Nicole Willingham – The Artist

For Nicole, the human body currently serves as her primary canvas for artistic expression. During her off hours, this creative is sitting in front of a canvas with a brush in hand – she hopes to be oil painting full-time, and we have an inkling that’s very likely given her talent. Check her out below. 


Say hello to Nicole:

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Where are you from? Where have you been?

I’m from all over the place, but I spent most of my life in Canton, Ohio. That’s actually where I started going to school for art, at the University of Akron. I also began my apprenticeship for tattooing there. Since moving to the south, Atlanta has really stolen my heart. I imagine I’ll be here for some time to come.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

Iceland, without a doubt! My husband and I visited there last winter for a week, and I’ve never seen a more beautiful place. I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about it since we’ve come home. Everywhere you go feels like an entirely different world there. There’s nothing more inspiring and humbling to me than getting to experience some of earth’s natural wonders, and Iceland has it all. From waterfalls to glaciers to volcanoes, it’s incredible! We’re definitely planning to go back for another trip in the spring.

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In addition to painting, you are a talented tattoo artist – tell us about this facet of your artistry.

Tattooing is really my full-time job at the moment. I’ve been doing it for about six or seven years now, on and off. It’s a really unique job. It’s not like getting to lock myself in my art room and work all day alone. I have to collaborate with a stranger and make a very personal piece of art, that they’ve thought about for years sometimes, come to life. It’s a lot of pressure all around, but so rewarding in the end. I feel like I get to know most of my clients on a totally different level than most people will ever get to. Something about getting to stab someone for six hours at a time really gets them to open up to you – it’s great. The best tattoos come from people who really trust their artist and let them put their personal spin on it. I love it when someone just gives me a loose idea and lets me go with that. I’m currently working at my husband, Ryan’s shop, Apocalypse Tattoo Co. It’s a really amazing shop – all of our artists are so dedicated and talented. I’m always learning from them.


Do you get inspiration blocks? If so, how do you overcome them?

Oh absolutely, I don’t know many artists that don’t. Usually, that’s a pretty clear indication to me that I’m spending too much time in my head or over working myself. Often, a little break or just practicing a different medium for a bit will help. I’m really lucky though, my husband is an amazing artist and my biggest motivator. Not only is it inspiring to just watch him work, but he knows exactly how to push me in the right direction.


Was there a particular artist who inspired you to pursue this path in the arts?

Kit King. She’s amazing. She used to be a tattoo artist as well, and now paints full time. She does the most beautiful hyper-realistic paintings I’ve ever seen, but puts a definite unique spin on them, which is so hard to do successfully, if you ask me. And of course, Ryan.


What mediums do you work with most frequently?

I mostly work with oil paint on canvas, which is definitely my favorite. I’ve tried many many others, but I just can’t seem to get the swing of them.


What themes do you explore in your work?

Themes are something I’m trying to explore a lot more lately. However, I usually have a hard time sticking to one. I’ve always been really into eyes though. Painting them, drawing them, tattooing them, they’ve just always been my favorite subject. Currently, I’m working on a horror set though for a convention next year, which I’m super excited about!


Professionally, where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

I’d like to be painting full time. Honestly, if I can do that and make a living off of painting alone, I will consider myself successful. I don’t need to be rich, I don’t need to be known around the world, I just want to love what I do every day and make a decent living doing it. I do enjoy tattooing, but there’s nowhere else I feel more happy and fulfilled than in front of a canvas with a brush in my hand.


What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?

It’s no secret, but I’ve spent a good bit of time on stage as a performer. I dabbled in so many things there, I did some burlesque, but I mostly would perform variety acts. Fire hooping, fire eating, and I started learning aerial silks as well. I always wanted to be a part of a circus, so I just wanted to learn it all!


What’s one of your biggest fears?

Not living a fulfilling life. That’s why I’m so gung-ho on painting these days. The average person spends most of their adult life working, and I’m not okay with spending that much of my life doing something I don’t absolutely love. Life’s too short – there’s no truer statement and I’m terrified of wasting it.


For anyone that wants to get in touch with Nicole, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Instagram: @nicolenedley


Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Nicole! We really appreciate it!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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