Changing the Rules

Episode 65: Creating Beauty and Decay in Every Piece, Nicole Gordon, guest

Episode Summary

Nicole gives us a glimpse into the colorful pieces of art she creates. She discusses how she utilizes her time to be productive. Taking the time needed to create just for herself and knowing that it's ok. She is passionate about continuing her art along with being a mother. She has been featured in galleries from coast to coast. Her work looks at the world with all the good and the bad, and brings a whimsical beauty, with use of the vibrant colors. She is "Changing the Rules" one masterpiece at a time.

Episode Notes

Guest Co-host Rebecca Hoffman:

Rebecca's Website:

Podcast Guest:  Nicole Gordon:

Nicole's Website:



Kris Parsons  0:03  

Welcome to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do it too. Join us with your lively host Ray Loewe, better known as the luckiest guy in the world.

Ray Loewe  0:18  

Good morning, everybody. And we're here in our podcast studios, Wildfire podcast, and Woodbury, New Jersey. And we're here with our engineer Taylor. And just a quick word about Wildfire. You know, they have made this whole thing possible for us. We started this thing over a year ago, we had no idea how to do a podcast, we still don't know how to do a podcast. But Taylor runs everything for us. And it all works. So we're here with two interesting topics that I want to bring up before we get to our main guest, the name of our show is "Changing the Rules." And that's largely because we're all fed a body of rules throughout our life. And those rules are kind of forced us to conform in a certain way. And over time, some of those rules become not so relevant to us. And our point is that we need to grasp those rules that we want to adapt as ours. And only when you choose your own rules, do you become free to be you and to become one of the luckiest people in the world. And remember, the luckiest people in the world are those people who design their own lives, and then live them. And we're here today with a couple of the luckiest people in the world. And we're here to bring a message to more of the luckiest people in the world. So Rebecca Hoffman is going to be our co-host this month. And I'm excited about this for several reasons. First of all, Rebecca is, adding a new dimension to the guests that we're interviewing, because she's bringing on a lot of people that she knows that are lucky in different ways than traditionally we've, we've talked to people about. And so Rebecca is the leader, I guess it's the leader, CEO, manager,

Rebecca Hoffman  2:15  

right, Chairman,

Ray Loewe  2:16  

The head egg of good egg concepts. And again, I have to read this again, because I love this definition. Rebecca leads good egg concepts an economical, thoughtful, clever, endlessly curious consulting firm focused on your goals and brand. And she's based in the Chicago area. And she helped me tremendously because she is such a great storyteller. And she's helped me weave stories into my whole marketing campaign and my whole life. So Rebecca, welcome to changing the rules.

Rebecca Hoffman  2:52  

Thank you, Ray, really appreciate it's nice to be here with you and with our guest, Nicole Gordon. Hi. Hi, Nicole. Thank you for joining us today, I want to just say a couple things about you to the listening audience so they know where we're coming from, and then we'll go. Nicole Gordon is an artist living in the Chicago area, but working all over. Your art has been featured in galleries from coast to coast from New York City to Los Angeles, and you've had solo exhibitions, and most recently at the Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington. And I think what probably strikes people the most about your art are the themes, the colors, the textures, and we can talk a little bit about that. But you know, for our listening audience, if people want a peek, go to, and you can kind of see what we're talking about as we go. Thank you for joining us.

Nicole Gordon  3:44  

Thanks for having me. So happy to be doing this.

Rebecca Hoffman  3:48  

Well, you know, you're an artist, and you're living and working in real life. And I think a lot of times people believe artists are like these, like this. It's like a fantasy world, which that's hard to achieve in everyday life. Right.

Nicole Gordon  4:02  

Yeah, I agree. I think that there's sort of this idea that artists sort of live on a whole different plane, and that we live in this other spectrum of our brain. And that, you know, it's all about sort of this creative inspiration and finding inspiration and living in this other place. But, you know, the reality is for myself, and I think a lot of people who would consider themselves pretty productive artists is that there is still this sense of, you know, needing to have a regular schedule, and needing to sort of keep at it every day, all the time. And this idea of sort of the creative spark, you know, it's a little bit more about just sticking with it and kind of working things every day to just like almost like a regular job and the more you work at it sort of the more productivity you have.  

Rebecca Hoffman  5:01  

Your regular job takes you into your studio and in your studio, you create worlds of fantasy. Do you want to talk a little bit about the discipline? Because I mean, we're always interrupted by email, and texts and telephone is ringing. How do you do that?  

