Nicolette Leigh Carter Yates of Nicolette Leigh Arts
I spent my childhood in Stokesdale and Kernersville, North Carolina.
Where do you live?
I now live in Asheville, N.C with my husband and child, 2 cats and a garden.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I realized I had artistic skill when I was about 15 thanks to a couple different collaborative projects with friends. At that time I think it picked me. Its a vital practice that sort of hones my senses like a kind of moving meditation.
Who influenced you as an artist?
My first influence was my mother, Wendy Ours, who is very skilled in realism. She does tromp l'oeil murals and some very meticulous textures and details in illustrations and paintings. She taught me how to look at a thing, how to look and see. As a newly single mother of two kids she earned a degree in graphic design. And she regularly had dance parties in the living room with my brother and I.
What is your favorite medium?
It changes from time to time. Currently Id say charcoal and graphite which I mix with watercolor and acrylic.
Do you have a studio? Where is it?
My studio is strewn all over the house. Mostly it is in the living area, spare room, and the garage. Organization is a constant battle.
When I found out I was expecting in the summer of 2010, right after college graduation.
What are your challenges as a mother artist?
Finding time to wear all of the hats I feel I need to in order to simultaneously be a good mother and fulfill my creative visions.
What has been the driving force behind keeping a balance between being a mother and an artist?
I kind of feel like with motherhood came a certain confidence or willful determination to tackle my responsibilities without sacrificing my personal goals. Its tough, but its also necessary to help me feel grounded.
When do you spend time making art?
I make things while my daughter is sleeping usually. Sometimes I'm able to work on things like sketching, varnishing, or adding hangers while she is involved in some activity. I have a few hours in the afternoon(though I think shes quickly growing out of her afternoon naps) and then the hours after 9pm, if I'm not exhausted. Thankfully I also have a partner to help with this parenting thing. He works late but he often sacrifices sleep so that I can work during the morning hours.
How many children do you have?
Do you want more?
I have one child. Sometimes I want more, sometimes not.
Have you ever considered giving up art in order to be a mother?
I have thoughts about it the "what ifs" about whether I'm being irresponsible by not going after some big job that seems more secure. If I decided to go that route I may end up miserable and depressed. I could not be the best mother in that state. So I think its best for my family that I pursue what feels right for me personally. I think it would be impossible to truly give it up. If you remain an artist into adulthood then it has chosen you.
Do you have support from your family and friends to keep making art?
Yes. Everyone is supportive. Some may not understand but they still encourage me. A couple (my husband, and my friend Regina) go above and beyond in their support of my work. I'm pretty lucky to have such supportive family and friends.
Do you feel like you are taken seriously as a mother artist?
I do have supporters and patrons and Ive received an award from the Asheville Arts Council recently, so I do feel somewhat connected, or taken seriously, with my work. But I have a hard time finding the right gallery or show opportunities and I think if I advertise the fact that I'm a mother it could be even more difficult. But its not something I try to hide either. I am what I am.
Has becoming a mother influenced your art?
Yes. Ive had to slim down my process and think more clearly about the next step. I cant waste any time. Ive also put aside oils and large-scale sculpture until I have a studio more suitable for that kind of work. My daughter constantly tells me “oh that's so beautiful”when looking at my work. That just melts my heart.
Do you think mother artists are taken seriously in society?
I don't think women artists are taken seriously in general. There's so many lists of women artists that are thrown together like an addendum to art history which has largely ignored women. But I'm also interested in how fatherhood has shaped the careers of male artists.
What do you say when someone asks “what does your husband do for a living?” are you offended by such a question?
I have never been asked that without the person also asking what I do. And if they wonder how I can be an artist and support my family I might tell them that I'm working several odd jobs as a caregiver, house cleaner, gardener and landscaper until my art can fill in that gap. But really I don't think you have to explain anything to anyone if it makes you uncomfortable.
What is your story?
I lived until the age of ten in a rural setting in an old farm house surrounded by tobacco fields. I remember the fields often laid fallow. Our landlord and neighbor farmed the land, he was on up in years. I often went off on my own into the woods surrounding the fields, following the hunting trails my dad used when out looking for deer. I found these excursions into the woods to be magical experiences. I would also often choreograph dance performances in my backyard and imagine the fields as my audience. My childhood often inspires my current artwork. When my parents divorced I dealt with a lot of pain and guilt. My confidence waned and I turned to food for comfort which led to body issues. I eventually conquered most of those problems related to my food addiction but the lack of confidence remained. I was very reserved throughout my high school years. I had some close friends but whenever I met someone new they usually ended up asking me “why are you so quiet?” This became my challenge throughout my teens and into my twenties. I wanted so badly to say something, yet I was terrified to speak up. My heart would pound. Art was and still is my voice. I went to Australia for about three months in 2000 after high school. I had quit graphic design school to save up money for the trip. I did a lot of writing there. When I came back I started painting in a more serious way and began a relationship with my future husband Matthew who was a friend in high school. In 2002, I was accepted into Naropa University. An incredible, yet short-lived journey. Unfortunately it was very expensive and I only attended for two semesters but that time was very transformative. I participated in open mics, found a love for dance and was asked to be in two performances. Matthew had moved out to Colorado after my first semester there and he found a job he liked so we stayed for two more years then decided to move back closer to family. We needed mountains and I wanted to go back to school so I looked into the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I started as a major in geology but after a few semesters I needed a more consistent art practice (plus my new found love of roller derby was getting in the way of physics studies), so I decided to follow my passion and switched majors to art with sculpture emphasis. I graduated in 2010 and had the honor of the university purchasing my sculptural installation. It still hangs in the lobby of New Hall on the UNCA campus. I had my daughter in 2011. Three years later I feel I'm just now finding a rhythm to my art practice. Its quite staccato, however. With needing to work odd jobs and be there for my daughter, my art has to wait sometimes. It leads to some frustrations but I'm learning patience in that regard.
What have you learned about balancing motherhood and your passions?
It takes a lot of energy, focus, willpower, and determination. When I feel frustrations I ask myself “what is the smallest step I can take to get past this hurdle right now?” And that always helps me get unstuck.
What advice can you offer other mother artists about pursuing their passions regardless of their situation?
If it feels impossible, just take some small steps towards your big goal. Then take another one tomorrow. You will get there eventually. Write it all down. Envision it.
What do you want to be remembered for as an artist?
I want to be a prolific artist. I want to make people smile and wonder. Whenever I go to the beach I make these sun-bathing venus-like ladies in the sand. Then I go sit under my umbrella and watch people react to and interact with the creation. Its the simple things like that about creating that bring me so much fulfillment. I want to explore many mediums. I have a love of painting, sculpture, dance and writing. I hope to be remembered in some way for all of these things.
To learn more please visit:
* All photos were submitted and belong to the artist.
To learn more please visit:
* All photos were submitted and belong to the artist.