Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meet Leslie Nicole

As many of you know, I participated in an art festival last weekend and am busy trying to get the studio back together in time for our open studio event this weekend.

Instead of missing another week of blogging, I decided to share a portion of an article by Leslie Nichole that I posted on my Photo Artistry Workshop membership site.

I came across Leslie and her work about a year ago when I found her site French Kiss Textures. I had become very interested in using textures in my work and loved the images she was sharing. We started talking via email and she shared that she had a background in hand coloring and that the way she approached her work with textures was very similar to the steps she took while hand coloring.

She very generously volunteered to share her experience and inspiration and wrote the following guest blog post. Go to her website if you would like more information about her work.

Be sure to check out the photo of her hand coloring table......brought back a lot of memories for me.

Meet Leslie Nicole:

 Leslie Nicole was a professional hand-colorist in San Francisco. She has given demonstrations and workshops for Kodak and has been a guest instructor at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. In addition to her fine art photography, she has hand-colored for other photographers and clients. Her work has appeared in posters, greeting cards, retail stores, magazines, catalogs, and advertising. Today, she is the founder and creative director of French Kiss Textures, a resource for photographers and artists.

Thank you Leslie!

©Leslie Nicole

Back in the days before Photoshop, I was a hand-colorist. Today, I photograph with a DSLR and then manipulate my images with Photoshop filters and textures. This was a natural progression and I often reflect on how the techniques are quite similar.


In the late '80's – early '90's and there was a bit of a "nouvelle vague" for hand-coloring. It was quite popular in art, editorial, post cards, etc. I photographed mostly B&W with a 120 Rolleicord camera, printed (usually) on matte paper and hand-colored with oils, pencils and dyes. I worked at a professional B&W photo lab, so I had easy access to the best darkroom equipment.

hand coloring table in 1990 with an image in progress

The finished image was used for the Fortunes Catalog
© Leslie Nicole

Digital Imaging

Around 1992, when desktop publishing—as it was called then—hit in full force, I was asked to start the digital department in our lab. I knew nothing about computers! This started what would become a long side trip first into digital imaging and then graphic design. I went freelance and then I worked in the design departments for many companies. In 2000, I opened my own design studio. I had all but stopped creating art. It was too hard to find the time to go use a darkroom. I had a decent digital compact camera, but I just used it for snapshots of my dogs and flowers in my garden.

Bringing it together

I always knew I would eventually close the circle from my journey into design and, enriched by the experience, come back to photography. In 2007, I bought a Canon 40D. In 2008, I moved definitively to France. I suddenly had the time and equipment I needed to work again. I started experimenting with how to continue my artistic photography digitally. While I had done some digital hand-coloring for jobs in the past using Photoshop, I thought that it made sense to try out Corel's Painter. I played with that a bit, but when I discovered textures, it clicked.

I had been away from photography for a few years and was totally unaware of the texture movement. After a year of intensely photographing, I wanted to share my images. I joined RedBubble, and soon after, I stumbled onto the work of Jessica Jenney. I was stunned! I had no idea what this artist was doing, but I knew that it was the missing key that linked my style to the digital age. I then started seeing other artist's work that used textures and launched myself into learning all I could about textures. As I already had a strong base in photography, Photoshop, and hand-coloring, I caught on pretty quickly.

©Leslie Nicole

Texture As Paint

My approach to using textures has been pretty much the same as hand-coloring. I use the textures as paint. I don't think I was fully conscious of this until writing this post, but I can see now that taking the next step to creating my own textures was natural. I used to paint my own backgrounds. Sometimes I would literally paint a background, photograph and then hand color it or I regularly photographed against white to paint after. The digital process gives me more freedom to create actual texture. The things I did to create texture in hand-coloring! Once, I let the paint partially dry and then took steel wool to the surface, I sometimes used pumice powder to rub away dried paint. I've even used glitter sticks and Conté crayons. I've glued on old stamps and torn pieces of paper.

In my textures, I'll photograph actual paintings or create new textures from photographing patinaed walls and metal gates, or scanning old documents and books gleaned from flea markets. I'm like a visual magpie, constantly collecting things to either photograph or scan. I rarely use these as is, but instead break them down into brushes in Photoshop to combine. I use the same sensibilities I used in hand coloring to create a balance of color. It would perhaps be more accurate to say I create backgrounds.

©Laura Aldridge Photography
Hand Colored by Leslie Nicole
Note: This hand-colored photograph of the little girl is by photographer, Laura Aldridge. I always loved working on her images. I hand colored a number of her images for projects such as greeting cards and the inserts to frames for Mervyn's department store.

Hand-coloring and textures are both disciplines that take time. Time working on your image. Time playing with technique. You have to have the temperament for this. For me, the time is relaxing and meditative. The discoveries exciting. The most important ingredient of all in being successful in these methods is to love the process. I guarantee you that if you enjoy the work and put in the time, you will master the process and find your own vision.


Laura Aldridge Photography

Jessica Jenny:

French Kiss Textures:


Leslie Nicole:


  1. Delightful and inspirational post, Dianne! Thank you! The idea of employing textures intrigues me, and digitally "painting" them...well, I can see a path I want to explore!

  2. Thank you Doug! Can't wait to see where this inspiration takes you!

  3. Thanks for sharing this article with us Dianne--fun to red about Leslie's journey from graphics and photography in magazine design to working artist (and living in France no less!) Her work is exquisitely done.