Creative Genius: Niki Woehler

Photo credit: Carl Schultz

After an inexplicable urge to stop at a craft shop after a friend’s funeral more than 20 years ago, Valley artist Niki Woehler found her passion and a natural talent she didn’t realize she possessed. Now, Woehler’s remarkable works—mostly acrylic on canvas and resin—can be spotted at Found:Re Phoenix Hotel, in galleries across the nation and on the walls in luxurious Bel Air and Beverly Hills homes. Here, get to know this bold, brilliant talent.

AFM: You studied marketing and broadcasting. What prompted your career move?

NW: I’ve always been a creative; marketing is creativity in another form. However, after almost 30 years in the biz, I found myself taking more and more hooky days to paint. Painting was something just for me. It was my release. Then one day, a client called while I should have been working—but was creating instead—and she asked to see my paintings. I sent her some images and, to my surprise, she sent me back an image of a bare wall with dimensions and asked me to create something for her. I almost fell over! That prompted me to take a chance and post a painting on Facebook for some feedback. Shockingly, it sold within an hour. I decided to see if it would happen again if I posted another, and it did. At that point, it was really hitting home that I might be able to do this for a living, so I looked up at the sky and told the universe that if it happened one more time, I’d do it. I’d make the leap and do what I really loved: paint for a living. It happened again. I shut my agency down within 30 days and embarked on a whole new career path. That was six years ago.

AFM: How would you classify your work?

NW: I am a contemporary abstract artist working in two distinct types of mediums. I paint highly textural, almost organic in feel, acrylic on canvas paintings, most often in a very neutral color palette. For me, if someone doesn’t want to reach out and touch my work, I feel like I’ve failed. And then a few years ago, after a lot of research, I found a non-toxic, water-based resin. So for the last few years, I’ve also been doing these really beautiful resin pieces that are super high-gloss, rich in color, multi-layered and highly dimensional. Almost like looking at a piece of natural stone, especially when natural light hits them.  

AFM: What is your process like when creating?

NW: Creating is such a personal process for me, as I’m sure it is for every artist. Each piece I do holds a little bit of me in it. It’s as if I’m sharing what I’m feeling and thinking in the moment through my use of color and movement. I can tell you that I need to be barefoot. I know it sounds strange, but wearing shoes feels like a disconnection, a disturbance in my flow. And the other thing I need is music. Sometimes, I even write down my playlist for a painting and give it to whoever purchases it so they can take the same musical journey I did when I was painting their piece. For me, color represents specific feelings. Orange is happiness. Blue is peace, love. Red is passion or anger (although it could be argued that anger is passion). I use a lot of metallics, gold, silver, rose gold. Those are always hope. Unlike when I first began painting, I almost never use brushes anymore, opting for hard-edge tools and my hands. When I’m painting on canvas, I’m a retractive painter, which means I paint by adding paint, and then removing most of it until I get the look I want. My work typically has anywhere from 20 to 30 layers on it, which is the beauty of working with acrylic. It allows you to keep layering and layering until you get this incredible depth. 

AFM: Where might we have seen your works in public?

NW: Here in Phoenix, CBRE commissioned a 54-ft.-long resin installation for their corporate office in the Esplanade. It’s really something to see! I also created a custom logo art installation for Indeed’s new corporate office in Scottsdale as well, which is pretty cool. I’m incredibly fortunate to have my work represented by several galleries in beautiful places like Aspen, Telluride, Breckenridge, Scottsdale and Texas. Here in the Valley, you can find it at the Found:Re Hotel in Downtown Phoenix, as well as a few pieces at House of Anderson in Scottsdale. 

AFM: Do you have a favorite project? Or perhaps most memorable?

NW: If pressed to choose one over all of the others, it would have to be a painting I did called “Silent Partners.” In 2015, I went to Art Basel in Miami with someone who is very influential in the L.A. art scene. I went anticipating seeing some really great art, making connections with some cool art world people, and having a lot of fun at the various VIP functions. I really underestimated that trip. I had no clue that I’d come back with some unbelievable gifts. I’ll never in a million years forget how it felt the moment I walked into the building. It was as if I could feel the energy from the thousands of paintings hanging on the walls all at one time. It actually brought me to tears and made every hair on my body stand on end. I felt like I was home. One of the mediums that intrigued me most was enamel, so I came home and started researching it. I happened upon something called the “Siqueiros” method, which states that different colors have different weights and will react in different ways depending on how you lay them down. Next thing I know, I was exploring his theories on my own, and from it came the most spectacular painting that went on to win awards, and gained me representation by one of the best art galleries in the country. But maybe the best gift of all, and the one I’ll carry with me forever, is that she told me that I was good enough to be there, to have my work on those Art Basel walls, which is precisely why she wanted me to come with her, so I could see that for myself, and that gave me a confidence I’ll always be grateful for.  

AFM: What are you working on right now?

NW: A collaboration with David Adler Fine Rugs; we’re turning “Silent Partners” into a hand-knotted silk and wool rug which has me incredibly excited. I’m working with a couple of incredible designer/builders in L.A. to create custom works for multiple luxury homes in places like Bel Air, Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills. A whole new venture into aluminum as a substrate for my resin works, so we can create enormous walls of art that defy the constraints that wood and canvas present (like the effects of heat and humidity), especially for commercial purposes, but also equally adaptable to residential needs as well. And of course, all new bodies of work for the galleries. 

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