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Meet Nicole Renee Ryan, Artist in North of Pittsburgh

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Renee Ryan.

Nicole Renee, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started painting full time starting in 2011 when I quit my job after a move from Virginia back home to Pennsylvania. It was a pretty jarring transition that I didn’t prepare for at first. I gave myself a year to do art full time before I reevaluated if I should go get a “real job” or keep working for myself.

My background is in Psychology, not art, though art has and always will be my first and only love. My very first memory is of drawing, and the slightly rectangular shapes that I have floating in my earliest pictures have reappeared in the last few years.

I primarily paint abstract landscapes that I call Imagined Places and Mis-remembered Spaces. I am interested in how memories mix and mingle with each other and how it is hard to separate memory from imagination.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t think anything with art has been or could be a smooth road, though I often wish it was! I wait until something is successful such as my watercolors before I say, Nah, too easy, let’s make a new challenge for myself, and then I switch mediums or venues etc.

As much as I stress myself out over my own imposed goals, ideas, deadlines, I would be much more unhappy if I had routine and boredom.

I paint first and foremost for me. I am my primary audience though I have to admit, I do care what other people, especially people in the arts think about my work. Of course, I struggle if things don’t land or get the reaction I am hoping for but generally these failures end up being fuel for the next painting or series of paintings.

Another challenge is having people not in the arts take being an artist seriously. I get crazy silly comments (that I have to admit, I can understand where they are coming from) “Well what do you do for a living?” “It is so nice you have a hobby” “What are you doing? me- Painting? Ok, so you aren’t busy (proceed to ask for something)”

Now, that my studio is in my house, and by in my house I really should say that my studio has taken over my house, I have a hard time NOT painting or not working. I rarely watch TV but if I do, I have to be painting also (though these are often smaller studies so I can sit).

Nicole Renee Ryan – artist – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I paint mostly abstract landscapes though I have been known to do the odd mural or two and some figurative work. I work in oil and watercolors and I use no references (well except for portraits, that would be odd if I didn’t).

My work is generally colorful with a sense of atmosphere with rectangular shapes floating in and out of the land and sky.

What I am most proud of is that without a background in art, I have been making a living as an artist for the past 6 years. There has been a lot to learn, but I love the constant process of trying, failing and sometimes succeeding.

I am not sure what sets me apart from others, I am organized, though there are other organized artists (though this is more of a rare trait!), I try to be helpful and easy to work with, but hopefully what sets me apart is just the style of my art. I do not claim to be in anyway unique, many others are doing landscapes or abstract art! But I hope that my work is unique enough that people can easily identify it as a Nicole Renee Ryan.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success changes for me depending on the day, sometimes it is just getting through my overly long to do list or list of applications (for exhibit proposals, grants etc) or sometimes it is completing a painting that day. Other times selling a work to a prestigious collection feels pretty amazing though I never count on that. I usually try to focus on the things I can control such as the quality of my paintings and just putting myself out there enough that hopefully, something interesting comes my way.


  • Original paintings range from $200 to $15,000.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Christopher Sprowls – portrait with palette in hand, Mike Weber – all other photos

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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