF NICOLE SLATER’S PAINTINGS, including her progress on the weekly Old Masters painting project, check out her website at www.nicoleslater.com.