Posted April 23, 2014

Heritage

Most people don’t know that I come from a family of artists and designers. I consider it my secret weapon, and the reason that I am a designer with a deep love for visuals and the art of craftsmanship.

My Grandpa, Lou Nolan, started his own design firm in the 1960’s, Nolan Duffy & White, and later went on in the 70’s to form Nolan & Associates. As a highly sought-after commercial artist, his work included US Navy Recruitment Posters, U.S. Postal Service Stamps, and the logo for NASA’s Teacher in Space Project, among other things.

His personal hobbies included sculpting, painting (especially with watercolor), and making meticulous, tiny model replicas of U.S. Naval ships. I remember as a kid he would sit down with me and give lessons on how to paint with watercolor. One of my favorite lessons was when we were painting a still life of bananas and oranges, and he taught me to use purple to shade the banana because the cool, complementary purple would make a richer shadow against the yellow than just black.

My Aunt, Mary Beacon, is a fine artist who is well known for her beautiful oil paintings of dogs. One of my favorite paintings of hers is of my childhood dog, Casper. I remember helping my mom photograph Casper, who was acting as our model for a painting Mary had in her mind. We took photos of him looking down while standing on top of a stone wall at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, which eventually turned into a gorgeous painting.

Mary would send me a package of art supplies every Christmas and has always encouraged me to explore my creativity. In High School she bought me this incredible book called “Harley Brown’s Eternal Truths for Every Artist” which taught me how to use value (light and dark) to create compelling compositions, use complementary colors to make things pop, build excitement with dramatic lighting, and breathe life into to my artwork. True to the title of the book, I find myself using these techniques in my web and interface design daily.

My dad, Kerry Nolan, studied photography in college and is a custom faux finisher who stains and finishes cabinets, walls, doors, and libraries for luxury homes. He’s literally the best guy in the business, renowned for his work in multi-million dollar homes across Northern Virginia. He too has a passion for craftsmanship and doing the job right.

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My dad bought me my first sony sketchpad, creative software like KidPix, Dabbler, and Photoshop, and my first (and second and third) camera. He’s the one who told me I could be a Graphic Designer when I was trying to figure out what to do in college because that’s what Grandpa did.

I come from a family of artists, designers, and entrepreneurs. Seeing the success of my family members working hard at their craft, all independently employed, has inspired me to do the same with my skills. I’m so grateful to have been brought up in a family who always nurtured my desire to be creative. Their success and encouragement is the driving force behind where I am today, and where I aspire to be tomorrow.