We will be the first to admit, we have serious fashion envy… for the outfits that come to life on paper through the talented hand of Holly Nichols. This phenomenal artist creates looks from the red carpet, as well as everyday looks that knock our socks off every time we see them. Seriously though, we sometimes obsessively scroll through her Instagram and think about how much better we would look in fashion sketch form (am I right?), while marveling at her talent and passion. Here’s what I’m trying to say- Holly is the ultimate GirlBoss, and we couldn’t be happier to bring you a look into her world.
We LOVE your fashion sketches; tell us the story of how you got to where you are today!
I started exploring fashion illustration as a distraction from my actual assignments during my freshman year in college. Upon graduating, I was still so intrigued by it and continued sketching fashion almost obsessively. The fall after I graduated, I took a job as a paraprofessional in a special education classroom. At that time, I was sketching for fun, but I decided to start an Instagram account (@hnicholsillustration) strictly for sharing my art. I had no idea anyone would have an interest in what I was doing, but the page starting gaining more and more attention. I built a following quickly and began to be commissioned to sketch custom fashion illustrations for brides, small boutiques, and a few other entrepreneurs. Shortly after I opened my Etsy account to sell prints, and four months later, I was able to quit my full time job at the school to pursue what seemed to be a business that fell on my lap. May marks my first year doing this full time. It was a scary leap but I’m SO glad I made it!
What are some of your favorite pieces to draw?
I really enjoy drawing hair. I love the movement in hair and how much character it can add to a drawing. I was invited by TRESemme to sketch backstage/runway hair styles this February at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. It was an absolute dream and it was so interesting to see their professional stylists create beautiful looks for the shows.
Tell us about your creative process – from inspiration to final sparkle.
My brain never turns off its creation mode. I have so many ideas and never enough time to pursue them all. Sometimes I’ll have an idea that begs to be put on paper, so I’ll sketch it out on whatever is around- whether it be a napkin, computer paper, or a column in my planner. I work the sketch out until I have a solidified pencil drawing. Next I add in the color with Copic Markers- occasionally watercolor. I always scan my originals so I can add them to my portfolio. Some of those become prints which I sell on Etsy, and some end up in a rejection folder on my desktop. My family has a lot of my originals, and I sell the others out of my studio.
We know you have a B.F.A. in Studio Fine Art from Endicott College and have dabbled with interior design; What other creative passions do you have?
I’ve always loved anything creative. I took dance lessons since the age of three, and was enrolled in private art classes and piano lessons at six. I still play piano all the time. Before H. Nichols Illustration came about, I was really into cupcakes and made elaborately-decorated baked goods!
What outfits do you gravitate towards in your personal life?
Anything comfortable. I have a very classic/preppy wardrobe. I wear a scarf every single day of the year. I love oversized glasses (my current favorites are my Karen Walkers and a pair of vintage Halstons). I’ve made an effort to stop buying stripes, but it’s proving to be a challenge! You’ll also notice that a lot of my drawings feature striped outfits.
What can we find you doing in your spare time?
I mentioned it before, but I really enjoy playing piano. I’ve always said my first splurge item is going to be a baby grand.
If we took a peek inside your purse right now, what would we find?
Other than the purse inside my purse (am I the only one that does that?) right now I have 3 backup chargers (my phone is never charged), my iPad, countless pairs of sunglasses, business cards, a backup pair of flats, headphones, and a ton of props that I use for Instagram photos including a glass clock. My purse is consistently a black hole.
If you had to pick a word to describe the twenty-something decade, what would it be?
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a small business owner?
Finding time for anything. My personal life has certainly suffered. Right now I’m doing all the backend work, the shipping, packaging, emailing, Etsy operations, social media, basically on my own. On top of all that, I have to create all the art work. After all that, there isn’t much time to breathe. As a small business owner, your business is widely considered “open 24 hours”. I try my best not to look at emails after I leave my studio to go home and my phone goes on “do not disturb” pretty early so I’m not distracted by all my Instagram and Etsy activity. I truly have to force myself to avoid these things after-hours because I am so in love with the process of being a one-woman-show and with what I do.
What piece of advice would you give twenty-somethings as they navigate these years?
Do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to take risks. Stay focused on what matters by tuning out things that are out of your control.
What are three things about you that we wouldn’t know from following you on social media?
I’m obsessed with my cat (Jinxy), I’m even more obsessed with Beyonce (I ugly cry at all her concerts and while listening to her in the car.), and I am a Synesthete which means (for the lack of sounding like a crazy person) that I perceive numbers and letters in color.