Illustrating a Dream 4

Artist Sarah Nicholson reflects on following her artistic passions to Boulder.

Sitting in the bed of her truck, in a canyon in the Northwest, Sarah Nicholson paints the mountains by lantern light as a misty rain falls around her. For company, she has her dog and her paintbrushes, and she manages to completely disconnect from her phone and work obligations while sleeping nights away in her truck before moving onto her next scenic destination. These are the types of trips Nicholson has taken to in the last couple of years, two weeks in seclusion to remove herself from the constant task-list that her freelance artistic career requires of her.

“When I go on those trips … it really gives me space to come back and be excited about what I do,” says Nicholson.

Originally from Louisiana, Nicholson was hopelessly drawn west to the mountains and to the Boulder rock-climbing scene.

“I moved here to climb,” says Nicholson. “Climbing is really important to my creative endeavors because climbing takes me to beautiful places. Into the mountains, into the wilderness, out in the trees, out in the forest, that’s where all of this develops for me,” explains Nicholson. “I just knew that it was more important to me to love the place where I lived and then, secondarily, find work.”

Wasting no time, within three weeks of graduating college Nicholson followed her heart to Boulder, where she steadily built up her freelance business, Petite Press. Having been drawing since the age of three or four, her talent was discovered early on by an elementary art school teacher, and Nicholson found an affinity for the arts that would never leave her.

“Art had always been such an important part of my life,” says Nicholson. “But I didn’t quite understand or realize that I could work as an artist until I started in school and I realized that there were ways to apply art to your career … and that is still developing for me. Every week I feel like I realize a new thing I can do. I can take my passion and apply it to making a living as well.”

Now a busy 28-year-old artist, Nicholson’s abilities range from illustration and painting to graphic design and letterpress. She even uses a 1,000-pound cast-iron letterpress from the early 1900s to create custom designs with a truly vintage feel.

As one of the highlights of her professional career, Nicholson lights up as she recalls a life-changing opportunity with the Boulder Creative Collective.

“I had put over 50 hours of work into this mural, I didn’t know how it was going to be received … no one knew who I was, and so I got to really see people’s reactions to it,” says Nicholson. “Putting your art out into the world at times can feel selfish; I feel insecure about it at times. Having that experience where so many people were positive and kind and genuinely happy for me even though they didn’t know me until that moment—it felt amazing.”

Nicholson stands out as one of the lucky few to not only have found her passion in life but to have turned that joy into a fulfilling, life-long career.

“It’s a very important outlet for me,” says Nicholson of art. “It is therapy and meditative. When I am having a strong emotion, it feels really good to draw something, and it really allows me to release something that I don’t know how else I would be able to release it. I tell people all the item I’m incredibly, incredibly grateful to have a passion like this because I think it’s something I can do for a very long time.”

Petite Press | @petite.press