Nicole Gordon  5:16  

Well, I have sort of the way that I have, the way that I work has changed dramatically over the years, you know, as I've gotten older as I have a family now that I have to attend to. And of course, with the pandemic, with this really odd scheduling, I've had to really adapt the way that I work to make it work so that I can still be productive. So maybe back in my 20s, when I could be in the studio all day and weekends. I could really spend more time being more sort of off the cuff with the way I work. And I could spend a lot of time working on one thing, where I say after a week, oh, that doesn't work. And I paint right over it because I had all the time in the world to sort of to work on it.  But nowadays, I've really honed my craft so that the studio time, which is very truncated, is more productive. So I do a lot of my sketching digitally now. And I've got a lot of my ideas worked out ahead of time I work very thematically, so I have these concepts that I work with. And I sort of input imagery that I love to these different designs. And by the time I get into the studio, I kind of have things mapped out a lot more thoroughly than I ever used to. And so what that does, yeah, it allows me to be really productive with my time I can go in, and sort of have a couple of hours here and there where I know I'm sort of moving the ball forward.

Ray Loewe  6:51  

You know, just to put this in perspective. Okay, so you're working in your home, but you're also raising two children. Is that correct?  

Nicole Gordon  7:01  

Three, yes, three children. There's a pair of them. They're twins.

Ray Loewe  7:06  

So how old are your kids?

Nicole Gordon  7:09  

I have a 11-year-old twin boys who are in fifth grade. And I have an eight-year-old son who is in second grade.

Ray Loewe  7:17  

So how does one you know I think we have a lot of people who listen to these podcasts who are saying, gee, I wish I could do what these people do? But I'm here at home, I manage a household I've got young kids running around, how do you do this? So what was your path? And how do you manage all of this?

Nicole Gordon  7:40  

I think that there's a couple of things at play here. One is feeling okay about saying I need time, that is just for myself. And it's really coming to terms with my kids are going to be okay, you know, I can make sure that they're fed and that they have their needs addressed. But they also understand that I'm an artist, and I have a job that is very important to me both emotionally and you know, financially, and that I require this time to get my work done. So there's sort of an expectation that's been sort of put on the table from an early age from them that they understand that this is something that I do and it's not really optional. The other thing is that I have really sort of trained myself, and this is a very important thing for me. So it's not something that I'm really willing to put aside. You know, maybe, obviously, in circumstances out of my control, but generally I make it part of my routine. And that might mean, in the last year, my routine isn't working nine to three like it used to be where I at least have these school hours. Now my time working might be you know, 10 to 1130, and then come down and make sure that they have lunch and then again back up at it from one to three. And just finding those moments that even if they're not the same all the time. And even if you have to sort of change the way that you work, just to keep going with it and making sure it is an integral part of your daily life. And it's amazing, you can actually get a lot done even in smaller amounts of time if you just keep doing it every day.

Rebecca Hoffman  9:31  

With focus, and I have to say I've I feel fortunate that I've been able to see your work across all the years that you've been working through a little bit of the work we've done together. And one of the things I observed is your work now does seem informed by this discipline, the subject matter of your art. Not always but often includes what I would just define as like an observer person who is often younger. You don't even necessarily see the face of that person, but the observer is looking at the subject matter of the painting with the person looking at the painting. Could you talk a little bit about the major motifs in your work? I just so the listeners know it's fantastical, but it's also realistic. And themes of the teacups and forest fires and earthquakes and pink flamingos.

Nicole Gordon  10:21  

Yep, I would say a generally a theme that runs through my work is looking at the world. In all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and putting them together all of these disparate ideas and concepts into these narratives that are beautiful, and also haunting. And I, you know, these, these are things that tend to make up human existence that, you know, the yin and the yang, and we can't have beauty without decay. And a lot of it was inspired by sort of watching my children interact with the world. And this idea of finding beauty in the unknown and wanting for my kids to really take these moments to really sit quietly in the world, and not be constantly inundated with electronics and schedules and sports. And in realizing that these fleeting moments, of solitude and quiet, are really the most important thing that we have to fuel, our creativity and our ability to interact with the world creatively. And be thought-provoking humans. So the work is really about these dream-like worlds that we can create, within our own minds, if given that opportunity to be left alone. And these worlds are, again, filled with beauty. But there, it's also frightening, because as anybody might know, sitting alone with your thoughts, isn't always peaches, you know, you kind of have to dig deep. And sometimes that's a really terrifying place to be.

Rebecca Hoffman  12:01  

That's really interesting how you know, so you're a person, you do find beauty in that complexity and the difficulty of understanding what we could kind of broadly define as challenging moments or experiences.  

