One day while trawling through Facebook, as one does to pass time, even when you don’t have time to pass, I stumbled on an artist, Nicola Stoffberg. I was hooked! Nicola has a way of capturing a woman’s spirit in her portraits. I love the colours she uses, and how every woman she paints has her own character and story. What makes this special artist tick? I was intrigued by the woman behind the gorgeous women.
Nicola Stoffberg – “food came just as naturally to me as doodling faces on paper”
I asked Nicola to give me a little background on herself and her life, and was amazed to find what a full, and busy life she leads. How this single mom of one, still manages to find time to paint her beautiful ladies surprises me. This is what she had to say:
“My “day” job is that of banqueting Chef at a function venue outside Durbanville. My mother had a tiny restaurant and a real “plattelandse tuisnywerheid”. Growing up I helped her a lot in and around the kitchen, So food came just as naturally to me as doodling faces on paper. I only had art, at school and learned to think outside the box. My teacher Anna van der Linde gave us a lot of freedom in her class and I never felt that I had to work a certain way. I see myself as a Naïve artist now. “
Choosing between Food and Art
“I had to choose between food and art when I was in Matric and decided, because you can always make a living when you can cook, that I could always be a weekend painter. Not really realising that as chef you work pretty much every weekend . So, my art was put on a back burner. I continued painting though. Pieces for my family maybe once or twice a year but not nearly in the same scale as now. I started painting more regularly in January 2017, and started a Facebook page to showcase and advertise my work.”
“I paint mostly ladies with flowers and birds, each one has their own personality and essence about them. Some are quirky, some look mysterious, others naughty and sweet, when I start I have no idea how they will end up, that and the excitement or thrill of creation is what keeps me up various late nights with a brush in hand. I just wanted to fill Facebook and social media with pretty pictures, and my goal was to make art available to everyone. Hence my work starts at R150.00 for the smaller canvasses. I hated going into a gallery where I couldn’t even afford an etch that’s the size of a matchbox.”
“I am a single mother of a very handsome 9 year old boy, and live in a very crazy and busy household with my parents, brother and two dogs in the most amazing little town called Philadelphia. I have been a single “parent” since I was 2 months pregnant, and I am so thankful to have amazing parents who helped me raise my son. Working the hours that I do I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. Our house is always full of people and laughter, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
I would love to be a fly on the wall of this home! It sounds like a pressure cooker filled with love, food, noise and creativity!
when I asked her what inspires her art, I found her answer very refreshing.
“I am inspired by my surroundings mostly. I will see a pretty flower in a bouquet at work and think that I should try to paint it, or I might see a hummingbird playing in the garden. Small things. I must say going through Pinterest is a huge inspiration too, not always directly inspiring my art, but learning from other artists works, their techniques and colour combinations. This has taught me to be bolder and trust my gut. There’s so much to learn, and one should never stop. I still want to try oil paints, water paints, playing with clay, linocut…”
“To be honest I joked and said it was my pension plan…”
I asked Nicola why she decided to pursue art as a business, when her life was already so full, being a chef, single mom, etc etc…
“To be honest I joked and said it was my pension plan and to help me pay my debt. As a single parent, I could never keep up with all the financial responsibilities and I could never seem to build that nest egg that I was told I should’ve had by my age already. I was yearning to be more creative and my friend Uro Erichsen (an artist from Parternoster ) woke up the hunger in me to start painting more regularly.
My family and friends always encouraged me to start selling my work. In January 2017, I loaded some paintings on Facebook and they sold quite quickly. My cheffing work got a bit hectic and I decided to only commit to CY market, I applied and the lovely ladies gave me the opportunity to sell my art there. I painted like a crazy woman for a couple of months and it was well worth it, and sold 83 paintings at the market that week, but what was most fantastic was the feedback and the aftermath.”
I love this story, taking a chance, painting up a storm, and then reaping the benefits. When creatives put their minds to something, work hard and have a great support system, like Nicola does, then anything is possible.
Running your own business is full of challenges, and I think even harder when your business isn’t your fulltime job. When do you find the time to find the right products, and service providers when you are working full time? I asked Nicola what challenges she has faced during her juggling act, and What advice would she give anyone else in her position?
“my biggest challenge is finding time and balancing my day job with my art. Also figuring out what courier company to use and how on earth they weigh packages! I am not savvy with things like that. “
“Find a gap and go for it”
“My advice would be to be unique. Find a gap and go for it. I am lucky as I have my own style and there’s not really an artist out there that does what I do. Be yourself and be honest in your work. Also, don’t start off wanting to make huge profits. Be reasonable. People are struggling out there. “
Being a mom, entrepreneur, and creative, I struggle to balance all these aspects, without letting any balls drop. I asked Nicola, how she manages this juggling act, and had a giggle at her response!
“I suck at it. Luckily, I paint at home and my son knows that I am doing it for us. It’s a struggle every day to find enough time to finish my orders. To do homework and spend time with Theo. Then be creative and successful at my work too. Luckily the love in my life works abroad. This makes it a little easier, as I get to focus on only my son most of the time. But when my love is in South Africa it is like a little holiday and we all try to relax and spend time together as much as possible.”
What has been the best part of pursuing your art?
“I think the feedback I have received. Getting a text telling me that my painting made someone’s day. Having to send paintings to places like Dublin and London. Or even South African towns I never knew existed. The fact that those people somehow saw my work and wanted to invest in my art, it’s amazing.”
Nicola says she loves being in control of her own destiny. Although she can never find enough time to do all the things she needs to do in her day. Being a mom, I can sympathize. I think as an entrepreneur and a parent, you are always torn between your kids, and your business. Then chuck a full time job into the mix, how on earth do you squeeze it all in?
How has she managed to sustain her businesses in our current financial situation?
Nicola gave me a very honest answer, saying that her business was her extra income. This helped her survive as a single mom. I think many of us started our businesses as a way to generate extra income. I am so grateful to have a skill that could translate itself into extra dosh when times are tough.
What does the future hold for Nicola?
She says she would like for her paintings to continue captivating people. She would love to find her art hanging in homes around the world. Another dream is to possibly have an exhibition all of her own eventually.
I found Nicola as inspiring as her art. It is damn hard being a mom with a career. To be a single mom, with a career in food, and a second career in art? Well that to me, is a supermom! and not just art, art celebrating the beauty, strength, and enigma that is women.
If you love her pieces as much as I do, please visit her Facebook page, and keep your beady eyes peeled for a website popping up in the near future.