Nyki Way – You’re Not Alone

At a young age, Nyki left home to work through her struggles with depression. She eventually found herself at the Academy of Art where her creations served as her therapeutic voice. Today, her works instill hope and understanding to those who are suffering in silence. Check out her story below. 


Where are you from?  Where have you been?

I was born and raised in Boulder, CO. I left home at 17 to take care of my own well-being, and lived with my best friend Olivia and her loving family for a year in Laguna Beach. I moved to San Francisco to go to Academy of Art to study Illustration, and I’ve been here ever since! I traveled a lot as a kid – I’ve been to several European countries, Egypt, India, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, and more places in the US than I could count. I love being in new places and exploring, but I hate to travel!


What is your dream project?

In today’s day in age with the internet, I feel as if anything is possible. I have so many plans in the making that fulfill my “dream project” criteria every day. Every time I get to make something for someone, I consider it a blessing. My dream project is doing exactly what I’m doing right now! If I looked at my long term dream project though, it would have to be painting the inside of my future home with crazy murals. As a kid we all want to paint on the walls, but when I grew up that desire seemed to strengthen more than dissipate, so when I own a home, that’s what’s going down!


A lot of your work parallels your struggles with mental health – was that a difficult decision to share so much of yourself to your audience?

It wasn’t a difficult decision at all, it was almost reactional. I believe every artist, whether it’s subconscious or not, has their soul embedded in their work. It was only natural to me to tell people. I’ve come so far since those days, that sometimes it doesn’t even feel like me when I talk about it, but it’s also a huge part of who I am. I learned so much about myself from that time in my life, and I believe it’s part of my duty to share it, and normalize it. Fifteen million Americans are affected by depression, and the scariest fact about it is that each of those 15 million people feel just as alone as I did. If I can share my journey, hopefully it makes someone feel a little less depressed and alone. Being open with yourself and the people around you is what creates powerful art and facilitates love. My blog highlights my journey dealing with depression and offers skills to help others overcome similar experiences. I want to help people, and to do that, you need to be honest with yourself and the people around you.


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

I think everyone gets inspiration blocks, especially when you’re putting out content on a regular basis. It can be extremely draining to keep putting your creativity on the line, but I also find that it’s not hard to get inspired. When I’m really struggling, I like to switch mediums, or just forget about my project for a little. When I switch mediums, I can think in a new way or perhaps in another way I wouldn’t have thought of before. Sometimes, I just scribble and see what shapes come from it and implement them. I’d have to say more often than not, I’m either looking at Pinterest for hours trying to gather photo reference, or I leave my art in another room while I have a cup of tea and watch Netflix for a little. When Netflix and Pinterest don’t do it though, I step outside, and go for a walk. This piece, I actually made after I saved an injured pigeon from a busy sidewalk in the city – I had to commemorate his life!

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What mediums do you work with most frequently?

I used to be strictly traditional with my work, but ever since I bought the iPad Pro, I’ve fallen in love with digital. I used to do a ton of these cute little gouache paintings on postcards like this little fella.

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However, once I turned digital, traditional didn’t even compare. I’m sure you can see the difference. I’m able to do anything I can think of. I find traditional mediums really limiting now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t dabble in my sketchbook constantly either! There is always something so soothing about watching ink come out of a pen and having the tangible art, but digital makes it so I can make anything I want in half the time.


Out of your works, which three are you most proud of?

I love this sea creature header that I did for a class at school. The assignment was that we had to evoke any sort of emotion (which is way less parameters than what the instructors usually give you). My emotions were chaos, movement, and anxiety. I’ve never done a composition like this before, nor sea creatures, so I’m really proud of it!

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I’m also really proud of this house portrait I did. It’s not my usual style, but I like it for that reason. It shows me that I can really replicate any style I want to, which is what any illustrator should be able to do. I feel so grateful that I can finally execute what I’m thinking, whereas before, I had this disconnect of what I was picturing in my head versus what would come out on paper. Especially when it comes to monetizing, different people want different things, so it’s important to be great at any style.

