Nicole Kelner is a climate activist and the Artist-in-Residence at My Climate Journey, an organization dedicated to powering collective innovation for climate solutions. As their first Artist-in-Residence, Nicole creates bright, colorful, and whimsical watercolor art to communicate complex, systematic challenges in climate to educate and inspire others to fight climate change.
Nicole began painting watercolors about climate change while working full-time at a climate startup. She committed herself to creating one watercolor painting a day for 100 days straight as a personal challenge and a fun side project at the beginning of the new year. This challenge galvanized her to become a climate activist, and she held positions as Chief of Staff at Climate Finance Solutions and Head of Operations at Dashboard.Earth before her role at My Climate Journey.
We talked to her about how she got started, her career journey, how she uses art to communicate her passion, and how Wacom comes into the picture.
“I am beyond thrilled with being a climate artist and activist. It feels like I have come full circle and can integrate all the parts of myself into a career I love.
My background in education, my passion for climate, and my childhood love of art are all a part of my daily routine now. I get to speak and work with brilliant people in the climate space daily from all around the world and am filled with hope that we can bring the solutions we need to tackle the climate crisis.”
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“Before painting about climate, I felt overwhelmed with how I, as an individual, could fit into this giant problem without having a technical background in sustainability. I have found a way to play a role in education and help visualize the future we want to create.”
As the artist at My Climate Journey, Nicole collaborates with climate startups, nonprofits, venture capitalists, and government organizations to communicate climate concepts in a simple and hopeful way.
Nicole currently uses a Wacom One to finalize her hand-painted watercolor pieces. She first paints with watercolors using traditional media, and then pulls her art into Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to add text and final detailing. “My Wacom One has allowed me to handwrite digitally in a much smoother flow and draw my details with a steady hand,” she said.
In her early days, Nicole used an older version of the Wacom Intuos tablet, but has now converted to the Wacom One creative display. “Drawing directly on the screen has been a game-changer. I love seeing what I am creating on my Wacom One while I am creating in Photoshop.
“I use both my iPad and Wacom tablet in tandem. I like using my iPad for mockups and my Wacom One for my final digital paintings. I find that the precision is excellent on my Wacom One. I first create my watercolors by hand, then digitize them and turn them into physical art like t-shirts, totes, onesies, stickers, and more, which I sell on my online merch shop.”
Speaking of merch, Nicole is also the author and illustrator of A Brighter Future: Illustrating Climate Change and Solutions, which will be available in December 2022.
In this beautifully-illustrated book, Nicole communicates dark news with bright colors, creating space for hope in a world filled with fear and eco-anxiety. Her watercolor paintings welcome readers of all ages into a magical world of climate optimism.
Calling All Artists: Collaborate on Climate Action!
Nicole is always looking for other artists to collaborate with and would like to create a collective of climate artists in some capacity. If you would like to get in touch, Nicole encourages you to DM her on Twitter @nicolekelner!
“I was surprised by how incredible the power of Twitter is. I know Instagram is the main medium for artists, but Twitter has so much potential. I had always lurked on Twitter but never posted until this January. My first climate painting that took off on Twitter was about kelp and carbon sequestration – I love ocean-based climate solutions.
In the subsequent 11 months since posting that, I have grown over 10K followers on that platform, and all my clients reach out to me via Twitter DMs. There are some fascinating communities on Twitter, and I feel so grateful to have been welcomed to the climate Twitter world so warmly.”
About the author
Pamela Park is the Influencer and Email Marketing Manager at Wacom.