Artist Interview 2021: Felt painter Nicky Heard

Nicky Heard is a talented mixed media Artist and winner of the Public Vote 2020 with her entry ‘Giraffe’. Within this interview Nicky discusses her background, participation with the Southern Nature Art Exhibition and her craft specialising in felt painting.



Were you always interested in nature?

I’ve always loved anything natural: landscapes, natural forms, animals, birds etc. I was brought up in a rural community and lived on a small holding or farm for much of my early life. My father ‘collected’ animals like others collected records and we had numerous unusual pets from an owl to squirrels as well as more typical animals such as donkeys, goats, chickens etc. My interest and love of all of this stems back to before I can remember.

Where did your love of art begin?

I was always into art and hands on activities. As a youngster I wanted to be a vet but I wasn’t really academic enough. I chose to study as many art-based subjects as I was allowed and did woodwork, metalwork, tech drawing, photography, art, art history and was rarely seen out of the art department in school and college.

How did you come to be a part of the Southern Nature Art Exhibition?

I did a degree in Ceramics and Glass and later a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). I went on to teach art in a local secondary school and later became Head of the Art department. I loved teaching but after 25 years of encouraging others to be creative I decided it was time to focus on my own art practice. I still wanted to teach so I set up classes from my garden studio. At my first class someone told me about the Southern Nature Art exhibition so the following year, 2020, I submitted a couple of pieces of work. It was the first time I had participated in any exhibition with my own work and was humbled by the response I got.

Turkey – Merino Wool and Acrylic on Canvas

Size:  100 cm x 50 cm

Available online for reservation, view Nicky’s Artist Gallery page:

Teaching Art

What is your teaching style?

I have taught every art medium and subject I can think of in my teaching career, I love using and being inspired by different medias. I think I am a very hands on teacher, I love to get stuck in demonstrating and participating in work. I don’t like any sort of pressure to work at a certain speed or conforming to rules. I think art should only be relaxing and fun so I think having a sense of humour and not taking myself too seriously is important.

What do you enjoy about sharing your craft with students?

There are 2 things I love most about teaching. Firstly, I love the pleasure others get in their own work. When they have produced something they are immensely proud of, that makes me truly happy. Secondly I love to learn, I am always trying new things so I like to learn from my students. I encourage others to take what I give them as a starting point and then experiment using their own creativity and imagination to take it as far as they can go.

Are you looking forward to your dry felt painting workshop at SNAE this year?

I am really excited to be participating in the SNAE again this year and am honoured that I have been asked to do a workshop. I usually teach courses over 10 weeks so producing a piece in a day presents all kinds of exciting challenges.

Javan Gibbon – Merino Wool and Ink on Canvas

Size:  100 cm x 120 cm

Available online for reservation, view Nicky’s Artist Gallery page:

Talk us through your artwork

What is it about working with mixed media that you enjoy?

Although I started as a ceramicist I have always wanted to try everything. Teaching made me learn continuously about different medias, subjects and skills. Until recently, textiles was one area I knew very little about then about 2 years ago I saw friend and teaching colleague instructing a student on making a needle felted shape. I thought I’d like to give it a go so bought some basic materials on the internet and went for it. I didn’t do any research or buy any books but just explored what I could do with the materials. That moment was an epiphany for me and within 6 months I had left my job, set up my own business and was making, selling and teaching my new passion.

How do you use different materials to show texture? 

I love experimenting and will try anything with a complete disregard as to whether it is the right way or not. I’ve always looked at media as something to interact with and have always combined them to create interesting effects and contrasting textures. Layering media to see what happens has had real impact in my current work where I use the soft, imprecise texture of wool with the crisp, controllable lines of ink to create a contrast that somehow blends into one.

What references do you use when creating your artwork?

I always work from imagery and spend many hours sourcing copyright free images to work from. I have been very lucky that a couple of very generous photographers have given me permission to use their images to work from. I always get permission and credit the photographer. I have found that most people are really kind and I have only had a few ignore my requests or said no. I also take some photos myself and have spent hours and days in Bird World, various zoos and wildlife parks collecting images and my daughter is a great wildlife photographer so I don’t have problems finding resources.

Can you explain your creative process when beginning a new piece of art? Where do you find inspiration?

I make snap decisions about my subject matter. I might see a photo that I love or be inspired by an environmental programme or event. Once I have decided on a subject I will, more than likely, do a series of related pieces before I become inspired by something else. I have enough ideas to last me forever and I rarely finish a piece before my next one is in the planning.

You were the winner of the public vote 2020. What is it about ‘Giraffe’ that you felt connected with people?

People are drawn to my work because they think they are looking at a painting but as they get close they discover it is made, predominately, from wool. It is the surprise in discovering the media that makes the audience stop and look closer. I love that, why should a painting be produced from a wet medium?

Do you have a favourite piece of work you have completed?

Nearly every piece I do is my favourite at the time until about 3/4 of the way through I start getting interested in my next subject. If I had to choose one piece of work to keep out of every piece I’ve done it would probably be my Sloth because I not only adore sloths but in order to produce it I had to learn about and experiment with a whole range of fibres to create the texture effect that I wanted.

Two-Toed Sloth
2020 Merino wool, various fibres, canvas, acrylic paint. 50cmx100cm.

The Future

How are you expanding your reach as an artist?

With the pandemic preventing a lot of events and opportunities happening for most of my time as a professional artist I have had to adapt my ideas of reaching people face to face and instead I have developed an instagram page, a facebook page, a twitter site and a website. Although not the way I originally intended to reach people, these have allowed me to interact with an audience worldwide. I have featured in an Australian magazine, sold work in the USA, Germany, Netherlands and Australia. I want to continue to use my art to get the environmental message across as widely as possible.

Where would you like to see your artwork in the future?

I never know what I might do next. I see my art as an opportunity to try new things and I am doing things now that I would never have believed possible 2 years ago. I know I love the medium I work in now and I can’t see me changing what I do, however, I will always experiment to see how far I can take it and what I can mix it with. My subject is set in stone. Nature and the environment is a part of who I am. I want to see future generations grow up in the wonderful world I did and I am really keen that through my art I might make a small contribution to helping protect our awesome planet. I give 10% from the sale of my original work to the WWF and do everything in an environmentally friendly way as I can.

‘African Elephant’ by Nicky Heard Merino Wool and Ink on Canvas. Available online for reservation, view Nicky’s Artist Gallery page:


How did you find motivation to work on your artwork during Covid-19? What kept you going?

I only started my artistic adventure in July 2019 and within 6 months the world as we knew it had ground to a halt. I never let this stop me, I look on this difficult time as an opportunity to build my work, explore more ideas and use online to network and get to know what’s going on. Loving what I do, contributing in a small way to the environment has kept me working right through the pandemic.

What advice would you give aspiring artists looking to go professional full time?

My advice to anyone who wants to become a full time artist is to be prepared for knock-backs – it doesn’t ever go to plan, but be positive, open minded, and opportunistic about the way you approach everything.

Winner of the 2020 Public Vote Giraffe – Merino Wool and Ink on Canvas

Size:  100 cm x 50 cm

Available online for reservation, view Nicky’s Artist Gallery page:

Thank you Nicky for sharing within our community!


We hope you enjoyed reading more about Nicky Heard. Come along to the Southern Nature Art Exhibition 2021 at Cams Hill School, Fareham from 27th-30th August to view Nicky’s work amongst many other talented artists on display.


Additional links to view more of Nicky’s work:

Nicky Heard’s Website:




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