Sketchbooks and Connection: Our Q & A with Duluth Artist, SJ Nielsen!

Sketchbooks and Connection: Our Q & A with Duluth Artist, SJ Nielsen!

Jun 13 , 2023


Sara Clifton

It's always a great day when we get to sit down with SJ Nielsen! She's creative, wise, and so inspirational! Grab a cup of tea and enjoy this sweet Q & A with this locally loved watercolor artist!
What inspired your start as an artist? 
It all started with a sketchbook in college. We had to fill a sketchbook over the course of a semester only using permanent materials, and this is where I discovered the world of urban sketching. Everything just kind of happened naturally and slowly over time. I kept sketching, did a "sketch every day for a year" project, and slowly my business started to grow.
Where did you begin when you started your
adventure as a small business? 
I had been sketching for a few months when I decided to officially start a business. I first started selling original paintings because I didn't know how to do anything else. Eventually I learned to create prints, and prints turned into stickers, and now it's turned into a whole line of pins, bookmarks, puzzles, and more.
Which art piece has been the
most impactful to create? 
Probably the Duluth Alphabet. It was one of my biggest sellers, and it was also created from a place so near and dear to my heart. We were longing for a child in the middle of creating it, I've had such fond memories coming to visit Duluth as a child, and now that we live here, seeing it hang in our children's room...well, it all just naturally came together into one of my most beloved prints. And seeing how many other people have connected with it makes it that much sweeter.
What excites you most in your life as an artist? 
Urban sketching and connecting with others! I love all aspects of creating, but there's something that remains special about creating in my sketchbook. It never gets old, and it has just been this place of purely creativity and joy, nothing related to the day to day of business. I also like how accessible it is to others, and love getting to chat with people as they ask questions about my sketch.
If you don't mind sharing, what is your favorite adventure quote?
 I honestly don't know if I have one! But one of my favorite quotes in general and one I try to live by is "be who you were meant to be and you will set the world on fire."
Where is your favorite place along the North Shore? 
Oh my, this is tough. We really love Black Beach and Tettegouche. But I also have a special fondness for Artist Point in Grand Marais.
Find a variety of SJ Nielsen's visual art prints, pins, stickers in our shop + at! 
Meet The Maker:
Sam Nielsen is a local watercolor artist. She started her watercolor journey in 2014 when she discovered the world of urban sketching and now often travels with her sketchbook in hand. Most of her work is inspired by Minnesota or her love of travel, and what starts off as a sketch is often turned into prints, stickers, pins, and more. She enjoys capturing the beautiful north shore scenery, the personality of a sassy seagull, intriguing architecture, and of course...pine trees. 
Photo by The Light Between

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