Graduation Day! BFA

Northern Illinois University School of Art
At 46 years old, I ended my last day as an undergraduate in December, 2013. I lingered in the room until one by one all my classmates walked through the doorway to start a new adventure. I didn't want to leave. I stayed there trying to capture the memory of the room, the feeling, the scents and sounds.

I had left university back in 1987-88 school year. Money was in short supply and although I was in my senior year and loved school, I just couldn't make it happen. I always wanted to go back, but never seriously thought that would happen. Life flowed away from that dream and time was spent on other priorities. That is until I started living on my own two years ago.

I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I needed it to prove to myself that I was worthwhile and able and that my artwork was up to snuff.

It took only 3 semesters to complete my Bachelor of Fine Art (B.F.A) in 2-D Design, Illustration track. During that year and a half, there were many situations which tried to pull me away from the goal of graduation, yet I kept as strong as I could and am proud of the artwork which was accomplished during my time at NIU. I received straight A's to boot!

During that same time, I continued my freelance business, worked (as close to) full-time at my position as a Graphic Designer at OC Imageworks, and managing my home life. It was hectic and each area of responsibility suffered, each in turn. My son, family,  co-workers, instructors, and clients were all very flexible and generous with understanding. There definitely times when I felt it was all too much, but I just kept on going.

For my 20-something classmates, today – graduation day – is a new beginning. Their whole life will change overnight. For me, however, I'll start Monday morning at work as usual. Life as a student will seem only a reverie. Now my time at Northern Illinois University is over. Just like that a goal was achieved. I have a new goal.

The only difference between today and yesterday is that I'll have that single sheet of paper which no once can take away. With it I have the knowledge, as well as an outward sign, that I can do anything I put my mind to.

What is my new goal?  I hope to continue my freelance business, to grow it and nurture it: to use the talents, experiences and life that God gave me. I want to find his purpose for me and go after it with the same tenacity and gusto.

Erin K. Nolan, B.F.A.


"Buck up, Bucky!"

I am worn down and tired out by the everyday struggles. I imagine a person being pulled down by the weight of smokey wisps that stick like dew and then take hold layer after layer. It isn't a single thing, it is the many troubles all at once for a long, long stretch.

Then I stop myself and try to be mindful of all the good things that happen. I try to practice thankfulness for everything I have been blessed with. There are so many amazing things happening in my life. I have to enjoy the happy moments as they appear.
  1. 1. I have passed my classes and, as of this Sunday, will be a graduate of Northern Illinois University with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. It is taken me a total of 28 years from start to finish. What going back to school has taught me is that I needed self-confidence. My instructors and my classmates have walked with me on this adventure– giving advice, offering suggestions, laughing with me, sharing with me their experiences and their life journey.

  2. Just this week my car's transmission went to pot. It happened right in front of a auto dealership with a repair shop. When I heard the bad news that the repair would cost more than the car was worth, I didn't know how I was going to get through this, but I didn't panic. Everything has a reason and a time and a place. Tonight I drove my "new to me" car off the lot. I hope I did the right thing by making this purchase! Kelly Blue Book tells me that it was. All I know is I have a way to work tomorrow and most likely the next many tomorrows. And for that, I give thanks.
  3.  The snow was so beautiful yesterday and we are supposed to get 3-4 inches overnight. I love the way it lazily floats down from the sky to form diamonds in the moonlight. If only I could collect all the diamonds and keep them sparkling forever – without the bitter cold.
  4. At 46 I went to see a dermatologist and my skin is slowly getting clear. My new personal appearance certainly helps with my self-confidence.!
  5. There are two art shows this week. Both are for the NIU-BFA graduates. It is pretty cool to be able to show with these amazingly talented group. If you have a moment, peruse my classmates' and instructors' websites. If you like their work, let them know!
  • Brittany Sherman
    • Playful images based on current environmental issues
  • Andrew Carlson
    •  Andrew is a Midwestern artist working in digital and traditional media. Aveteran of the United States Marine Corp, his imagery reflects his experience.
  • Stephanie Tunnell
    •  Stephanie's work is narrative with a distinctive mood-driven color palette.
  • Dan Kurnick
    •  Intricate patterns and intense color define Dan's current work.
  • John Carter
    • Atmospheric Sy-fy landscapes and detailed character design are hallmarks of John's work.
  • Erin Nolan
    • Conceptual and editorial artwork based on symbolic color, pattern, and texture.
  • Kim Kline
    • Figurative character design with a whimsically dark nature.
  • Autumn Tahara-eckl
  • Michelle Goans
    •  Michelle uses a glowing, surreal lighting and complementary color palette.
My instructors:

