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Meet Nina Ulett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nina Ulett.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area surrounded by art and diversity. While in grade school I got the opportunity to experiment with many different modes of art, most notably painting and animation. During my junior year of high school, I attended a painting workshop in Idyllwild, California, lead by John Brosio and Michael Harnish. It was there that I really decided to pursue fine art as a career.

In 2012, I attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for Studio Art. I studied painting but was also active in the animation department, creating digital backgrounds and assisting on student films.

In 2014, I transferred to Laguna College of Art + Design in pursuit of a more rigorous life painting based curriculum. I fell in love with painting the figure and made it my focus. My senior thesis involved projecting images onto the figure in order to create multilayered environments as a sort of homage to the people and places that have been important to me.

Since graduating in 2017, I’ve been teaching various community painting classes through LCAD. Teaching so far has been incredibly rewarding. I hope to continue to learn and be part of others’ learning processes. While I love fine art, I’ve been feeling more and more of a pull towards illustration and the entertainment industry. I hope I can someday marry my love of traditional painting and animated, but for now, I’m just taking opportunities as they come.

Please tell us about your art.
I really enjoy painting people. There’s something incredibly satisfying about capturing someone’s unique character. It’s a chance to give everyone the same amount of dignity. I try to paint from life as often as those opportunities come along. Whoever you’re painting is never going to be exactly as they were in that moment and there’s something really special about that. I incorporate a lot of fantasy elements into the portraits I do in my studio practice. Sometimes I paint ethereal cloud covered backgrounds or what appear to be hand-drawn 2D elements floating around in a rendered 3D space. I like a bit of humor and possibility in my work, all of which go towards supporting a sort of implied narrative. I go into a piece looking for a certain kind of emotional impact and design my methodology around that.

Oil paint is probably my favorite medium to work with because of how versatile it is. I like doing hour long sketches just as much as I like building up layers and history through indirect painting techniques. Oil paint also allows me to do a lot of experimenting with color. I love color theory and thinking about why we feel particular combinations are pleasing or emotionally charged. Color is very personal, and I think it says a lot about the artist’s attitude towards a subject.

What I want a viewer to take away from my work is some sense of familiarity. I create images that are reflective of the way that certain songs, stories, people, etc. make me feel, so giving a similar experience to someone else is really my ultimate goal.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
I guess I’d like to preface by saying I feel very privileged to be able to pursue art as a career in the first place. It’s not something that’s necessarily all that accessible which is a real shame because everyone deserves a chance to make a living doing what they love. Fortunately, I think this is changing in big part thanks to social media. Regardless, there are many ways to make the financial aspects of art-making a little more manageable.

Take advantage of what is already available to you for sure. I’m a firm believer that you don’t need expensive materials in order to produce complex and skillfully made pieces. Learn the perimeters of what you have access to and use it well. Also, do a lot of research into the materials you use or are interested in using. Often you can make or find materials at a lower cost that are essentially the same as higher-end items.

Look into different types of assistance. Artist scholarships and grants are plentiful as long as you are persistent and keep an eye out for them.

Find a community and help each other out. The majority of art jobs and opportunities I’ve had have happened because of the help I received from my peers and mentors. They’ll be able to understand where you’re coming from. Financial instability is frightening and can make it really difficult to feel creative. Being around other artists will not only help stimulate that creativity but also give you a support system of people in similar circumstances, and there’s a lot of power in that.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can visit my website or follow me on Instagram @ninaulett. I tend to keep my Instagram more regularly updated so if you’re interested in seeing sketches, process photos or other behind the scenes type things that’s the place to check. I also teach beginning to intermediate oil painting classes through LCAD’s community education program if you are near Orange County and interested in learning oil painting.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal Photo: Eric Stoner, 2014

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