Photo: Sarah Cunningham-Scharf

Volleyball star by day, artist by night

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By Sarah Cunningham-Scharf

When Emily Nicholishen isn’t playing on the Rams women’s volleyball team or studying biology, you will likely find her creating art.

Drawing and painting have been a part of her life since she was in elementary school. Nicholishen, 20, began with anime, but has since progressed to mediums like wood canvas and oil paints.

But her favourite medium, and the one she spends most of her time with, is digital art. It involves drawing on a graphics tablet with a stylus while focusing on her computer screen to watch her piece come to life in Photoshop.

“It’s not very messy, which is important for a space confined university student,” she said.

Before Nicholishen starts a piece she’ll cruise a website called deviantART, where users upload their artwork. Originally, she was looking for fan art from her favourite shows, but it became a means of inspiration.

“It’s really inspiring seeing other people’s work that’s so magnificent. I think ‘wow, I really want to imitate that style.’ That’s usually how it starts,” she said.

When the inspiration hits and she has a block of time, Nicholishen will stay in her room until the piece is done. It may take up to nine hours — she’ll put on her Rams gear, turn on 8tracks, make a cup of tea and then get to work.

Nicholishen is currently in her third year of biology. She originally chose to enroll in Ryerson’s new media program, but switched after one year.

“It was too far outside the box for me, it’s Nuit Blanche kind of art,” she says. “It’s not what I’m into. I’d rather draw or paint so I switched into biology.”

While she enjoys sharing her work on social media and occasionally gives pieces to friends and family as gifts, she’s adamant that her art is purely for self-expression and isn’t currently considering turning her talent into a career.

“All my stuff is a work in progress. I’m not quite where I want to be professional or to think that my stuff is of value to sell to people officially,” she said. “Art’s always been on my terms — very informal.”

Right now, Nicholishen is focused on school and volleyball. She hopes to pursue a career in sports medicine — but she admits there may be a chance to make her living with art down the road.

“Maybe when I’ve mastered the skills or maybe when I retire and I have time.”

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