Self-taught artist Nikki Holmes primarily works with acrylic paints. Photos: MICHAEL CHAMBERS  

Painting for inner peace: artist Nikki Holmes shares her journey to canvas

May 7, 2020 BY

When Nikki Holmes’ marriage broke down in 2014, she became a version of herself she never knew existed.

With each sunrise came a wave of crippling anxiety, a new normal she would learn to take in her stride.

But when the remnants of Nikki’s fractured soul began to find their way back to one another, she discovered painting was the answer to mending her heart and mind.

Nikki recently completed a painting of a cockatoo.

“I’ve always had an artistic flair. I’ve been a hairdresser for over 20 years and I ran my business Le Neik Hair for about 12 years. When I finished Year 12 I did a diploma in fashion at The Gordon,” she said.

“I suppose it’s in my blood; my parents were very arty. I had a moment a few years back, I was in a crappy situation, marriage breakdown, I had severe anxiety, and I took to painting and sketching and my partner Marc to this day was the one who pushed me towards getting back into it.

“He bought me some charcoal and off I went. From there I took into the painting side and for my mental health, it helped me cope with a lot of things at the time.”

The Torquay mother of three said in the last two years she has explored her creative intuitions primarily on canvas through the use of acrylic paints.

Working out of her home studio, Nikki finds herself gravitating towards beach imagery such as palm trees, umbrellas and sail boats.

She was both humbled and flattered when a local at the Torquay Cowrie Market stopped to view her pieces and likened them to that of renowned Sydney artist Ken Done.

“I grew up around his (Ken Done’s) era in the ‘80s and I had a few items that he did. He’s probably a major inspiration.

“I think it goes back to being a youngster. If I picked up a colouring book, I wouldn’t use dark tones. In all my work over the years at school and doing fashion, my eye for colour has been different and not boring.

“I tend to keep it bright because it makes me feel cheerful and happy, and I think that comes back to my home roots, my career in hairdressing.

“I express a lot of my colour and my ideas and my expression in my work. There’s nothing wrong with dark colours, I guess it’s (working with colour) my expertise.

Nikki at her home studio in Torquay.

Showcasing her quirky abstract pieces for sale via Australian online gallery Bluethumb, the self-taught artist has had a promising number of international sales, particularly from followers in the UK.

Nikki is now working with a Canadian fabric designer who wants to adapt her art into fashion pieces, as well as Poppy Lane Designs and Melbourne-based concept store Zudis.

“I’m hoping to move into that direction of not just canvas work and not just interior. I’m really keen to step into something different.

“It’s pretty cool how my art has jumped pretty quickly. I’ve been on maternity leave, and I suppose it’s allowed me to really get into what I love.”

Last year Nikki submitted an artwork to be exhibited at Surf Coast Art Space as part of an event for the 2019 Art of the Minds Festival.

Participating artists were asked to complete a work that aligned with the theme “Growth”, and to demonstrate how art can be used as a tool for expression, wellbeing and/or recovery.

Nikki’s striking self-portrait was the first of her growing collection to be displayed publicly.

“I painted a naked lady and she’s sitting on a chair, and there’s all writing like ‘panic attacks, alone, pain’, and that is actually me – that’s my incorporation of what I was going through.

“My major breakdown was pretty crazy, I lost a lot and I felt a lot of despair and helplessness, but that really kicked off a lot of followers of my work.”

What clients notice most about Nikki’s artistic style is each piece’s intricate nature.

Nikki’s beach scene artworks are her most popular.

She said she can spend upwards of 50 hours on one work before moving onto the next, with a majority of her commissions and freelance paintings completed on 90 x 90cm surfaces.

“A lot of my work is different but it coincides… it goes back to the colour and brush strokes, and layering of colours.

“A client said to me, ‘It’s like Where’s Wally? There’s always something you don’t see straight away’. I drift away to my own little world when I’m painting.”

Nikki is making her Surf Coast Arts Trail debut this August, which will take shape in a digital format for the first time in its nine-year history.

To learn more about Nikki Holmes, follow @NikkiHolmesArtist on Facebook and Instagram.