WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH MAGAZINE
VOLUME 5 • ISSUE SEVEN JULY 2004

THE SECRET BEACH ARTIST

by Rich Ristow
Photography by Allison Breiner

Sitting on the beach, Nicole White Kennedy often pretends to read, but in reality, she is not paging through a best seller or even thumbing through a magazine. She's actually drawing or painting her surroundings, an act she hopes to keep secret from others around her. Her mission is to paint life as it occurs by capturing people in their natural state, something that would be destroyed if they became aware of the artist and actively posed. They would become more self-conscience.

Kennedy states in a press release, "better than drawing beach people, from sunbathers to boogie boarders, all half-naked striking natural poses while sunbathing, reading, drying off, playing in the waves. On the beach, people by default, let their inhibitions down, the poses are more natural than anything a model can create in a studio. The other thing is I always paint incognito, often getting busted by young children fascinated with the process. Teenager and adults tend to be lost in their own little worlds, which works well for me!"

Kennedy has painted Wrightsville Beach so often, it has led to a series or acrylics, watercolors and pen and ink works hanging in both New Elements Gallery in downtown Wilmington, as well as her own establishment, Nicole's Studio & Art Gallery, in Raleigh.

Kennedy hasn't ventured to Wrightsville Beach just to paint. She and her husband have an antique, 1929-era boat docked at the Seapath Marina, and she describes the vessel as a "floating condo." The genesis of this series stemmed from being bored on the beach a little too many times, and she thought Wrightsville Beach would be a great place to practice and hone her skills. Yet, the resulting work has not been a mere series of unusable exercises.

She started off with traditional watercolors, where the resulting picture depicted the beach in soft, natural colors; that, however, slowly evolved and progressed into something completely different. Then, the art took on more expressionist overtones, moving to beach scenes a little more, and four pictures of beachgoers sitting in chairs became pivotal in Kennedy's innovation and experimentation.

She used rice paper as a medium, and used bolder, but more minimal sense of color. Two of these works show a person in a chair, but not in the greater coastal landscape; also, dark red surrounds parts of them - almost like an aura, but not quite. Kennedy began to subtly mix her media a little, mixing ink drawing with what could be described as water coloring effects. Her thoughts focused on pairing water media with subject matter linked directly to water itself, yet that didn't stop Kennedy from using a brush and acrylics too.

All of this is part of a calculated shift. Kennedy has built her creative reputation with oil-on-canvas Italian scenes. Her husband, Parker Kennedy, owns Caffé Luna, a Raleigh restaurant known for Italian cuisine and Tuscan styling. Most years, the two have traveled to Italy, where she has tried to capture continental European city vibrancy. Many of these works have been sold into private collections, but others hang on Caffé Luna walls.


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NICOLE'S STUDIO HOME PAGE





Three Dog Day Afternoon
acrylic on paperacrylic on paper
Framed 18 x 24



Olive & Fair Skinned
18 x 24 acrylic on clayboard


Dude
acrylic on paper


Adrift
acrylic on canvas
24x 24