Nicole Pletts with one of her paintings in her Durban studio

In The Studio: Nicole Pletts

Join StateoftheART in conversation with Durban-based artist Nicole Pletts,  as she chats about her latest series of paintings.


What is your creation process and how do you conceptualise your paintings?

My creation process starts in the morning.  Slowly. Everything is designed to create peace. I go to the studio and generally have a few paintings in various stages of completion. Mondays normally start with varnishing artworks. This gets me into the smell and feel of the studio before starting to paint – especially after a weekend.  I don’t think its possible to walk into a studio and just paint. 

My concept is to communicate visually with suggestions rather than trying to describe everything in precise detail.


Describe your work in three words:

Peaceful. Tonal. Relevant.

Eternal Happiness by Nicole Pletts

Eternal Happiness, oil on canvas size 120 x 90cm


Tell us about this body of work we're showing at StateoftheART (September 2023)

The work is mainly figure work, which is a theme which is a constant for me. I keep trying to get a certain feel when I paint the figures and still haven’t got there. It’s a journey. 


Would you say you have a studio philosophy?

Peace and Calm. 


Studio of Nicole Pletts


What work took you the longest to complete?

Portraits for me always take the longest. I prefer to paint the general ‘feel’ of a person or figure.  Detail in portraits is difficult as the smallest stroke changes the whole portrait. I learned that whilst painting my identical twins. One stroke anywhere on the face made the one twin look like the other. It was weird. I’m also quite impatient so don’t like to spend endless time on one piece. 

A painting of a figure surrounded by birdsAttitude With Birds, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm


What’s the first thing you do when you begin to formulate an idea for a piece?

I always start with visuals and photographs. I photograph everything all the time. So I have a million ideas for endless artworks. I think I’d have to live five lifetimes to complete them all. Sometimes the images stay in my file for years and all of a sudden something will strike a cord and I’ll spend a day looking for a specific photo filed over 10-20 years ago.  But I know exactly the image I’m looking for.


Are there specific colors that you like to use in your work or that you consider signature/favorites?

I use mainly burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and white. I throw in some green or cerulean blue quite a bit. Yellow ochre occasionally. The other colours are there for show but sometimes I need to lift an artwork, so will dab my brush in a colour.

Nicole's paint brushes and paints


Is there a medium you want to explore, but haven’t yet? (and why?)

So many mediums I want to return to, not necessarily begin to explore. I want to go back to watercolours and works on paper.  One day…  I’m not opposed to exploring new mediums and have tried acrylics, inks, etc. but have found over time that oil paints and watercolours excite me most.


Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what? And/or what have you been listening to lately?

I listen to the radio because painting is quite isolating so to hear the DJ’s talking in the background is comforting – and doesn’t require communication from me. I also then keep up to date with news, etc. 


Do you have a favorite quote, or a phrase you think about often?

Detail kills atmosphere and atmosphere kills detail


Nicole Pletts painting in studio


What is the arts community like in Durban? Do you spend your time around other creatives?

The art community in Durban has all but collapsed. I try and view all exhibitions at the KZNSA which still are of an excellent quality. Tamasa Gallery has some amazing exhibitions. There was a time when there was something on almost every night of the week. It was exhausting. 

I spend time with other creatives quite often. I also try and get to Cape Town or Jhb to see what is on exhibit there. 


What was the last gallery show you went to?

KZNSA – the Ceramics exhibition. Always a winner.


If you could have a drink with one artist, who would it be?

Probably Alex Kanevsky. He’s one of my favourite living artists.  He sounds quite interesting. 
Strangely a few artists that I’ve admired (who’s work is dynamic and exciting) have the personality of a cup of yoghurt. I would have thought their work would have reflected their personalities?
If I was to be offered a workshop with an artist, I’d chose Sorella, Alice Neel, Sargent, David Hockney,  Christian Hook, Michael Carson. I could go on forever…

So much to learn, so little time!


View more of Nicole's latest available oil paintings for sale here.