Get to Know Artist Celeste Friesen-Nikkel and Her Unconventional Approach to Painting

The bright colors and fluid lines of Celeste Friesen-Nikkel’s paintings were the first things that caught my eye. Then when I learned that she uses freely flowing paints without brushes or other painting tools, I was especially intrigued. Her pieces are varied and unexpected — ranging from subtle and delicate to bold and intense — but they are connected by their unconventional methods and inspirations from nature.

Rumours! and Seeing Red

“Rumours!” and “Seeing Red” by Celeste Friesen-Nikkel

Celeste Nikkel will be presenting her work in a solo exhibit throughout April, with a reception on Sunday, April 3, 2016.

Exhibit: Shadows of Another World
Dates: March 23 – May 1, 2016
Location: Unitarian Universalist Church, 1625 Wiehle Ave, Reston, 20190
Events: Opening “Meet the Artist” Sunday April 3, 12:00-2:00pm

Celeste Friesen-Nikkel with her work, Rumours of Another World

Painter Celeste Friesen-Nikkel with her work, “Rumours of Another World”

We spoke with Celeste about her artwork and exhibit:

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, and have lived in various places in Canada and the USA, with Reston being the longest stint. I had careers in teaching piano, and human resources management in both business and government, from which I retired a few years ago. My husband and I now live in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Canada, and spend some of the winter months in Virginia and further south.

How did you get involved in painting?

Since my father was an artist, and my mother also highly creative, my childhood years were filled with my father’s painting, and my mother’s many crafts and decorating projects that filled our home. Along with my music degree, I hold an M.A. from Marymount University, Va. which included art and history studies. Over the years, I have enjoyed art studies with teachers here in Virginia and also in Nova Scotia. However, I did not do any painting until some time after I retired, when I was needed to get away from the mundane, “to-do” lists and engage in some fun, creative activity. After exploring watercolors, I switched to acrylics and found my medium! Soon the new hobby/interest took over my life, and became an avocation.

How would you describe the style of your artwork?

I have several “styles” which I pursue, since I like the variety of switching back and forth, and also love different approaches in paintings. My work ranges from expressionist to abstract and mixed media. I love to experiment and improvise by mixing paints, media, and a totally unplanned, surprise ingredient! My favorite “weapon of choice” is large palette knives, with which I can push a lot of paint around for texture and drama.

The primary influence for my works is what I see around me, especially the colors, patterns and light in nature, and how they change through the seasons.

Is there anything you are trying to communicate to your audience through your art?

I much prefer my works to speak to the viewer, but I do hope that they convey messages including beauty, serenity, and tranquility — perhaps a visual escape to another world (hence the title of my show). I always want my paintings to be uplifting and engage the imagination of the viewers.

Please tell us about your upcoming exhibit.

This show presents many of my abstract, poured works. They are created by fluid paints and media allowed to mix freely on the support without any brushes, or other painting tools. Hands free… almost! This technique is certainly unpredictable, and risky because the mixing may or may not be anything presentable. However, many layers and much patience goes into the works until the desired effects are achieved. Allowing the paints and mediums to move on their own however, produces superb and unexpected colors, patterns and textures which cannot be achieved any other way. Some works are bold and dramatic, such as “Thundershowers” or “Highland Fling,” while others are very delicate and transparent, such as “Shadows of Another World” or “Rumours.”

I see that you sell your artwork on your website. Is there anywhere else people can see your work?

My work is currently available from my studio here in Virginia, at the exhibit, or online. Emailing me is best way to contact me. In Cape Breton my work is carried by several galleries, Colouratura, Salty Roses, and the Markland Resort — so you will have to take the trip up! Guaranteed to be worth it!

We asked Celeste to show us a few of her favorite pieces, and explain in her own words why they are meaningful to her.

Shadows of Another World

“Shadows of Another World” by Celeste Friesen-Nikkel

Certainly “Shadows of Another World” is a favorite. It takes me out of the cares and worries of the present into a special space, a better place, if you will. It was also very difficult to do so I am always pleased that it turned out as it did!

I Love Daisies, by Celeste Nikkel

“I Love Daisies” by Celeste Friesen-Nikkel

“I Love Daisies” makes me smile, and reflects my love of this happy, brilliant flower that grows freely in my gardens. It was painted very quickly with lots of paint on the palette knife.

Low, Low Tide

“Low, Low Tide” by Celeste Friesen-Nikkel

“Low, Low, Tide” evokes, for me, the wonderful tidal marshes in the Low Country of SC where we spend part of the winter. Subtle, gentle and almost mystical salt marshes where one can imagine all sorts of things, and which I hope this work also does to the viewer.


“Thundershowers” by Celeste Friesen-Nikkel

“Thundershowers” is a very dramatic and layered mix of oil, acrylic and various media, which I love for its abstract depiction of thunderheads and the storm erupting. The painting seemed to erupt into being, first a slow start pouring many layers, then suddenly took shape and boom! There it was!

Many thanks to Celeste for this insight into her work! You can catch her exhibit, “Shadows from Another World,” through May 1, 2016 at Unitarian Universalist Church, 1625 Wiehle Ave, Reston. 

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