By Ann Leach

As an arts lover, Nichole West graduated high school as a thespian and longed to pick up a musical instrument like her cousins did. Instead, she discovered the power of a paintbrush and began teaching herself watercolor painting. As a Realtor by profession, she believes art has made her a better agent as she encourages curb appeal, color schemes, interior design and functionality for sales. She merges the two by networking and sponsoring community art events while other Realtors usually focus on local sports teams. 

“My art started in 2017 when I realized I needed a hobby to help with my winter blues,” West said. “I always knew spring was my favorite season because of all the colors and animals coming to life. Being a visual person, the months-long void of color starting in November is devastating. I was also beginning to notice I mourn the warmth of the sun on my skin more so than the average person. It was validating and a relief when I started getting treatment and prioritizing selfcare.”

West started her watercolor journey with YouTube videos and loved the challenge of controlling the water. And she used water from everywhere, taking a travel kit with her and painting with water from lakes and creeks. “I quickly became obsessed with losing myself in the process,” she said. She has since added acrylics, alcohol inks and oil paints to her creative toolbox and often gives her paintings away to friends and family. Then friends started requesting commissions.

Her first acrylic portrait was a first-year wedding anniversary gift for her brother-in-law that she completed the day before the Lamar Free Fair last year. Not only was her brother-in-law surprised to see the gift in the show, West was surprised to learn she won a blue ribbon and a cash prize for the painting. “I still can’t believe it,” she said. “There were definitely tears of surprise that all that hard work paid off.”

West’s success has continued, and she is actively involved in teaching painting classes at The Vault in Lamar. She is also helping to plan more artists’ showcases on the Lamar square and is pleased with the response. “The Vault hosted An Evening of Art last May and it was a huge success,” West said. “We had a huge community turnout to come and see a few of us local artists, and we had live music from Corey Timmons, and Big Ben’s BBQ food truck sold out in two hours.” West herself conducted two painting classes as there were so many wanting to participate. She hopes it becomes an annual event.

She also participates in the Lamar Art League events and is looking forward to this month’s 56th annual art exhibition during fair week Aug. 25 and 26. The League also meets regularly at the public library to learn new art techniques and share ideas.

The more West learns, the more committed she becomes to furthering her art and finding her niche. She plans to continue offering her step-by-step paint classes and will open her own art studio later this month. 

“I’m thrilled to announce this. I hope anyone wanting to teach workshops or learn a new art medium will come and enjoy themselves.”

See more photos in the August 2023 print edition or online.