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Artist empowered by pencils, paper

By: Marci Seither, Colfax Record Correspondent
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While many people see scraps of paper as something that should be recycled, Nikki Wade sees it as a canvas. “I was sitting in the pew right behind Nikki and watched her doodle something on the back of the church bulletin,” said Leslie Schwartz of Alta. “It wasn’t just random circles, it was a fully detailed landscape. I leaned over and asked her ‘Did you just draw that?’ Then I asked if she would be interested in displaying some of her framed work in the annual Colfax garden tour.” Wade, who helps her husband Jeff Spoor run their family owned heating and air conditioning business, was one of 13 other local artists to be featured last August. Included in her display was an African lion she had started drawing shortly after their move to Meadow Vista in 1991. “I had the eye and an ear done but then tucked it away,” said Wade, who graduated from Cal State Fullerton with her art degree 25 years ago. “I put my art aside after we had our two kids, but now that they are both in Colfax High School I am considering going back and getting a master’s degree. Hopefully I can turn my passion into a career.” Picking up where she left off took commitment and when the timing was right, Wade was ready to dust off her pencils and get back to drawing. “I met my son’s drafting teacher, Steve Coverston, at a back to school night,” recalled the left-handed artist. “A few months later I received a Placer Adult School booklet in the mail and saw that Coverston was teaching a beginning art class. I signed up and filled a sketch book with the exercises.” Wade said that Coverston would often walk around the room while students worked on assignments and ask “Why are you in here?” “But, I didn’t know if I would remember everything,” Wade said. “Basically, I went back to the basics and took as many classes as I could on perspective and landscape. I wanted to make sure I understood the rules so I could break them.” Coverston helped Wade to not only brush up on her skills, but to accept her own style as well. “I am a very detailed person. I can’t do the free flowing lines,” she said. “I love to draw animals because of all the detail involved. The key to getting a great drawing is to start with a great picture.” Wade’s artistic talent was obvious from the time she could hold a colored pencil. “My mom still has a drawing of a giraffe I did in kindergarten,” recounted Wade. “The teacher was so excited because my picture really looked like a giraffe. It was very detailed and not what a 5 year old would normally produce.” Wade credits her mother for helping to encourage her talent at a young age. “We lived in Anaheim, surrounded by Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm,” she said. “It was so visually stimulating. Not just the park itself, but the illustrations and figurines displayed in the store windows. There would be sketches of whatever movie they were working on. I was captivated by it.” Another memory that stands for Wade is the annual Halloween Parade. “Downtown Anaheim looked a lot like Old Town Auburn when I was a kid,” Wade recalled. “My mom would make our costumes by hand and sign us up to decorate a shop window. She would draw something and have me help color it in. My mom also signed me up for art classes in summer and after school. It was hard because back then art classes consisted of clay and paper mache. It was torture. I hated doing three-dimensional crafts. I just liked to draw and will often spend 40 to 60 hours to complete an illustration. “There are so many things I need to learn still,” stated the busy mom. “I graduated before graphic design became an option. Pixar and larger companies are producing art that is phenomenal. Plus, now with the Internet there are a lot of options to help market your art.” But, there is something to be said for retaining the ability to create art pieces by hand. “Some of my pieces can’t be replicated by a computer. The intensity, personality and expression of computer generated art is not the same as an original piece of art,” said Wade. “I think the difference is that an artist always put a piece of themselves in their work.”