Nikki Burnette

Introducing Nikki Burnette, featured artist from two of our Halloween Specials (41 and 54).

Mother of one daughter and two cats, Nikki lives in Columbus, Ohio, USA and has been an artist her entire life. Fantasy art is where Nikki’s heart lies, her professional career began with selling her paintings on Ebay and now her art is collected worldwide.

How long have you been illustrating and what made you start?
I have been a fantasy artist since 2006, so about…wow…13 years now. I actually started painting and selling my art as a way to earn extra money while I was in college. I was looking on eBay one day and saw these little pieces of art called ACEOs. ACEO stands for Art, Cards, Editions and Originals. They are miniature paintings and basically anything goes except for one thing, they have to be 2.5x3.5” which is the size of a standard trading card. Since they were so small, I figured I could make one each day and make a little extra money. I loved to draw and paint and had done so my whole life, so I thought this could be a fun part time job for me as I worked my way through school.   As soon as I sold my first one, I was absolutely hooked! I kept painting more and more and gradually established a fan base. I had requests for larger paintings, so I began to paint larger, more complex pieces. Then I started to make prints and other products at home using my own printer. When I graduated, I realised that I could really make a living at my true passion, creating my own fantasy art.   Over the years I have branched out into many different things including Adult Colouring Books. I had been creating colouring pages of my art almost as long as I had been creating art, but only sold them through my own Etsy shop and website. When Adult Colouring took off in 2014-2015, I decided to start publishing colouring books and selling them on Amazon. I now have over 15 published colouring books and I’m so fortunate to have my artwork collected worldwide, printed in various publications and licensed with many companies. I feel so lucky!

Where do you get your inspiration?
I am so inspired by the entire fantasy genre. I love reading fantasy books, watching fantasy movies and TV shows and of course looking at and admiring other fantasy artist’s work. I just love being able to escape reality and paint a world that is completely my own. There are no rules for fantasy…anything goes! I’ve always loved dreaming up new fairies, mermaids, witches and other fantasy beings. I love developing their clothes, hair, outfits, etc… It’s just so fun to me! Even though I draw all sorts of fantasy characters, I think I am most known for my witches and I think they are my favourites to paint as well. I’m mainly inspired by J.K. Rowling’s portrayal of the witch/wizard world in her Harry Potter books. Before her books, when someone said witch, I think most people thought of the typical portrayal of a witch…green face, hooked nose, warts, black hat, pointy teeth…and this was the way they were often painted as well. But after her books, I think people realised that there can be a range of different types of witches from good to bad. So I really try to portray a unique take on witch art by drawing joyful, attractive, sexy, sassy, playful and sometimes even a little mischievous witches with detailed outfits and fun animal companions.

Where is your favourite place to illustrate?
Along with being an artist, I’m also a stay at home mom to two small children. So I do most of my illustration work with them during the day. My daughter often likes to pull up her own art desk and colour in my colouring books or create her own watercolour paintings along with me.

What are your illustrating/colouring material essentials?
For colouring book illustrations, my Wacom Cintiq is my favourite tool! It allows me to draw directly on a screen and simplify my line art process. I also use Clip Studio Paint to create my colouring pages. They start out as illustrations on pencil and paper, but then I use these tools to create nice clean black lines for others to colour in. 
When I’m doing test colourings for my colouring books, I really enjoy using a mixed media approach. I use alcohol markers to establish a base colour and then I use a variety of colored pencils on top to add shading and details.   All of my original paintings are done with watercolour and inks. I start my paintings by creating a very clean inking using a dip pen with a very fine nib and brown ink which creates a softer look than black ink. All of my pieces are done on Arches Hot Press 140 lb. watercolour paper. This paper has a very smooth finish which is perfect for the ink/watercolour combination. I use a variety of watercolour paints including Schmincke and Faber-Castel Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils.

What’s the piece of work that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?
One of my most favourite paintings that I’ve ever done is one I created a long time ago. It’s titled Aelita and Jax and when I’m asked about what piece I’m most proud of, my mind often goes to that one. While it’s not technically my best piece, it was my very first large scale painting with a lot of detail work. I feel like this piece established the detailed illustrative style that I enjoy incorporating into my work. It was also the cover of my most sold colouring book. So it has a lot of sentimental value to me.

Artist's tip

When I started publishing colouring books, I got really into colouring, especially grayscale colouring pages! I developed a whole section of my website and created a ton of YouTube videos on the topic. I hope you all find them helpful.  

See more from Nikki Burnette

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