NAME: Nicky Kriss
COMPANY: Nicky Kriss Art
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? In no particular order of course!! Motivated, creative, happy, loyal, risk-taker
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? OK – let’s go back to the beginning and you can use whatever you think is appropriate….
When I finished my secondary schooling, I had absolutely NO IDEA of the direction I wanted to go in. I had applied for a Travel and Tourism course however deferred to begin paying off my “new” but used car (a red Ford Festiva with no aircon!!) and I worked in an administration/reception role for a small local family business while all of my friends went off to university in the city. Once I began earning a full time wage, although it was $300 a week, I really enjoyed having money!! So I continued this for the next seven years until I got the urge to do the international travel thing.
I worked my full time job and a midnight til 4am shift at the local SPC factory to save money for six months then ventured off to Europe and USA.
On my return I had discovered that there was WAY more to life than living in a small country town and took off to Melbourne. The first job interview I attended, I managed to kick serious butt and landed the job. It was another admin role, working on the state government new public transport system “myki” – say no more…
After a four year stint living the city life (which I absolutely loved), I took another trip to the USA, to my all-time favorite place in the world, LA. Leading up to this trip and after a fleeting relationship I found myself to be 10 weeks pregnant….. And single.
I think from this point forward I found a whole new side to me.
Despite being single, the decision to keep my baby was always a complete no brainer to me. I had always loved children, I was 27, I had lived in Melbourne for a while and travelled the world. I had done everything and lived the most incredible, fun life and if that all needed to come to an end, then I was ok with that.
I believe in things happening for a reason – I felt like this was meant to be. And what if I never met anybody and was never given the chance to have children again? I had so much love inside me that was being wasted.
The struggles I faced going through a pregnancy flying solo was something that I had certainly not planned to be one of my life goals. The next ten months proved to be the hardest of my life – but all I knew was that I was already a mother, and I had no other choice but to be strong and brave for the both of us, no matter what. I was definitely in survival mode.
Being on my own, reality hit – as much as I loved my Melbourne life, and tried so hard to make it work, it was no place for a single mum with no income or the support of a partner so I made the really hard decision to move back home to my parents in the country until I got back on my feet.
In April 2010 in an overcrowded birth suite and with the support of my parents, brother and best friend my precious daughter Evie came into the world.
Going forward, the struggles I had over the coming 12 months with my new life really hit home, hard. I’d had a long battle over my pregnancy being alone and the pressures of me feeling like I just wanted my old life back, and being a single parent completely overwhelmed me.
I shut myself out from the world – my friends would ring to chat and I would just look at my phone and choose to not answer it. I felt so flat. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. Everything was just too hard. I was suffering big time.
My parents could see life crumbling around me, and that my baby was picking up on my depressed and anxious state I knew that I could not keep going on the way I was, and what kind of mother would that make me?
I went to my doctor and she set up a mental health plan for me. This was the turning point for me that drove me to get through everything I had suppressed and finally, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I needed to do something to make me feel like me again.
I was a single mum, I needed to be able to support my little family and decided to enroll in a Certificate 3 of Children’s Services. This was the first time I had studied since school over 10 years ago!! I loved learning all about the development of children, more so because I was a parent so I was actually really interested in what I was learning (which is half the battle) From there, it seemed the right thing to do to go on and study my Diploma. I was so proud of what I had achieved after where I had been not so long ago.
Then I met a boy.
We met through my cousin and after knowing each other for a year we got together, it all happened so naturally.
About six months later and after talking to another student and friend I’d studied with she encouraged me to enroll in University to complete my Bachelor of Early Childhood 0-5 (to become a kindergarten teacher). Half of the credits of this course had been recognized by our prior studies so it seemed to be the smart way forward.
By this time, it was mid-2014 and I began my role as a kindergarten assistant in a Steiner Kindergarten. This was the direction I was expecting my career to go in until a frustrating search for a piece of artwork for my bedroom gave me the urge to purchase a canvas and some paint for an experimental art project!
Proud of my unique looking abstract, I posted it on my Facebook page.
This was the beginning of something I had never anticipated or even imagined. A few friends loved my work and asked me where they could purchase or order.
So I began commissioning a couple of pieces here and there – now that I look back I actually cringe at the sight of them!
After some encouragement from my partner who I should credit for pushing me to take it further) I began an Instagram page especially for my art, it was still a hobby and all I really wanted was to make affordable art for people to be able to buy.
Word of mouth quickly spread, and soon I was commissioning pieces all over town. I started doing a market here and there, just for fun but it was really still just a hobby for a little bit of extra money.
I was so intrigued by color and experimentation that I would just keep buying paints and canvases and keep on painting.
In March of 2015 I was contacted via my Instagram page by a girl named Ebony, who explained that she was about to begin work on a national renovation series. She told me that she loved my work, showed me a mood board and asked if I had anything to suit what she was looking for. I informed her that I was happy to commission a piece for her. But it wasn’t until a month or two later that I discovered she was filming Channel 9’s “The Block”.