Nicole Godon

Oh, I find I love beauty in sort of those more difficult moments, I think that that's what I really look for is, and I use a lot of graffiti in my work. And I love this sort of really rough imagery, where there's layers, and layers, and layers of art. I considered very beautiful artwork, even things were that most people wouldn't find really beautiful. But this idea that you know, history is sort of layering on top of each other, and really finding beauty in things that are decaying and things that aren't meant to be beautiful. And I use a lot of imagery of amusement parks that are in various states of decay. And I use the amusement park imagery as something that conceptually stands for something that can be both thrilling and terrifying. At the same time or two different people, one person might look at and say this is like the greatest thing of my life. And somebody might say, you know, I wouldn't go near that with a 10-foot pole. So I like these images that mean different things to different people.  Because pandemic years have been periods of time of great creativity for people who had that within their soul. They say that Shakespeare wrote, you know, right through a pandemic, and it was a great time for focus. Do you find your work shifting at all during this pandemic experience that we're collectively having? Or do you feel like it's just providing you with more time to work on what you were already working on? Or is it informing your work in some way?

Nicole Gordon  13:58  

Oh, it's definitely informing my work. The work that I've done in the past year has been fairly directly related to what's been happening in this shutdown. And interestingly, of course, my work leading up to this has been about solitude and finding beauty in being alone. So in some funny ways, there has already been a connection to it, because of course, this is something that we've all been forced to do. And so the work is sort of a continuation on that, of finding sort of the ability to be alone and creating worlds for ourselves that are meaningful, while the world outside repairs itself. And so that's really what this new work is about is sort of like. Alright, we're all here together, alone, in our own little pods. And outside the world is trying to figure out you know, how to repair so how are we going to create beauty for ourselves in a world that's kind of, um, you know, it's not falling apart.  It's working on itself. You know, that's what?  

Ray Loewe  15:11  

No, go ahead Nicole finish your train of thought.

Nicole Gordon  15:13  

I was just gonna say that's what a lot of this newer work and newer imagery has really been about for me.

Ray Loewe  15:19  

You know, it's interesting to me because I consider myself an art Luddite. Okay, you know, I have no artistic background whatsoever. And, being able to talk to an artist and find out why they're creating and what their thinking is, as they create. And I think I told you the story, when we had our prep interview that I've been to most of the major museums in the world.  And I've come out of them and felt, you know, I didn't get it. And I think a lot of it is these five things. I mean, you'll like it or you don't, you know why you like it, you understand what the artist has in mind. And you understand how difficult the media is that you're working with. And, I guess there's a fifth one, I guess you can go to a famous art school and become an expert, and then you get to tell everybody what's important and what's not, right.  

Rebecca Hoffman  16:13  

But ultimately, it's what you express, that's what your viewer is moved by, or not moved by it.  But I think, you know, good art is emotional and it moves you. You may not even understand it, but you're compelled to look right.

Ray Loewe  16:30  

And that's what I'm finding and I'm it's gonna be interesting to go back and relook at some of your paintings. Having had this interview with you where I've got some insight into what you were thinking and what drives your thinking here.  

Nicole Gordon  16:48  

Yeah, I always think that that's an interesting thing. I tend to, you know, there's I love talking about my work and telling people sort of what was going on in my head. But equally, I love hearing what people have to say about it without having any being fed any information for me. Because I'm always amazed at things that people get out of it that are clearly a representation of what their personal story is. And I think when you're looking at art, and when you're interacting with art, so much of it, because you know, the artist isn't sitting there 99% of the time. I'm telling you, this is what you should be looking for. So really what it becomes, is a conversation between the viewer and their personal experiences that have shaped them. And how those experiences that have shaped them, make them reflect on the work. And I think because my work is so narrative, and it has a lot going on, there are a lot of different things that people can resonate with, that may resonate with them in completely different ways than maybe my initial intention. And I love hearing about those things as well, because they're is equally as important, if not more so because at the end of the day, it's really about that interaction more than my intention.

Ray Loewe  18:06  

Okay, so real quickly, I saw one of your paintings when I was going through your website, and it's a painting of a giant panda sitting in a sea of I think sunflowers.

Nicole Gordon  18:17  


Ray Loewe  18:18  

Now I have a panda project that I've been working on in China, where we're working with a group of people to release baby pandas in the wild. That thing hit me right away.  

Nicole Gordon  18:28  

Ah, I love that. And then I didn't know that exactly, this is exactly what we're talking about. So that hit you in a way, because of your personal experience, that you can relate to that piece in a way much differently than anybody else.  

Ray Loewe  18:41  

And the color that you put in there. You know, I just got a kick out of the color the content and there's a certain amount of wimzie in there it it put a big smile on my face and made me feel good. How's that? Oh,

Nicole Gordon  18:56  

I like that. That's great. And that's, you know, I hope people do feel good when they're looking at my work. I think I tried to have wimzie, I tried to have beauty. And I tried to have a little bit of darkness, just to kind of make you think oh well makes it'll sort of make you stick with the work a little bit longer. And help you make you digested it a little bit.

