She’s a Muralist, Installation Artist, and Founder of Mural Mates — introducing, Nicole Poppell! We admire Nicole’s knack for converting her natural influences into bold, playful works of art.
Take a moment to see the world through the eyes of this curious creative…
All Photos by Christian Poppell (@smovlov)
How has learning about the environment impacted your actions?
I’m not sure how you could remain the same when learning about our incredible earth and the ways it’s changing. We’re not perfect, but we’re continually learning and practicing ways to protect our earth. It could be little things like composting and using reusable bags, to changing our shopping habits or taking care of the trails we’re on.
What can concerned athletes, scientists, artists, or creatives do in the face of global challenges?
No matter what your skill set is, I believe you can always use your platform to speak about things you care about. In the art + creative realms, what better way than to visualize global challenges in a unique, educational and thought-provoking way?
Can you tell us a bit about your passions beyond “work”?
I’ve been fortunate enough to blend some of my passions with my work as a muralist; however, outside of creating art, I love exploring the outdoors, learning new crafts, and giving back to the community.
In my free time, my husband and I climb/boulder and cycle a lot. Camping trips are always a must, and I experiment with new art techniques when we’re home. My desire to learn never seems to go away, so I tend to take classes at local community colleges or online.
Do you find that these passions blend, merge, or complement your work?
Absolutely. I grew up creating art, so it’s been so fun transforming my career as a designer and artist with now starting my own mural painting company, Mural Mates.
A lot of my artwork is inspired by observations in nature, so whenever we go exploring the outdoors, I’m soaking in color palettes, shapes, shadows, and forms found around us.
As for taking classes, that’s also a wonderful way to complement the work that I do. Whether I’m taking ceramics, welding, or hand-lettering, they are all contributing to my wealth of knowledge that helps in my work as an artist and muralist.
How do you give back to your community or to the underserved?
It’s changed throughout the years depending on where I’m at in life. Through high school, I volunteered at the Phoenix Children's Hospital, and in college, I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club down the street from my house.
Once I moved to the Bay Area, I made more of an effort to get to know the unhoused community that lived in the outskirts of downtown by cooking meals once a week and eating a meal together in their shelters. I’m not sure how much impact it had but getting to know people by name, and getting to know their stories helps me gain perspective and appreciation for all people. I sometimes feel helpless in making a difference, but I do what I can with the resources that I have and hope that some light comes out of it.
What are your materials, and how do you think about them?
I work mainly with acrylic/latex paints for my murals unless it’s a custom installation art piece which uses all sorts of materials such as a string, electronic parts, and found objects. You can see some examples of my commercial work on www.nnuzzo.com
I’d love to incorporate more found objects, and things that would otherwise go to landfill, into my work. My husband knows… I keep too many things, whoops. I know there’s a way to reuse them into art, but I just need to give myself more dedicated time to create. Running a business is no joke - even as an artist.
Is there a specific moment in life or a series of events that instilled in you a passion for your craft or passions?
No specific moment but rather a collection of experiences. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to start a company or work for myself. I never knew what that would look like, but I followed my passions step by step.
I’ve always been drawn to art but went to school for design. Studying graphic design and interior architecture helped me think creatively and come up with solutions to everyday problems. These both have contributed to the way I work, run my business and help my clients every day.
Starting my own mural painting company has been a dream come true in both pursuing my love for business and for the arts. I know it’s not the end for me, but it’s a part of the journey of learning about what I love and what I’m good at and that’s super exciting to me.
At the end of the day, why do you do your craft? Are there goals ahead, a constant love for the process, or a yearning to learn more?
I create art because I believe our souls need it. Coming from an Interior Architecture background, I learned that the built environment alone will not satisfy. We desire personalization, whether it be ornament or a lack thereof.
I’ve seen my large-scale art installations and murals completely transform a space, create conversation between strangers, and spark a curiosity in kids. To me, it’s a necessity.
I know my craft (or medium) will change throughout my years, but my desire to learn and to create will never go away. I do have some big goals for our creative community, but I just focus on the things that I can do today, and the rest will fall into place.
Do you have any “heroes’’ to speak of? How are you inspired?
No real heroes, but I’ve always admired the work and thought process of Charles and Ray Eames, Stefan Sagmeister, Ai Wei Wei, Barbara Kruger, Jame Turrell, and many more.
A key ingredient to building a sustainable future?
I’m definitely not the most qualified person to ask, but in my opinion, we should go back to living within the means of our own local communities when possible (aka shop/live locally). I think that would make a huge impact. When in doubt, reduce, reuse, recycle. :) I do actually have a lot of thoughts on this but summarizing it without enraging the internet is quite a feat.
Favorite artist currently?
Currently obsessed with Eva LeWitt, Evelina Kroon, One Keen, and Lydia Hardwick. Honestly too many to name.
Shout out to my fav artist pals who I greatly admire: Jocelyn Tsaih, J.P. McNickolas, BIP Apollo, Katie Benn, and Kevin Mack.
What do you do when you get out and away from the office/studio?
When we lived in Berkeley, we would explore the Berkeley Hills on our Tandem bike. Our favorite ride in the east bay starts at the Nimitz trail and continues north through beautiful grassy hills, where you’re transported into the countryside surrounded by wild animals and vast blue skies.
Now that we are in Arizona, we are excited to explore all the beautiful landscape here in Phoenix and around the state. We also have the ambitious goal to eventually ride the Arizona trail on our tandem.