Positively Pink Cheeks

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March 1, 2023
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March 1, 2023

Local artist and businesswoman Nichol Brinkman is bringing light and color to homes across the country through her online and in-person artist studio, Pink Cheeks. Named in inspiration for her first born son’s pink baby cheeks, Nichol began her artistic business by making and selling homemade, one-of-a-kind baby mobiles. Her reach as an artist has grown exponentially since then, now making and selling paintings, prints, toys, soft sculptures, and even publishing books. Her latest accomplishment? Being chosen as a featured artist at the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival!

Nichol was born in Joliet, Illinois, and recalls having a passion for artwork from a very early age. “I just remember always being interested in art,” said Nichol. “I was always crafting and creating worlds of my own.” Brinkman even illustrated her own comic strip as a high school student. Soon after, she was accepted to Memphis College of Arts in Tennessee and earned her Bachelor in Fine Arts in Painting. “I was mostly an illustrator in high school, but then in college, painting just kind of happened!” Nichol remembers. Alongside her love of drawing and painting, Nichol said that she always had an interest in working with 3D materials. “For my senior thesis, I created a series of shadow box puppet theaters, telling stories from my childhood,” Nichol says in her artist statement.

It was not until a personal tragedy in Nichol’s life that she really began to work extensively on her unique soft sculptures. “My mom got very sick after I graduated college,” said Nichol. “I took up sewing to keep my hands busy while I sat by her bed.” Following her mom’s passing, Nichol found sewing and visiting other artists’ online blogs were an effective way to cope with her grief. She became fascinated with “plushy monsters,” or little characters sewn out of soft material, and set herself the goal of sewing “A plushy monster a day”—all while documenting her journey on her new blog. Nichol designed countless characters, from monsters, to cactus people, or little kids in costumes, all while continuing to draw and come up with ideas in her sketchbook. “It’s a world I constructed that I am still growing today,” said Nichol. While her art moved into a more 3D form, it began to influence her drawings and paintings, making them flatter, simpler, and more colorful– ultimately becoming what they are known as today.

It was not until 2012 that Nichol moved to Thibodaux,  after her husband accepted a job offer to work as a painting professor at Nicholls State University. Nichol remembers visiting New Orleans for the first time and being deeply inspired by the colorful houses and whimsical designs—and this is when Pink Cheeks Studio was brought to life. “I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but now I was ready to streamline my work in some way,” said Nichol. “I needed a way to monetize it.” Named for her first born son’s rosy cheeks, she began creating unique, beautiful mobiles and selling them under her studio name. “I was doing a lot of custom work, I would make specific mobiles for different people—sometimes even using their family for inspiration in the mobile,” Nichol explained. “But things really took off when I received a custom order from a well-known blogger. After that, Pink Cheeks began to grow.” Pink Cheeks Studio extended to become an Etsy shop, an online store, and a Facebook page, all where people can go to purchase a variety of Nichol’s work, from mobiles to prints to custom paintings. Nichol also began to break into the New Orleans art scene at this time, selling her work at the bi-monthly Arts Market of New Orleans in City Park.

Alongside already working on prints, paintings, mobiles, and soft sculptures, two years ago Nichol published her first book featuring her illustrations, titled “The ABC’s of New Orleans.” The book was a great success, featuring beautiful and colorful illustrations of the famous city–as one reviewer stated, “It perfectly captures the heart and soul of New Orleans.” Following the success of her first book, Nichol submitted another idea for consideration, which was accepted and printed in spring of 2022, titled “The 123’s of New Orleans.” Nichol said, “this idea began as a print, but I knew that it needed to be a book. I submitted the idea to my publisher, and they loved it.” Both of Nichol’s books can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Pink Cheeks Studio on Etsy, and other locations.

Despite the impressive list of accomplishments for Nichol, her most notable one to date is her acceptance to show as an artist in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2023—which has a 10 percent acceptance rate for artists. Nichol will be demonstrating her painting techniques live to audiences, as well as selling one-of-a-kind paintings and some of her soft sculptures. “It is such an incredible honor to be chosen for this,” said Nichol. “I’m nervous, but working really hard to get ready. I am very excited.”

Nichol talked about how participating as an artist in Jazz Fest is so exciting because the event promotes unique, hand-made items. “On my website, I mostly sell less expensive items like prints and books,” said Nichol. “But I am really excited for this opportunity to be able to sell and show my paintings and sculptures, and continue to grow my body of work.” For those wishing to see Nichol’s demonstration and her work, she will be located in the Contemporary Crafts Tent from Thursday, May 4, to Sunday, May 7, the second weekend of the festival. Jazz Fest runs from April 28 – May 7 in New Orleans.

Nichol has many projects in the works, and looks forward to continuing to expand her business and artistic reach. “I am currently working on a new book, a seek and find one also about New Orleans,” said Nichol. “People love local interest books. They are very special. I am very excited to see what Pink Cheeks Studio will bring in the years to come,” she said. Nichol Brinkman is a one-of-a-kind artist, and will continue to grace the community from Thibodaux to New Orleans (and across the country) with her beautiful, colorful works of art in years to come!