Nicole Royse: Painter and Curator at Willo North Gallery

Nicole Royse, painter, curator at Willo North Gallery and assistant curator at Shade Projects at monOrchid, photographed with her work at Vision Gallery in Chandler, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Royse, painter, curator at Willo North Gallery and Shade Projects at monOrchid, photographed with her work at Vision Gallery in Chandler, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Royse

Nicole Royse doesn’t just have an eye for what works in an art space as curator at Willo North Gallery and Shade Projects at the monOrchid in Phoenix. As a painter herself of abstract, flower and layer art, the 31-year-old Chandler resident has been a part of more than 60 exhibitions in Arizona and California. She’s currently showing her work at Vision Gallery in Chandler and five15 Arts Gallery in Phoenix.

She’s gearing up for three fun shows for this Friday’s Third Friday Art Walk, where she’ll be making appearances at all of them. Willo North Gallery features a solo exhibition of Daniel Shepherd, a collage artist working with re-purposed materials, whose 6-9 p.m. reception includes a meet-and-greet with the artist, music, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

At the monOrhcid, the final round of the THERMAL PHX art competition and exhibition is open to the public, also from 6-10 p.m. She has another painting, Twilight, at five15 Arts Gallery through August 30, with an artist reception Friday from 6-10 p.m. You may also check out Royse’s works Rapture and Vivacious at Vision Gallery through August 29 in its Flourish: Artworks Inspired by Our Gardens exhibit.

Read writing on the arts by Royse in local publications, including LocalRevibe Magazine, YabYum Music & Arts and East Valley Magazine. She also has her own blog featuring local art events, as well as a gallery rundown every first and third Friday.

Learn her thoughts on the local arts scene, and watch a video of her talking about her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved here in high school with my grandparents, when my grandmother was transferred here with her company. I fell in love and was married at 19, and my husband is born and raised here. We both graduated from ASU, where I got my art history degree with a business and marketing background, and we stayed in the area to be near our families, as well as raise our family.

I was born in Las Vegas and grew up in Orange County, California.

What’s your first memory of being interested in art?

I dealt with a lot of chaos and instability with my parents, which led me to art at a very young age. Art was my escape and a safe place where I could go and create. It is definitely my happy, positive place, where I could have fun and create beautiful things.

Why do you prefer to paint compared to other types of art?

I’ve always loved painting. I enjoy the freedom of the paint and paintbrush. I do sketch often, but I prefer bold colors and texture that can only be achieved through painting. With drawing, I can’t get the dimension or the saturated colors I desire.

Why is art important?

It connects everybody. Even if you don’t necessarily like a particular subject, it makes you think about things and makes you aware of where you’re living and the people you’re living around. I think it’s really important, and without it, people don’t really connect.

Why should people do art?

Art is a great way for people to express themselves and relax. Creating is a very cathartic and freeing experience.

What’s your artistic process like?

I look to nature for its beauty, simplicity and vibrant colors. I also buy a lot of flowers, which probably drives my husband a little crazy, as well as magazines and photographs. I love going on hikes and traveling to get away and get inspired once I can unplug from all of today’s technology. I’ll sketch something, then paint.

My paintings take days and many hours due to the many layers of paint I apply. It takes about 25-50 hours per painting, depending on the size of the canvas. They’re quite intensive, but it’s very enjoyable because I can get lost in a painting and enjoy it.

What do you look for when you’re picking out artists to feature in the galleries you curate?

I’m looking for originality. They need to have a voice of their own. I also like to see a consistency in terms of style and a high quality of work being produced for a period of time. Also, that the artist has enough inventory to fill the gallery. It’s what catches your eye and stands out to you, creating a reaction. I want to offer artists that will engage the viewer on some level.

How would you describe the local art community?

It’s growing and vibrant. The art community is doing better and is at a great position to really take off with the right support. The recession hit the art community really hard, with a lot of galleries closing and artists moving away. Buying artwork is a luxury, and all luxuries stopped.

This was also the same time that I was exhibiting my work, which made getting represented and selling work very challenging. The gallery scene is growing, and we have seen new galleries open on Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue, as well as former Scottsdale galleries relocate downtown, such as Bentley Gallery and Lisa Sette Gallery.

Also, the Phoenix Art Museum has been vocal with their support for the local art scene and participation with Artlink Phoenix (connecting local galleries.) Their support is crucial in the continued growth of local arts community, with exposure for our artists and with bringing in new patrons and financial support. This also helps encourage artists to continue to build their careers here in Phoenix, rather than escaping to another metropolis.

Is there an art style you’d say defines the Valley?

It just depends on the area. Scottsdale is more the traditional Southwest, which is wonderful, and people come from all over to see and buy Native American Art and jewelry and, of course, cowboy art, as well.

Phoenix is where the contemporary art is. This is where you can find a majority of artists creating and selling incredible art in a variety of mediums. There is not one defining style downtown.

What are your thoughts on the First Friday Art Walk?

The First Friday Artwalk is a wonderful way for people to explore downtown, support local, and experience art all at the same time. There is a lot to take in, from food to vendors and, of course, galleries. Visitors can visit Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue Arts District and Midtown District. Willo, which is near the Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum, sees smaller crowds, but it allows for intimacy with the artwork and artists.

At the monOrchid, we see upwards to 3,000 people come through our doors, although we do not see many buyers on First Friday, something which we would like to change. We would like to be open more often, rather than just once a month, but for now, it’s great just the way it is, and we enjoy it.

To get it weekly, all the galleries would have to get on the same page, as well as have money. If the economy keeps growing, and people are buying more, it will allow us to keep the galleries open more.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get their work in a gallery?

First, be sure to visit the gallery you are interested in, and make sure your work would be an appropriate fit. Then it’s important to put together a great packet featuring a CV, statement, your work, and website/portfolio that best represents you as an artist.

For someone who has never made art before, what advice would you have to get started?

Simply get some paper, pencils or even paint and paint brush, and just experiment and have fun. Get adventurous and take a class. You might not think you could ever paint, but after you take a class, you will fall in love with creating. The Schemer (Art Center), the Phoenix Center for the Arts and the Mesa Arts Center have some wonderful classes.

What are some of your favorite art supply stores?

I get supplies from Jerry’s Artarama and Blick Art Materials in Tempe. They always offer great products and discounts, especially to locals.

What are your goals?

I would like to get back to showing my artwork regularly, perhaps join an artist collective. I would like to take Willo North Gallery to the next level, bringing in more events and projects, continuing to build our name within the community, as well as hope to have a small stable of local artists we represent.

Also, I would like to continue covering the arts in my writing and hopefully freelance for more magazines so I can reach a broader audience. I would love to get involved with radio and television in regards to promoting the arts here in the Valley.

Why should people check out Willo North Gallery?

Willo North Gallery is a great intimate contemporary art gallery that exhibits wonderful local artists. We showcase both veteran and emerging artists, with one-of-a-kind exhibitions. For example, last month, we exhibited Noelle Martinez, whose current work highlighted ‘90s hip-hop music, while this month, we feature a veteran collage artist who works with re-purposed materials and has an extensive resume.

Most importantly, we love art, support our artists, and have an amazing time in the process. We’re not just another art exhibit, we are an experience, a can’t-miss event that features fabulous art, a great opportunity to meet artists and have engaging conversation, music and, of course, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

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