I could NOT believe that after painting for 15 months, that this opportunity had come my way. From this point, I knew that my hobby was no longer a hobby, but a business and in the end I supplied Ebony (and Brother Luke) with four commissioned artworks for their Blocktagon apartment.
Around the same time that the Block was all happening, I started googling art shows with one of the first that came up in the search being Artexpo New York. I sent an email one Saturday night, along with my website details, and literally overnight received an email back congratulating me, my work had been reviewed and accepted.
This brings me to now – I am juggling my bachelor studies, working my part time kindergarten job, parenting, and painting.
I have not long returned from a trip to New York, my first ever exhibition and I aimed straight to the top (because why not??). I couldn’t think of a better place to showcase my work on an international level. I was grateful to meet some incredible artists from around the world, and I learnt so much about the industry as well.
The risk I took by heading half way around the world, has more than paid off, and given me the motivation to go international. I have just completed two large scale artworks (my biggest yet) for an interior designer based in NY, and can proudly say that I have work installed all over Australia (over 150 pieces in the past 12 months), London, and USA. I have been invited to exhibit at a group show in London, and have continued to receive invitations to submit artwork for exhibitions in New York and Barcelona.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is your elevator pitch on what you do? The thing that makes my work different from others is my motivation of intrigue and experimentation, that often results in a narrative of a spiritual artistic journey and personal expression. I have a unique vision for bringing color assortments together with dynamic textural sense in an aesthetic that would perhaps not be brought together otherwise.
My intension for viewers is to feel calm, happiness, peace, positive energy and optimism - an emotional link to the human and artistic experience.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) Hell no!! If I hadn’t of fallen pregnant I believe none of this would have happened. Sometimes when are forced to make life changes, and get out of your comfort zone wonderful things happen.
I wouldn’t have met my partner back here in my home town and I never would have pushed myself to do the things I’ve done. Everything happens for a reason. I’m a huge believer of that.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? Success to me, means working hard to give yourself the life you dream of. I am still a long way off. By no means does my bank balance show this, I still have debts and struggles like anyone else.
I still have a lot to learn and build on but I also cannot even begin to put into words, the amount of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities and successes that have come my way so far, and so early in my career. But I dream of being successful and will work my butt off until that happens.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally) I feel like there is always still so much to learn both personally and professionally.
The journey I have had over the past 8 or so years has taught me a lot about myself. I am stronger than I thought I was. I have taken risks that have paid off. I have learned the importance of kindness and positivity. I am the best version of me that I’ve ever been.
I am so early in my journey of being a woman in business – I am extremely motivated and so empowered by women who are successful and especially those have a positive outlook on life. I want to travel the world with my family and my art.
I really try to take in as much as I can when I have the opportunity to learn (through books, conferences and events etc) and I feel that it is super important to give back to the community as much as I can. If donating a piece of artwork to a great cause brings funds where they are needed, then I’m all for it. People are spending their hard earned money on investing in my art. It has to go both ways, I need to give back.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? Completely self-taught! And still learning!
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? The Block definitely changed my life in a lot of ways. Not in the way of having my work broadcast on National television, I mean that does help too, and was amazing and very surreal and it helped me get my name out into the world, but the fact that Eb had so much faith in me to produce paintings for her under so much pressure and in so little time meant the world to me, and it changed my entire level of confidence in my work and what I can achieve.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? I like to have as much natural light as possible in my work space. I usually paint with a cup of tea or coffee by my side (maybe a Tim Tam) and the music channel playing in the background.
I recently put together an office space in my home that represents me – plants, wood, texture, copper and a beautiful vision board. It’s filled with quotes, photos of my favorite places and people.
What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey? My main frustrations are all based around logistics at the moment – I have to squeeze my artworks in the back of our Sportage and hire vans to transport my work. Being in the country is at times tricky because I feel so far away from the action. It’s not easy for potential clients to come and view my work but I try and combat that by attending markets regularly.
When was the last time you were overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? Leading up to my trip to New York was a really stressful time for me. I had a really slow start to the year, sales and orders were just nonexistent which made it extremely hard when I still had registration fees to pay and freight of my work. I began questioning whether I should be going, and considered swapping to a smaller space – it was an awful feeling. I am so glad that I listened to my heart and stuck with it because it was all worth it in the end.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? When I first began painting, I found it to be a very relaxing and tranquil activity to help me relieve stress and switch off from everything going on around me. But now as I have set a certain standard and price point on my work, I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce something that is beyond amazing (in my eyes) every single time. I am very fussy and critical with my work – I will sometimes be completely unhappy with what I have painted, regardless of when the client is delighted with what I have achieved for them!
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? Having a young child and partner to think of I always try to put them first. The painting sometimes just has to wait. I am always making sure that I keep on top of my emails, I reply very promptly and keep up with the social media side of things.
I have learnt that I do my best work when I have a clear mind, so for me it’s all about being able to acknowledge my mindset and BREATHE.
