Weekly Feature



2015-03-11 / Lifestyles

Passion drives local artist to create for a living

by MARY BEST Reporter


This self-portrait by Milley in graphite showcases her favorite element of the medium: a high contrast between light and darkness. This self-portrait by Milley in graphite showcases her favorite element of the medium: a high contrast between light and darkness. Nicole Milley got her start as an artist from a coloring book when she was 8 years old.

“My earliest memory is looking at a coloring book, and I said to myself, ‘Rather than just color this, I could probably draw it myself and color it,’ and I did,” Milley said.

“From that point on, any kind of reference, from the Sunday comics to encyclopedias or nature books, I’d open up the pages and I would copy the artwork in my own hand,” she said. “As I got older, I progressed beyond copying the images to drawing my own, and that was it.”

Milley, now an adult, runs her own business, nikki M design, as an interior designer and artist. In addition to those services, she sells her prints, some original works, and knitted and crocheted items in an online Etsy shop.


Nicole Milley, below, makes her living as an artist and interior designer, and says making it all come together is a balancing act. Nicole Milley, below, makes her living as an artist and interior designer, and says making it all come together is a balancing act. Going to interior design school at Villa Maria College seemed like a logical step, Milley said.

“I do love to do projects at home, and I’ve always had an eye for [interior design],” she said. “I thought, ‘What can I do that combines both of those — the traditional art and creating space?’ I love how people interact with space and how it affects their mood.”

As a self-taught traditional artist, Milley said her style is rather eclectic, and she chooses a subject matter and artistic medium based on what she’s feeling. She enjoys drawing comics with pen and marker and working with watercolors and acrylics, but her favorite medium is graphite.

“It’s such an extreme contrast between your white and then the darkest darks. I love that look and having that juxtaposition of the colors,” she said. “It really catches your eye. You can’t just walk by a piece that’s done that way. You have to stop and you have to look at it.”

All of Milley’s life experiences have inspired her work, from what has happened to her and what she’d like to do in the future.

“I’m heavily inspired by love, my current mood and present experiences,” Milley said “How I saw the world as a child has inspired a lot of my artwork, so it tends to be very whimsical.”

Balancing a workload that can involve so many facets can be tricky.

Besides the physical creation of the artwork and time spent designing for her interior design clients, Milley has the added responsibility of maintaining her blog, website and social media presence.

“It’s a great tool to use and a great assistance, but it’s very time consuming,” Milley said. “You have to have fresh content, always be thinking about what your audience wants to see, so that can be demanding.”

The advent of new technology and online platforms definitely helps artists get their name out there, but it also offers more competition.

“Because everybody can do it, the art world is very saturated, as well as interior design, so there’s a whole lot of competition,” Milley said. “You really have to stand out, and it’s all about marketing yourself, getting your name out there to the right people and just constantly putting stuff up.”

Milley said she relies on the incredible support and faith from her husband to keep achieving her long-term goals. Even though it may seem she has a myriad of projects to balance, she said it’s the same balancing act everyone has to work at.

“For me, it’s really about not getting stuck in time suckers and staying focused on what my end goals are and what’s important to me,” she said.

One of the struggles she faces is self-discipline. Because she doesn’t have to physically go to an employer, Milley has to hold herself accountable for making sure she continues to work and create every day, all while maintaining drive and a positive attitude.

“It’s constant work — just getting up every day trying to stay focused on the positive,” Milley said. “When you’re in the art world, there’s a lot of putting yourself out there, and it doesn’t always work in your favor. Falling down and getting back up really is what it’s all about, continuing to try.”

While Milley said she loves interior design, creating works of art is her true passion and where she hopes her career will lead, perhaps to the illustration of children’s books.

“I’m going to create art whether it’s my career or not, so for that part of it, it’s natural,” Milley said. “It’s what I love, it’s what I’m going to do.”

To view Milley’s work, visit www.nikkimdesign.com. email: mbest@beenews.com

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