Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Walking into Nora Simon‘s studio is dizzying… And not just because of the concentrated explosion of pastel colors and snappy phrases. It’s mainly the two flights of tightly wound spiral staircases you have to climb before you even stumble into what I can only describe as a den of pure joy. From a fake giant popsicle to a real human skeleton (wearing a Nats cap, of course), the space is the perfect mixture between what your 6 year-old self thought was cool and what your present day self thinks is cool.
That’s especially true when it comes to Simon’s own work. The day we stopped by the studio (which also doubles as the apartment she shares with her boyfriend / web designer / emotional support Sean Henderson) she had completed her 100 Days of Cool Shit project, during which she pushed herself to complete and post one artistic endeavor each day. Some days were simple, like the time she made a ‘Happy Birthday!’ gif for a friend, while others were more complex paintings or collages that took many days (sometimes even a full week) to complete. Likewise, her inspiration varied drastically. Sometimes it came from a song, but more often than not Simon drew creative inspiration from artists like Kelly Puissgur, David Hockney and Martha Rich, who share her brightly colored visions.
Simon has been an artist for as long as she can remember, but only recently started pursuing it full tilt. Simon studied graphic design at SCAD and then PCA&D, and even worked doing a variety of graphic design projects at non-profits and local theaters, but nothing in that realm stuck. “I tried every aspect [of graphic design], but I couldn’t be creative with those constraints,” she said.
Of course, those constraints can be hard to shake. “Day one [of the project] I was almost trying to be a graphic designer,” Simon admits, but it didn’t take her long to break away and immerse herself completely in the act of constantly creating something new. Early on she started experimenting more heavily with collage. One of her earlier pieces (#17 to be exact) is still one of her favorite things she created during the project. Filled with bright colors and a little glitter, and a touch of macabre, it encapsulates everything we love in Simon’s art.
During the 100 days she also occasionally broke away from simple illustrations and collages and experimented with more complex gouache paintings. The piece that took the longest is a midsize painting that’s inspired by the things she saw while traveling to Savannah, Georgia. In a way, it was a collage of her trip, a mash up of different things from different locations that caught her eye. It’s the kind of piece that looks deceptively simple from afar, but upon inspection you can see all of the minute details that make it look so clean. It straddles that line of clean and complex. She plans to do more of these as she travels and has her heart set on checking out New Orleans and seeing what inspiration she can draw from there. Future trips also might include a road trip down Route 66, but no matter where she goes, we can trust that Simon is going to come back with some great project ideas bouncing around in her head.
100 days is a long time, and Simon isn’t entirely sure what the next step is now that the project is officially over, but she is overwhelmingly glad she did it. “It was a great way to get ideas out of your head,” she explained. For someone who only started seriously exploring her art in the last two years, Simon says it really helped her figure out what she was good at and what she wanted to do. Now that she has a better idea of what her art looks like, there’s nothing stopping her.
We can’t wait to see more.