Artist in res­i­dence

Night owl The Stel­lar Art Award-win­ning artist in­vites us into her dig­i­tal workspace and ex­plains why she prefers to paint af­ter sun­set

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I work in a 250-year-old build­ing. It’s nes­tled be­tween the North Sea, just a few hun­dred me­tres away on one side, and old cas­tle ru­ins, a mile up a hill on the other. Min­i­mal­ist, high-tech in­te­ri­ors don’t sit well with me. Nei­ther do large, open spa­ces. That’s why the small­est room on the sec­ond floor of my house is the per­fect place to set up my dig­i­tal work­sta­tion.

An­other bonus: it’s north fac­ing. There’s noth­ing more an­noy­ing than sun glare on a screen while try­ing to work on the rare oc­ca­sions that I sit at the com­puter dur­ing the day, be­cause I’m ei­ther in my stu­dio

as­sault­ing one or the other can­vas with real paint, or more likely, sleep­ing.

I’m a night owl by de­fault. Usu­ally, I get the best ideas some time af­ter mid­night. With ev­ery­thing around me dark and quiet, I get a lot more done. I’ve never been one to or­gan­ise my work or fol­low a strict sched­ule, even when work­ing to dead­lines.

In the same vein, brain­storm­ing – as the term sug­gests – hap­pens in my brain, not in sketch­books, which is why you won’t find any­thing near my desk, other than the tablet, that might hint at me do­ing any kind of vis­ual art. Odd? Maybe. But it works for me. And while it may be a per­fectly nor­mal sight to most dig­i­tal artists, it’s still strange for me to see an iMac on my desk, as I’ve only ever had PCs up un­til 18 months ago. Per­haps it’s a lit­tle ironic that since hav­ing the Mac, I’ve barely been work­ing dig­i­tally, where I used to spend al­most all day in front of that desk, ev­ery day.

Hav­ing said that, over the years I’ve learned that painted floor­boards and of­fice chairs – mine’s been with me for 15 years – don’t mix well. But the thought of putting car­pet down never re­ally ap­pealed to me. I like things once they look lived in, like they have a story to tell. It’s my world: com­fort­able and some­times a tad chaotic. Find out more about Nyko­lai and see more of her art at­me­

When I don’t paint, I like to dig around any books and documents I can find on Leonardo da Vinci – in par­tic­u­lar, his own note­books. This is an ex­tra-heavy desk. I’ve had my share of flimsy desks, glass desks and din­ner-ta­ble desks, and they all drove me crazy. When I saw this one I just had to have it, and I’ve not re­gret­ted it. A cou­ple of my larger Leonardo books. While I’m not overly in­spired by his paint­ings, I could browse his writ­ten works and sketches for hours. His per­son­al­ity shines through in both: com­plex yet strik­ingly un­fussy, sub­tle yet beau­ti­fully bold.

South­bay (and the North Sea) just be­hind my house, with its har­bour and light­house. It’s per­fect for study­ing light­ing con­di­tions. My walls are bare be­cause I want noth­ing to dis­tract me from my own imag­i­na­tion. It re­ally is as sim­ple as that. A lit­tle collection of art books where my work fea­tures, bar the two As­sas­sin’s Creed con­cept art books. It’s in­com­plete, with two or three books be­ing with my par­ents, and an­other one that I don’t re­mem­ber where. What, no Cin­tiq? Nope. This baby’s trav­elled half­way around the world with me for the past five years, from Pre­to­ria, via Mon­treal, to Los Angeles, and it works per­fectly fine. I’m just stub­born like that. This printer only gets con­nected when it has to be. I usu­ally use it to pro­duce sketches for trans­fer­ring to the can­vas.

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