By some happy miracle, I am a full time artist and author, which was always my dream. My work is internationally licensed on a variety of products, and I am thrilled when my artwork brings happiness to people. Here are some answers to questions I get asked frequently:
What style art do you create and what medium do you use?
First, I enjoy anything creative and work in many media. I choose the medium to suit the effect I am trying to achieve. Oils work well for more realistic artwork. I enjoy water based mediums for my Impressionist style artworks. I often get commissioned to create sketches of people and their pets, and I love using pen and ink, pencil, and pastels for those creations. My children’s books often are a blend of pen and ink, colored pencil, and art markers. I don’t set out to create a particular style, but generally people refer to my work as Impressionist, which I love!
How do you get started on a new work – what’s your inspiration?
Sometimes I’m requested to do a particular subject, and sometimes I’m free-styling! An example of a work that I might not otherwise have created is Bon Jour. Bon Jour came into being because one of the companies that licenses my work had asked me for an Eiffel Tower artwork. Not wanting to just paint a centered Eiffel Tower, seeking inspiration I asked my husband what else he thought I should put in the artwork, and he suggested a cafe scene.
Here is the result:
As it turns out, Bon Jour has been a successful artwork for me – for example, in addition to the original license on glass plates, Bon Jour has also successfully been licensed for rain and garden boots, and many people enjoy scarves and limited edition prints of Bon Jour.
On the other hand, sometimes I just have an idea that I want paint for myself. An example of this is Gondolier of Venice. Gondolier of Venice was a work that I simply wanted to create because I love the romance and unique waterway life of Venice. After creating Gondolier of Venice, the original artwork sold within a few minutes of my circulating an email to a well-known philanthropist, and within a month the artwork was written up in the Montecito Journal (where I was named an Artist to watch), and the Gondolier of Venice has also enjoyed a successful licensing life and sales as limited edition prints.
Regardless of whether I’m asked to paint a particular subject (such as the Eiffel Tower) or if it’s a subject that I’m doing for myself (like Venice), each time I start a new work, I first enjoy the essence of my subject, and then I let my intuition do the rest. It’s fun to celebrate each subject with beauty, passion and joy, and it’s a treat when people look at my work and say, “It makes me feel so happy!” I love working with color and movement to create engaging compositions, and if I can put in a few extra hidden smiles and meanings, I will. Sometimes companies that license my work ask for a specific color palette or size, and sometimes companies give me free reign. Either way, I love it, and from each work I learn new things. I was every bit as happy painting Bon Jour as I was creating Gondolier of Venice, so in terms of the joy of creation, the source of the inspiration becomes secondary to the spirit of painting – once I have that paint brush in my hand, I am in my own happy little world. I also love painting to music, and I have some ‘favorites’ on my music list that get me started on each painting I create – from stretching the canvas to mixing the paints to carefully applying those last daubs and finishing touches of paint on the canvas.
How did you get your first license?
I hit the pavement, and I’m very lucky and grateful for that first licensing deal. The license was very successful, extended multiple times, and we have made 18 products together over many years. I still get emails from people seeking sold out products!
There’s a European Sense to Your Art, Where are You from?
I am a California native (with all the sailing and sun fun that goes with it), but both my parents are Dutch immigrants. I was educated on the East Coast and was very impressed with the East Coast’s fall colors and wintry snowy beauty. I now live by California’s Central Coast with my much-loved husband and our mischievous pets – a Leonberger dog, a rescue Chihuahua dog mix, and two Bourke’s Parrot birds. When I have time, I write about my pets and vegetable garden at my blog, Our1Earth.com, and you can learn more about my inspirations at http://Inspirations.bz.
Earlier Influences: My parents are a tremendously positive influence in my life. I attribute much of my success and love of the arts to them. They gave me a strong work ethic and honest professionalism, in addition to their love of the arts. Through my parents, I was exposed from an early age to beautiful European art at a wide array of museums. I remember being particularly influenced by the amazing Dutch Kröller-Müller Museum. While at the Kröller-Müller Museum, I vividly recall seeing Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Pablo Picasso’s “Nude Descending a Staircase,” and other great works, all in the Kröller-Müller Museum’s then uncrowded setting that encouraged close engagement with the art. While my parents’ preference is the Dutch Masters, my preference quickly became the great Impressionists – particularly Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh with their lively colors and movement. I also am inspired by the compositional freedom of early Modernist Marc Chagall, the beautiful lighting techniques of Johannes Vermeer, the sfumato techniques of Leonardo da Vinci, the cheery interplay of simplicity and complexity of Andrea della Robbia, and the style of Louis Comfort Tiffany. When you look at the majority of my compositions (for example Passion Flower and Chef at the Farmer’s Market), you can see these influences at play.