From personal experience, if I try and paint when I am not feeling myself, or feeling like the world is on top of me it comes through in my work. It just looks busy and I feel that once I start, I don’t know when to stop. There are pieces that I have done where this is so obvious. That can be a good thing sometimes, my work always seems to have an emotional journey attached.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? At this point in my career, my work is running my life. I can admit that. I want to keep building it up and continue to be creative in ways that are different to others in my field. I want this to be an ongoing, successful business. I’ve never been this driven to succeed, so now is the time to keep going and enjoy everything that comes my way. I am glad that my recent trip to New York and LA allowed me to have some down time and time to relax with my fiancé and friends. I am lucky that I love what I do and that I can combine work and leisure.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? I’m lucky that my family, partner and a couple of close friends are so supportive. I love being able to share my exciting news with them and know that they are genuinely thrilled and happy for me and my successes. I feel flattered when other artists follow me and have great thing to say about my work.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Paint fumes cause me sleepless nights. That stuff is strong!!!
If I have worked on a painting for a client and I’m not completely satisfied with it.
I have become quite a perfectionist, people are investing in a long term piece when they go to the trouble of having one commissioned so the pressure builds, definitely.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? I’ve been on a very long journey to get to where I am now, and have done a lot of soul searching. I suppose I wish I had of found this passion earlier in life instead of working in any old job that just paid the bills.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Care less about what other people think of you, and more about what you think of yourself. Dream big, surround yourself with positive people.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? There are so many women that I admire women who have built their empire and successes from the ground up, I am inspired by their attitude, courage and grace.
The sisters from Spell Designs: Besides the fact that I absolutely ADORE their collection, I am inspired by their creativity, originality and following their childhood dreams.
Samantha Wills: From the conversations we have had so far, I am instantly drawn to her down to earth and completely humble vibe, and her encouragement for women to chase dreams no matter where you’ve come from.
Lisa Messenger: I am continually inspired by Lisa’s positive “work hard, stay humble” attitude. I was lucky to attend an event last year where she was a guest speaker, and I was blown away by her entire presence. Her books have been the greatest contributor to the way I want to live my life and grow my little business.
Katie McKinnon: Before I began painting, I used to love looking at the beautiful color asthetique of Katie’s work. I am very lucky to have had The Block experience, as I was fortunate enough to work with Katie and have her as a mentor. She has taught me a lot and I have taken on some great advice from her.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Positivity is a must. It’s so easy to be dragged down by negativity and judgement.
Motivation to succeed and believing that EVERYTHING is possible.
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? Since becoming a mum I had a very strong belief system, the importance of having a balanced life. I am a very social person so I have always needed to make sure I have that outlet which was one of the other major reasons why I wanted to study early childhood and continue to do things for myself. Women who become mothers can often be consumed and bogged down by the pressures of motherhood and being the perfect mother. They think that there is nothing else for them.
I want to be more than just a mum. I am still very much my own person as well.
I believe that life is one big holiday (although my mother begs to differ), so it is always important to be able to step away from the pressures of work and take some time to regroup and refresh – both from work and parenthood! My all-time favorite strategies are meditation, it always brings me back to a good place; and getting in the car, playing my P!NK playlist as loud as it goes and singing my lungs out. It’s so uplifting!!!
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? I guess there is more to what I do than just slapping some paint on a canvas. So much time and effort goes in to arranging colors and creating an asthetique that is original and one of a kind. Artists work many hours painting, and sourcing great materials and I think that is sometimes misunderstood in the prices we charge. When clients say “oh thank you but it’s out of my budget” – I feel that it is important for them to remember that we are working for ourselves. We never know when our next commission is going to come through so sometimes it gets frustrating.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry?“Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being the same”.
Use color, be daring, don’t undersell yourself.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? I really have loved the journey so far. I love what I do so the hard work doesn’t necessarily feel like hard work if that makes sense. If I could go back, I would have liked to take more risks in the early days but I guess that I needed the confidence in myself to be able to do that. It makes me feel good to know that I have worked so hard in such a short time to get to where I am.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be?“One day it just clicks. You realize what is important and what isn’t.
You learn to care less about what other people think, and more about what you think of yourself. You realize how far you’ve come and you remember thinking that things were in such a mess they’d never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you have fought to become” (unknown)
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? When women support each other, incredible things happen! This quote is so true. I am all about surrounding myself with women that build each other up, and not tear each other down. We draw strength from each other, and inspire each other. We are incredibly lucky in today’s society to be treated more equally (we are slowly getting there). I am so overwhelmed with gratitude to be involved with this interview and I hope that my journey inspires others to just get on with it and chase the life you want to live.
What are some of your favorite quotes? So many!! I actually have a notebook that I write down quotes and mantras. It’s a great source of inspiration!
“Work hard, stay humble”
“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers. But most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you”
“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and forgiving heart. One who looks for the best in other people. Leave people better than you found them”- Marcus Aurelius
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be ALIVE, to BREATHE, to THINK, to ENJOY, to LOVE”.
“Never lose sight of your vision because you think its impractical, unmanageable or that you’re not worthy” – Lisa Messenger
“Good things happen to good people” – Samantha Wills