Artist Spotlight

Cathy Nichols follows joy in her journal

Cathy is a full-time artist, oracle card designer, and online teacher. She specializes in vibrant mixed media paintings with layered handmade papers, sheet music, flowers and all things joyful.

What is art journaling to you?

Art journaling is a space to play and to feel free to create without the pressure to sell my work.

What does community do for your art?

I love having a community of artists to share my process, cheer me on and ask for advice.

How do you live a creative life? How do you incorporate journaling into that?

I am a full-time artist and teacher, so most of my waking hours are spent painting and chasing my creative muse. I love doing art journaling when I want to try out new ideas. Once my latest painting series is finished, I am really looking forward to having more time for journaling and creative play!

What does your creative space look like? Where do you journal?

My creative space is a high-ceilinged studio with a skylight and peach floors. I have a big, high table that my partner built for me, and it’s there that most of my journaling unfolds.

Do you have creative routines?

Yes! It all starts with coffee and coming up with a color palette. Everything begins with color.

What is your favourite art journal page that you’ve ever made?

I think it’s the piece I shared with Get Messy a few months ago. It is of two cats snuggled together on a colorful background. I love it because creating the black space within all of that color gave me an area to embellish with white chalk — and this became the focus and story in the journal piece.

Have you ever made something you don’t like? What did you do?

Oh goodness, yes! I did a huge painting that I really hated once and brought it out to the alley by the dumpster by my apartment! I didn’t want to gesso over it or ever see it again. It felt better just to say goodbye!

What is your biggest barrier to creating? And how do you overcome that hurdle?

The biggest barrier is feeling like a painting has to be “perfect.” Even with my zany mixed media, colorful style, I still find myself getting too precious with my work sometimes. Then I put some music on and try to shake it off and remember to have fun!

Have you ever been through artist block?

Yes! I had terrible artist’s block when I was creating licensed designs for Sherpani’s handbag collection. They needed new paintings, and I just didn’t have the creative spark within me. I actually sequestered myself in my studio and stared at the walls until I started painting. I did a few pieces in that vein that winter, and they are some of the most hideous pieces of art I’ve ever made. They didn’t end up getting licensed. Sherpani used some of my older work. It’s so funny. Sometimes you just can’t force creativity. I ended up taking a nice break and a road trip, and this eventually broke the spell.

How has Get Messy impacted your creativity?

You’ve actually inspired me to try art journaling!!

Cathy is one of the incredible teachers at Get Messy. She shares her art and her heart in the Season of Slow.

You’re invited to embrace the messy middle and join the best art journaling community on the internet.

What journal do you use?

Dylusions 9×12 inch mixed media journal

What is your one *must have* supply?

posca markers

What do you make when you don’t know what to make?

I stencil, stamp and paint a whole bunch of paper and push bits and pieces up against one another making little collages. Such fun!

What is the most important (non-tool) thing to your creative practice?

Being free to paint what makes me happy in the moment

Who are your favourite Messy artists?

Rae Missigman, Mary Wangerin, Joy Ting Charde


Advice to new art journalers:

Let your journal be a space for play where you don’t have to worry about people seeing your finished pieces until you’re ready. The pressure to share everything we make on social media can be so severe that we freeze up. So allow yourself to follow joy in your journal — doodle, make a mess, and learn as you go!

Put some music on, shake it off, and remember to have fun!

Join the community