Regardless of the medium, subject matter or colors I use, people generally say that my artwork has its own recognizable style and feel. Part of the genesis of my work’s unique look is that, as a California native born of Dutch immigrant parents and educated in the East, my work expresses strong West Coast, East Coast, and European influences, blended with my particular Impressionist flair (and influenced by the little girl in me that comes out every time I paint). I am grateful for my work’s distinctive style and while much of it is unintentional and natural, I do also use color placement to bring fresh, joyous whimsy to each work. Some of my works are a bit sentimentally reminiscent of a time when life was less hectic, before cell phones and the internet. This then is the basis for my motto: “Art that makes your heart sing with the memory of what could be.”
For a selection of some of the images in my portfolio please visit the Portfolio menu tab of this site, You might also enjoy our slide show of some of my many art and poetry/philosophy reading exhibitions.
Where were you educated?
My education is fairly diverse. I had my first wonderful East Coast experience when I attended Harvard University while still in High School, and I ultimately earned degrees from University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and University of Southern California. I had a few fun summers at UCLA and UCI as well.
When did you start your art career?
The love of art, of creating, was always present. I can’t remember not wanting to be an artist. My first public recognition as an artist rather inadvertently began when I won a Newport Beach, California city logo contest, shortly followed by my solo creation in approximately 1978 of a mural of the constellations on the curved surfaces of the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory dome (the long-standing Harvard-Smithsonian observatory relationship is now referred to as the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). In my younger career, I also served as Art Director for a small local high school magazine (“Flotsam & Jetsam”), where my flowery style arguably first emerged, and where I stood out for my magazine cover that opened with a gate fold, like magical gates for the reader to enter. After high school, while in college, I served as Art Director of University Television at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a cartoonist for the school newspaper. My writing career also began with early recognition, including my winning first prize in an Orange County, California poetry contest in 1974, for a poem that began, “A cat prances on the wall, After the flakes he chases, Hop-pounce-tumble-and-fall, Silly winter races.” I still have a simply framed handwritten copy of that early poem, and each time I see that roughly handwritten written poem, it makes me smile! In terms of my writing, after graduating, in addition to publishing non-fiction writing pertaining to business matters, I years ago combined my love of art and business in the “Art Avenue” column (which was published in both the “Equine Image” and “Canine Image” magazines).
What are you doing now?
Career Overview: My art has been exhibited publicly many times at various venues, and has been on exhibit at a gallery/business/public venue continuously for more than a decade, which is an unusual accomplishment for most artists. For approximately a decade, my fine artwork has been on display at Santa Barbara, California City Hall. Similarly, commencing public exhibition in February 2011, Community Memorial Hospital acquired a large collection of my works, following a display of my artwork and poetry for the hospital in 2010. In 2006 I was fortunate to have a solo exhibition that was recorded by Marjorie Cronshaw on behalf of the Montecito, California History Committee, and I’ve been named an artist to watch by the “Montecito Journal” and a few other periodicals. A retrospective of M. Nicole van Dam works has also been published, entitled “M. Nicole van Dam, A Retrospective 2010.” (See also my Portfolio ) Current gallery exhibitions often include recitations of my poetry and philosophy combined with my art, in large part taken from my book (and labor of love) “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist.” In 1978, I as a solo artist did a mural of the constellations and astrological symbols inside the curved surface of the Harvard/Smithsonian Observatory dome.
In addition to fine art exhibitions, as an internationally licensed artist and author, my work is licensed by international manufacturers for many products, such as glass plates, footwear, tile wall murals, collectibles, etc., and as a result people around the world have purchased my work. I’ve enjoyed the thrill of being written about in collector newsletters, including international newsletters that published my poetry as well as my other creations. Examples of the many products made using licensed images of my art can be seen on this site at the Licensing menu tab. I’ve authored books which combine my art with my poetry, humor and philosophy, and current gallery exhibitions often include recitations of my poetry and philosophy combined with my art. The book I am most proud of blends my art and writing and is called “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist.” I also have written and illustrated several children’s books, including “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini” ™ (licensed for the iPhone/iPad and narrated by BBC personality Dominic Byrne) and “Rosie and Emma Plant a Seed“™ and “This Little Puppy.”™
Where Can I Buy Your Work?
In addition to fine retailers and Amazon, you can find M. Nicole van Dam creations for purchase by using the Shopping links on this website (direct link is Create.bz), and examples of the many products made using licensed images of my art can be seen there.