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The final one I’m extremely proud of is called “Regret.” It’s of a woman who is pulling off this mask that is stuck to her face and she can’t seem to rid herself of it. I love this one because I think everyone goes through that feeling of not being able to separate yourself from what happened to you, that we all feel stuck in a way. The woman’s tattoos all are insights into my personal life, and my own struggles in life, and in my artistic endeavors.

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What impact do you hope your work leaves on society?

I honestly hope it helps anyone who views it. I hope people are intrigued enough by my work to read into my story and my blog, and realize that you’re not alone. Everything I’ve ever made reflects my life at some point or another, but they all reflect my story. I want someone, even if it’s just one person, to hopefully look into my story and see that everything gets better. When people say that life is a roller coaster, they’re not kidding! Ups and downs are what make life so exciting. You can’t appreciate the good if you’ve never had the bad.


What was the most memorable response to your work?

Sometimes, I have really big-name people reach out and ask for a commission or feature my art, and although that can be incredibly memorable, the ones that really stick in my mind are from long-time friends. I’m the kind of person that loses touch easily. I’m always on my e-mail, but if you’re looking to snapchat, or text me, it’s a lost cause. Even calling me on the phone is a long-shot. So when I left my high school to get my life together, I left all my friends too. Years have passed (six to be exact), and every so often, I’ll come in contact with an old friend, and they’re always just overjoyed to hear about my art and my journey, and it honestly inspires me! I think it’s the most memorable because it’s the most emotionally fulfilling. It’s also incredibly memorable when those same friends ask me to do work for them – it’s crazy to believe that we are all grown up now trying to make all the things we talked about in high school actually happen. For instance, this scribbled kitty skull was for my good friends from high school who needed a logo for their new music group, “Darci” – they’re on Soundcloud if you’re into that!

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What themes do you explore in your work?

I have a really strong belief that most of what I’m drawing is subconscious. However, looking back on my work, I see a lot of reoccurring themes, most of which are pretty dark. I had a classmate tell me once that “happy just isn’t your thing” (thanks Lei!), which I totally agree with. I can make someone look happy in a portrait, or make a house look really cute if that’s what my client is looking for, but if you want something straight from my brain oven, odds are it could be a little creepy! If I’m thinking about actual themes, I would say it’s all pretty surreal and dream-like. Partly because I am in my own world when I touch pen to paper.

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What is your most life-changing event?

My most life-changing event was calling my dad the day I thought I was going to kill myself. I’ve attempted suicide before and I was actually saved by one of my sisters, but the life-changing event was years after that, where I knew I would either succeed in death or try life, and I chose life. My parents sent me to a place in Southern California where I spent a couple of months in intensive care. When I left that facility, I moved in with my best friend, Olivia, and her incredible family. Without her and her family, I don’t know if I would be sitting here answering these questions. To be surrounded by them completely changed my perspective. There, I found a new appreciation for life, found love, and learned to channel my depression and struggle into art.

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What’s one of your biggest fears?

Besides being incredibly afraid of cockroaches and spiders, my real answer would be that I’m afraid of failing, or that I’m not good enough. Every day, that disappears more and more because I find myself to be way more capable than I had initially thought possible, but that shadow of doubt can still creep up from time to time. I know that I can make a living off of my art, but I also have that huge fear that I’m going to end up living at home again, and working retail for the rest of my life in the hopes that I might succeed one day when that day never comes. That’s some scary stuff!


What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

I don’t have any extravagant desires for trips or products, but I think what I’ve always really wanted is to own a home. I read some statistic that said 40% of millennials still live with their parents, and although I love my family, I have very different lifestyle choices from them, and having my own home would be a total game changer. I want to stop paying rent, and start paying my mortgage!


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

FStop: Profile

Website: www.nykiway.com

Facebook: Profile

Instagram: @NykiWay


Nyki, thank you for sharing your story of strength and resilience with us! 🙂

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Also, remember to download the FStop app for iPhone here!

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