With plenty of recent media attention, high-profile clients, cocktail launch parties, da Vinci art brushes ambassadorship and a celebrated exhibition in recent months, you would be forgiven for thinking Nicole Slater is an overnight sensation.
“It’s taken me 20 years to get this point, to the most real, high-end professional level that I’ve ever been,” declares Nicole at her farm menagerie south-east of Melbourne. It’s a rewarding realisation from Nicole, a self-described tomboy who grew up in Cairns, North Queensland, loving an outdoor lifestyle of the beach, horses and sport.
After leaving school, she was diagnosed as dyslexic and decided to go with her strengths, rather than rest on her weaknesses. She focused on her creativity and at the age of 17 was up at 5am every weekend, optimistically driving to the Port Douglas market with her paintings in the back of the car to sell at a stall.
Fast forward 20 years, add two children — Tyla and Jake — and a supportive role in a marriage to a high-profile Rugby League star, it is now Nicole’s time to shine!
Nicole has loved painting since leaving school, but it wasn’t until the extended Covid lockdowns in Melbourne last year that she took the opportunity and decided to get more serious about what had been her passion. Spending many hours in her purpose-built studio at her farm, she became “obsessed” with it. Before she knew it, she had a set of canvases that evolved into the “Stables Collection” that became an acclaimed exhibition at Mitchelton Winery in Nagambie, under the guidance of respected art dealer Adam Knight.
“The Equine series have given me something I’ve never had before,” says Nicole. “I finally gave this collection the time it deserved to be the best it could be. High-quality linen, paint and experience.”
While chatting to Nicole at her farm surrounded by her highly entertaining rescue goats, sheep and horses, I asked if she had ever painted any other subjects. “Always painted animals, never been interested in people,” she says. “Pressure is too much to get people right and I never found that appealing!
“Horses, I’ve known them my whole life. I want to be known worldwide as an equine artist, that’s my goal. I know every muscle, joint, vein. I do believe you should study and know your subject.”
Does a blank canvas scare or excite her? “Definitely excites me. A lot goes into the planning of a blank canvas. I have to make sure I have the right photo, the scale, the negative space on the canvas; I don’t feel the need to fill the whole canvas. If I get the planning right, I should be setting myself up for success.”
When staring at a huge blank canvas, most of us would not know where to start but Nicole always has a plan, starting with a photo as a visual reference point. Once a plan is mapped out, the eye is her preferred place to start, calling it the “soul of the horse”. Then it’s the ears, the nose (muzzle), and the balance of the face that are the priorities and then the rest just falls into place!