Tell More About Your Books
Children’s Books – “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini”™ and “Rosie and Emma Plant a Seed”™ and “This Little Puppy”™: I happily author and illustrate children’s books for the “Once Upon a Time™ children’s book series. I love seeing a child engage with one of my books, have some wonderful memories of that, and those memories are among my most cherished! I’ve created a blog for my children’s books at Once Upon a Time Children’s Books Blog
Specifically, I’m the author and illustrator (and co-narrator with Dominic Byrne) for my children’s book, “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini.” “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini” is written in sing-songy rhyme, a bit reminescent of Seuss. The main characters of “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini” are Hilary Mouse and Inca Dink, a Leonberger dog magician in training. “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini” is available in traditional print and digitally (the digital version includes a brilliant narration by BBC personality Dominc Byrne, available for Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch – if you search for Inca Dink in the Apple app store you will find this fun narrated version, or you can find it through this link: Inca Dink, The Great Houndini ). Merchandise has been created themed towards these two “Inca Dink, The Great Houndini” characters and is available at Great Houndini.com.
“Rosie and Emma Plant a Seed“™ is a joyous and beautifully illustrated children’s book about a young girl Emma and her Leonberger dog Rosie, who find a mysterious seed and plant it. As the mysterious seed grows, so do Emma and Rosie’s adventures and the delightful, curious characters they meet, including Sigmund Owl and a very cheeky sparrow. This unique book is a lovely way to share the wonders of gardening and nature. Also important, this book teaches about teamwork and friendship.
“This Little Puppy“™ is a fun-filled, dog-themed twist on ‘this little piggy’ – a delightful read aloud picture book for all ten fingers and toes. I so enjoyed a happy writing collaboration with Jay Topping on “This Little Puppy.”
Adult Books – “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist“™ and “High Spirits!“™and “Through the Artist’s Eyes“™ and the SuperQuick™ How-To series: “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist” and “High Spirits!” and “Through the Artist’s Eyes”: These three M. Nicole van Dam books blend my art with inspiration, philosophy, poetry and fun, on a variety of subjects: “Through the Artist’s Eyes” is about romance. “High Spirits!” is about inspiration and pursuing your dreams, accomplishment, and encouragement. “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist” provides thinking points and art about everything from the humorous side (cellphones and dieting) to deeper subjects such as coping, politics, and of course love. Each of these books pairs my artwork with my writing and philosophy, such as the combination in “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist” of the “Voting Booth” painting with my poem “Politics”. A retrospective of M. Nicole van Dam works has also been published, entitled “M. Nicole van Dam, A Retrospective 2010.” My current gallery exhibitions often include recitations of my poetry and philosophy combined with my art, in large part taken from my book “Tempo – The Rhythm and Rhyme of the Artist.” I’ve has also authored a set of how-to books for creatives and entrepreneurs under the SuperQuick™ brand.
What else are you working on?
Music, TV and Voiceover: More recently, I’ve enjoyed teaming up with other talented creatives and writing music lyrics and doing a bit of voice over narration and some television and social media work – you can learn more about this at “TuneSmith.bz. I’m even working on a musical! You can learn more about this at “TuneSmith.bz.
Achievement Tools: I often get asked, “How do you get so many things done? How do you find your creative voice? How do you focus? How did you do your website? In addition to writing some helpful books, there’s an achievement software app that I helped to create, called Quest Master Achievement – you can read more about Quest Master here!
What’s Most Important to You?
I wouldn’t have my creative flow without the inspiration, love, and infinite patience and kindness of my husband, parents and friends. I get my strength from them and from the beauty of nature around us (I share some of this on my blog at Our1earth.com.) In addition, I treasure my relationships with those fabulous people who support and believe in my artwork – whether it be individual customers who light my way with their kind comments and purchases, or the wonderful companies that license my work and give me so much inspiration, or the wonderful venues that offer me the opportunity to share my work.
Following you can scroll through some of the images in my portfolio. There is a more complete, formal portfolio at the Portfolio tab of this site, where you can see more of my artworks. You might also enjoy the slide show of some of my many art and poetry/philosophy reading exhibitions.
Gondolier of Venice
I Love You Mom
Bench at Giverny
Ballet des Fleurs
Dolphin Fountain at the Harbor
I Love You Mom
A Healing Space
War and Peace
Mission at Santa Barbara
Roses of Conquest
Flowers and Song
Waiter at the Champs Elysees
Chef at the Farmer’s Market
Meubles de Jardin
Below is a screen show sharing some of my blog posts on a variety of things that might interest you – you can click on whichever post interests you to read the full post – ENJOY!
THANK YOU for your support and interest in my work!