Good night, all, be blessed.


The December 2013 NIU-BFA Show!

Flier created by Erin K. Nolan (hey! that's me! lol)
Reception: Wednesday, December 11th, 6 – 9 pm.
Beverages and food will be served.
Located at NIU's Gallery215 located at 215 N. Fourth Street, DeKalb, IL

If you are in the DeKalb, Illinois area, stop by and say, "hey!" I'd love to see you!


Best of the Bunch

Blue Heron - Intaglio Print ©2013 Erin K. Nolan
Homework done. This is the best of the bunch of printmaking experiments. Graphic Chemical ink was used along with a stencil to keep the colors from mixing too much. I am very pleased with it and want to continue with this medium after graduation.


Intaglio Printmaing Outside the NIU Studio=FAIL

With only one week left of school before finals, I finished up some printmaking homework using a baby press that my brother, Al Stark, and I purchased together earlier this year. The Northern Illinois University print shop was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday break. This was the first time I had the chance to use the baby pressand I was excited to get started. Ta-da! Here is is:
My co-op baby press!

Using this baby press has taught me several things. First, intaglio printing is properly fun only when using a fully-equipped print shop with a full size press and a myriad of inks and modifiers.

Second, water-based inks suck and oil based inks are far more easily cleaned when using toxic and/or noxious chemicals.

Lastly, that I am going to have a fully operational print shop straight away because I love the colors, the level of detail that can be achieved, and the sheer glowing beauty of intaglio or dry etch. If anyone has a press they want to get rid of just email me!! I live in Illinois, so the closer the better!

Now, don't get me wrong. I am a woodblock print artist and enjoy that medium immensely. I love the way the wood feels under the blade. I love how a drawing is transformed by the wood, how the ink soaks into the wood, the natural and organic nature of the woodblock; BUT intaglio does offer so much detail in such a small space. I imagine making a series of postage stamp size pieces just for fun.

Although, my baby press experiments are not stellar by any stretch of the imagination, I know that I just need to get used to new equipment and I'll find my way. I just didn't have time to really explore today. Here are the failed experiments and my findings.

Akua water-based relief ink with tack thickener - Experiment fail. The first experiment involved using some inks I already owned: Akua brand. They were intended for relief printing, but my inexperience led me to think that if I could just thicken the ink enough it would allow ink to get into the valleys of an etched block. Quick answer?  No way, no how.  No matter how thick I could make the Akua color with the tack thickener, the ink remained on the surface of the plate. I'm not sure if you can tell from this phone photo, but the lines of the etch are actually white.
Water-based Charbonnel ink in Sepia - Experiment fail. The Charbonnel ink came in a tube and was much thicker than the previously used Akua inks - which are liquid.  It was not as full-bodied as the Graphic Chemical intaglio ink though. I liked the effect of this relief ink on an etched copper plate, but did not like the unevenness of the print.
Graphic Chemical oil-based intaglio ink - Fail. Ok. I finally used an ink intended for intaglio printmaking. I thought there was no way for this one to fail. I carded on the ink and used the tarlatan confident that THIS print would turn out. Unfortunately for me I do not have enough experience on my equipment to set the pressure correctly. Three strikes and I was out for the day. 

Just to prove that a nice quality print is possible with the baby press, here is my brother's dry-point print. I like how it looks like a graphite drawing.