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Based in the small, sleepy, coastal town of Shoalwater, Nicole Steenhof is a visual artist painting with oils on board, canvas, and works on paper. Inspired by seascapes, painting for Nicole has always been a way of trying to emphasise some element of beauty that she has seen

06 May 2022

Designer Spotlight: Nicole Steenhof Art

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Mother, oceanic observer, artist, Nicole: ‘Observation is fundamental to my art practice, and that can be practised in every waking hour’

My name is Nicole and I am a visual artist painting with oils on board, canvas, and works on paper. I live with my young family on the beautiful coastline, in a small sleepy coastal place called Shoalwater in WA.

A dark and moody original oil seascape on circular board by Nicole Steenhof hangs on a white wall next to a long piece driftwood

I have always loved painting but only worked on developing an art practice once I became a mother, which is seven years ago now. Although I only paint during nap times and night times, spending time with my kids has really encouraged my sense of observation. I have a lot of time to absorb the way the sea moves over the sandbars at low tide, or the energy of the sea at peak swell, as we walk the coastal paths. Where is the light source? How is the shadow seen? Observation is fundamental to my art practice, and that can be practised in every waking hour.

A large scale seascape oil painting and a smaller work in progress on Nicole’s painting table; ‘Oil paints are lush and buttery and I love smooshing the layers together on the canvas’

I have only recently joined Madeit and it has been such a great place to host an online store to sell my artwork from. I used to have an online store with Etsy but decided to switch to Madeit because it better reflected the values of my art practice. Madeit feels like a boutique online market, and I loved that it was oriented to showcase Australian makers too. It was really encouraging to have my first sale on MadeIt from an art collector interstate!

’Unbroken/Comunion’: timber framed original oil on canvas by Nicole Steenhof, depicting the open sea on a sunny day.

I love the entire process of painting, including preparing the painting surface. The first layer of colour is usually burnt sienna, providing a lovely warm mid-tone to the piece from which to build all the other layers.

Oil paints are lush and buttery, and I love smooshing the layers together on the canvas and applying the marks in different ways with a variety of brushes and tools. Just recently I picked up a piece of dried sea sponge from the sandy beach and used that to make some marks too.

angle of seaweed and coral on the wet sand; ‘Painting has always been a way of trying to emphasise some element of beauty that I have seen’

While the painting dries there is a chance for me to add a few extra highlights or shadows or adjustments to whatever the painting needs while it hangs on the walls of my home. Once I walk by the painting without having any niggling feeling or discomfort with its balance or colours, I can safely call the painting "done".

Original oil painting of a stormy sea by Nicole Steenhof

Painting has always been a way of trying to emphasise some element of beauty that I have seen. The natural landscape has an impact on me; to my mood, to my thoughts, to my perspective, and I love to think about how it might do that for others too. How does our humanity impact the way we engage with nature? What do we bring to the way we observe the sky? How does our history affect the way we see the ocean?

Nicole in her home studio in a paint-covered shirt and one of her young children playing with a paintbrush in front of one of her large scale oil works in progress

My older sister went to university to study fine arts and I always enjoyed sitting with her in her studio and watching her while she paints. She would take me along with her to visit art galleries and exhibitions. I'm forever grateful to her for her generosity in sharing that time with me and for gifting me so much of her resources to get me started in my own painting journey.

Detail view of ‘Bewilder’ original oil on board; ‘Something that is bought without thought can also be thrown away without thought. Waste is a design flaw.’

She always gave me "fresh eyes" on my artworks whenever I sensed something not right about my work, without knowing what needed to change. Still to this day whenever I try something more experimental, I send her a photo of it first. She is always encouraging regardless of what it is! She is definitely too kind.

’Bewildered’ original oil on board by Nicole Steenhof

Something handmade is special. There is so much available to be consumed quickly and on a whim, to our detriment. Because something that is bought without thought can also be thrown away without thought. Waste is a design flaw. If something is handmade there is so much more value in that, knowing that the object has heart and consideration.

Nicole on a chair beneath a hills hoist washing line nursing a baby, a toddler on a rocking toy in the background: ‘It is incredibly important to me to aim for an environmentally conscious painting practice’

I think especially because I paint the sea, where all the world's plastic so easily ends up, it is incredibly important to me to aim for an environmentally conscious painting practice. I often scour op-shops or online marketplaces to buy other people's unused art supplies.

Based in the small, sleepy, coastal town of Shoalwater, Nicole Steenhof is a visual artist painting with oils on board, canvas, and works on paper. Inspired by seascapes, painting for Nicole has always been a way of trying to emphasise some element of beauty that she has seen

I also don't use any single use plastic in my painting process either. My art palette is a tile from my parents shed that I scrape down to reuse again and again. Even when I package paintings for art shows or to send away, I use bubble wrap that has been collected from family and friends. Reuse, reduce and recycling wherever we can is the best way to make a collective impact.

Nicole is offering Madeit’s community newsletter subscribers Free domestic shipping at Nicole Steenhof Art for a limited time. Subscribe below to get the coupon, plus weekly handmade shopping guides, designer spotlight stories and discounts:



Visit Nicole Steenhof Art to find more contemplative original oil works inspired by the sea: ArtofNicoleSteenhof

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