Meet the Maker: Art by SJ Nielsen

It's Meet the Maker Monday! And we're so excited to introduce you to our next maker in our series: Sam of Art by SJ Nielsen!

Sam is a watercolor artist & urban sketcher, and if you live in Duluth, you've probably seen her beloved stickers sold around town! We LOVE everything this lady creates and are so excited to introduce her.

We got to interview Sam on her story, how it all began and what advice she would give to someone just starting out, and we can't wait to share it with you. Keep reading for our full Q&A!


1. Tell us a little bit about your story! How did you get started?

My passion for watercolor started after a sketchbook project in college. We had to fill a sketchbook throughout the course of the semester, and we could only use permanent materials. This was the beginning of my introduction to the world of urban sketching, and also where I learned I had a passion for using watercolor and ink together. After that class, I had decided I wanted to try a 365 day challenge; I would sketch every day for a year, just to see how much I could improve. Throughout this challenge, I not only saw my skills develop further, but I started to see my art business become something that had more potential than I had ever thought possible.

2. What do you love about the medium you work in?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint what I love about watercolor. I don’t think it's anything specific about the medium itself, but more that it has always felt like home. I know that sounds cheesy, but in college when you’re trying out so many new materials and it seems like everyone around you knows exactly what they are doing it can feel a little overwhelming; especially when everything feels new to you. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my art classes, but when I tried watercolor it was as if my heart shouted, “That’s it! That’s the one!”

3. If you could offer any advice to other creatives who are just starting out, what would you say?

If I could talk to my past self going through college when I was just starting out, I would tell her not to doubt herself so much. I would tell her that things will fall into place in the future that she could never imagine, so don’t worry about having control, don’t worry about others out performing you, just focus on what you can control. You have control over how you show up every day. You have control over your work ethic and mindset. So stay focused on growing, learning, and working towards your goals. Life will lead you the rest of the way.

I think that would be the advice I would give someone starting out; and also to take advantage of the time when ‘no one is watching’.. don’t take that time for granted. It’s easier to fail, experiment, and push yourself when no audience is there to expect something from you. Cherish that time, because once it’s gone, things change. It often changes for the better, but you won’t always have that experimental space in the same way you did at the beginning. Each stage of life has a purpose, and if you’re worrying too much about the future you will be wasting the time to learn what you could be right now.


Follow along with Sam:

Website | Instagram


Photo credit: New Earth Natural Light Photography


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