Review Me: Nicole Rubio: Emotional Honesty
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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Nicole Rubio: Emotional Honesty

Nicole, many thanks for taking your time to answer our questions to let our readers get more familiar with your works and art career. Tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?

I started drawing at age 5 and loved it. I grew up in a creative household except for my father, who was a businessman. My father belittled artists. I tried to be what he wanted me to be, practical sensible secretary type. I had to swallow much emotional and physical frustration. Finally, by the fall of my senior year at a big university, the frustration grew so strong it pushed me to stand up for myself. I had to make that phone call to him. I braced myself by talking to a supportive friend, a wise old soul. Then, shaking, I dialed home and stretched the cord from the kitchen into my room (phones had cords then). My father was disappointed, but not demeaning. To his credit, he agreed to pay for art school.

Art, learning, creating, and creativity was your dream. And nothing else could make you satisfied. You came out of your skin and finally returned to what your thoughts and souls demanded. Was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?

Yes, I just went through this. I always secretly believed I was going to be a great artist. But after ten or so years of putting myself out and getting rejections from so many shows and worse, just being ignored by the world except for a small circle of artist friends who puffed me back up, the reality set in that I may die in obscurity. This led me to read meditation and metaphysics books for healing. I recognized I’ve been operating out of my ego and desire for recognition. I love to draw and love art and was given that, but recognition was never part of the deal. It was a major blow to admit to myself, it was an ego dream, and I have no control over the world’s reaction to my work. My eyesight was failing anyway. I stopped drawing for a couple of weeks, but it felt worse not to draw than to feel bad about rejection. So I started drawing again.

Oh, what a story! Many of us may face these obstacles and frustrations, but when we ask for something from the bottom of our hearts, we turn to it again. It shows that you were deeply interested in art. What is your daily routine when working in your studio?

My studio is my living room floor. Luckily it has a lot of natural light. I work between 10-3 p.m. I roll out my canvas drop cloth and bring my pastels out of their cloth bag in the closet. I prop my drawing up against the wall on a 30x40 inch piece of foam core. I sit across from it on the couch to get some distance. I’m legally blind, so every few minutes, I have to step back to the couch to see what I’ve done. I take pictures with my phone every day of the latest stage. Because of the glare, sometimes I really can’t see what I’ve done until that night when I look on my phone in a dark room. I turn the foam core to the wall to protect my drawing from my husband’s obsessively sweeping of dust from the rug.

Now we are eager to know the steps of your work. So, take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?

I’m very aware of creating a body of work with a theme. I buy BFK Rives paper, 30x40 inches, ten sheets at a time. I try to do 8-10 pieces in the theme and make them all relate.
I can’t draw from my head, I need a source photo. Either first I get a feeling I want to express and find an image to suit it or come across an image I love and play with that. I keep repeating the image in thumbnails as it gets bigger and more detailed. It’s like trying to focus a camera on a hidden internal memory, and gradually, after many successive shots (repetitive sketches), getting it into focus. Maybe it’s pulling from the subconscious and I’m grappling to give definition to something I can’t see but that has a definite right and wrong.
To continue the photographic metaphor, it’s like watching a print develop in a dark room. I find the earlier stages fascinating and worthy of attention as much as finished pieces. Maybe because they come from a primal language, like writing, before it’s polished for the audience.

Nicole, is there a central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?

Loneliness and social anxiety are covered by a veneer of beautiful fabric, richness of surface. I’m trying to express my dark painful emotions, but in a beautiful way so people won’t run away. I grew up as an introvert in a dysfunctional but well-off family. We had decorator beauty and all the clothes we wanted, but my feelings of pain about all the anger in the house were not listened to. They denied it was going on. I needed a way to let my truth out. My grandmother, who lived with us, had a wedding gown businesse and I was surrounded by gorgeous confections of satin, silk, drapery. So that’s why my creativity took the channel it took, covering my pain with silk drapery Drapery is a common thread linking all the series.

An art concept is sometimes defined by the lists of titles or descriptions an artwork possesses, and sometimes the features hidden in the artwork. Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?

I’m embarrassed to admit I have an interpretation I want the audience to get. After all, it’s coming from deep feelings of needing to be heard and accepted for what I see and feel. If someone gets it, the discomfort beneath the surface, I have the satisfaction of knowing I reached them, and it connects me to them. I’ve discovered writing small essays to go with my pieces and putting them all together in books gives me a better chance of communicating what I’m trying to say.

You said, your drawings are your fantasy world that is able to communicate with all sentient beings. How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?

I seek and find inspiration in beauty. Indoor and feminine beauty, not nature. Colors and fabrics and costumes and fairy tales and stage sets and dance and anything that is elevated from ordinary drab mundane reality. The world of visual art is my refuge. Happy fairy tales don’t move me though, so I use their surface beauty and inject my own emotional pain to give it a twist. You can’t force something to grab you, so it’s a gift when I see something that moves me so much it sparks my creativity and imagination. I’ve been moved by bustles, Venetian Carnival, or certain color combinations. When something grabs my fancy, it gives me energy to pursue it and delve into it.

So, for example, seeing a carnival, colors, fabrics, clothes, scenes, dances and even sounds and voices will excite you in a different way. You portray them in such a way that they distance themselves from the world they are in and appear beyond the worldly realities, and that is great. How do you select your artworks subjects? Where they come from?

When I get an idea for a new series, for example, the hardship of isolation like we just experienced through COVID, I think of a metaphor for that feeling. For isolation and tough days, I thought of the nomad. The nomad faces emptiness and isolation day after day and has no credit card to soften his life. Once I decided on nomads, I googled a tribe of blue draped nomads I knew about in the Moroccan desert, the Tuareg, for source photos.
There may be an artwork that an artist may think will drive the viewers to the destination he or she wants. Is there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?
I would like to be remembered for my willingness, to be honest, and find beauty in imperfection. This runs all through my work. I would like to make it socially acceptable for people to admit they are in pain or fearful.

Wabi-sabi. Simply an intuitive way of living that emphasizes accepting the natural cycle of growth in imperfection. Our readers, as fans of your work, are waiting for your future artwork. Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?

I’ll probably keep self-publishing Blurb art books. I already have about forty, and no one knows they are there. One goal I have for the future work is to show reverence for animals and to wake people to their intelligence and sensitivity so they aren’t mistreated anymore. I have strong feelings for animal rights, but aside from art, am not sure how to contribute.

There were many characters who have been influential in our thoughts, views, and works for years. What are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?

I guess the first influence was my artistic older sister, who was also left-handed and loved to draw. In the 1950’s, the Sunday New York Times illustrations of fashion – I loved the calligraphic lines and wanted to be able to draw like that. I love the French Impressionists, especially Degas pastels of ballerinas. My flamenco teacher was a huge influence, opening the beauty of Spanish culture and replacing my minimalist Bauhaus aesthetic with pink, polka dots, layers of ruffles, and roundness.
Contemporary artists – the London street photographer Alan Schaller for his black and white small silhouetted figures in big, impersonal geometric environments; the Southern classical artist James Langley for his nude torso drawings with obscure handmade papers and pigments; the Ukrainian sculptor Natasha Dikareva for her mythological creatures with their luscious white porcelain textures.

And, if you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?

I’d like to meet the Italian designer Roberto Capucci and ask him how he made the leap into sculptural fashion, imagination light years ahead of anything my mind could create. How did he have permission to invent such impractical, fantastical, unlikely forms in fantasy colors that were done with such professional and impeccable craftsmanship?

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