Ray Loewe  19:17  

As you go through this journey that you're on, you know. You are obviously an artist early in your life and you know, created or gave a lot of time to your artwork, and then children came into play, and you still have young children. So you're stuck with that for a while. And that's going to have an influence on you. And you're well known now, and you get people who commissioned art from you, and then you do some of your stuff freelance too. Where are you going? You know what's the when this is all done. What's the impression that you want to leave to let everybody know that Nicole Gordon was here?  

Nicole Gordon  20:00  

You know I have to tell you that I tend to not think that broadly about that. You know, I don't think like, Oh, I want these paintings hanging around, you know, 100 years after I'm gone for my legacy. I would say that first and foremost, I create out of an absolute obsession and need to create. And that is, first and foremost for myself. And I. But that being said, part of being an artist, I think, in general, is also sharing that art with the world. So you can go, you know, I could sit in the studio and create, but I don't think that that in and of itself is a fulfillment. I think part of what takes it full circle is being able to take this work out of my studio and put it into the world for people to interact with and enjoy. And that has always been hugely important to me. And being able to have these exhibitions and pushing the work.  I'm never satisfied to kind of keep with the same thing too long. So I think for me, to have a long distinguished career means constantly moving my work into a new place into someplace that I may not have envisioned years before. And I'm continuing to sort of move off the canvas. And I've started to create these 3d based installation works, which initially, were very outside of my comfort zone. And I think in order to kind of keep relevant, and to keep making interesting work, you have to continually push yourself outside of your comfort zone. And move into different material usage and in different concepts in order to find new meaning with the work and why I'm making it.

Rebecca Hoffman  21:59  

That's very interesting because the major theme of this podcast is changing the rules. And we may have some listeners who are sitting at home thinking. I am not a creative person, I could never do what Nicole is doing. But I think creativity is a little bit like a muscle that either you use it or you don't use it or to varying degrees. Everybody has it. What would you say to people sitting at home who are thinking, gosh, I wish I could be like Nicole, I wish I could paint, I wish I could make things I wish I could express my unconscious experience of this world. However, that may be what would you say to people who would love to take a chance, but don't know how?

Nicole Gordon  22:36  

Well and this is exactly what I tell a lot of students as well. And I think that there is a lot of fear that keeps people from doing anything because people are so afraid of, let's say in artists making work and not having it be the best thing they've ever made. Or putting things out there and having it rejected. And the fact of the matter is, what I tell people is I said just make something every day, just put a little, you know, pencil to the paper, whatever material you want. And not everything you do has to be the best thing you've ever made. In fact, you know, as you said, it's a muscle and you just have to keep flexing it, and the more you do it, the more confident that you become. And that's kind of then where the wheels start moving in your head. And you might be able to start saying, Well if it weren't for this first mark I made, I wouldn't have thought, Oh, this might take me someplace else. And I think that you constantly have to just kind of keep working in order to find where that next thing may take you. And if you don't ever start, you're never going to know where to go.

Ray Loewe  23:47  

I think that it's about taking a chance. Yeah, I think that's great advice. And I think you've demonstrated why you're one of the luckiest people in the world. You've carved out your career. You make time for it, it's important to you and you just keep moving. And Rebecca, we are near the end of our time, unfortunately, do you have any summing comments that you want to make?

Rebecca Hoffman  24:09  

Well, it just all goes too fast. We could talk all day about the art. Thank you, Nicole, for being with us today and talking with us about your work a little bit.

Nicole Gordon  24:20  

No. It was my pleasure. Thank you for the insightful commentary.

Ray Loewe  24:23  

Do you have any closing comments, you want to make anything that's important that you want to say?

Nicole Gordon  24:30  

Yeah, I think that we hit on a lot of the big important things and I got to say a lot about how I feel about it. But I think that to close it out what I do think for people, the most important thing is, is to just sort of step outside of your comfort zone and just try something new because you never know where that might lead. And that's kind of what I continually do. And I think that's the most important thing for myself and for others who want to sort of kickstart any kind of creative career?

Ray Loewe  25:04  

So thanks, Nicole, for showing us how to break the rules and change the rules. You did good. Okay. And we're gonna close out this podcast and Rebecca Hoffman will be with me as guest host again in another week, and we have a couple more incredible guests. And they're all well, nobody's as interesting as Nicole, but they're up there. How's that? Okay. So, thanks for being yeah, thanks for being with us on changing the rules. And we'll see you again in a week.

Nicole Gordon  25:37  

Good. Thanks so much.

Kris Parsons  25:41  

Thank you for listening to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do that too. Join us with your lively host of Ray Loewe, better known as the Luckiest Guy in the World.