Making A Creative Career: Nail Artistry
What exactly defines creativity and particularly, creative expression, is a topic which has been debated for as long as cavemen have scrawled on walls and while traditional forms of creativity, in their most expansive definition are still thriving, it’s both thrilling and exciting to see new and innovative artforms capture the imagination of the creative youth who are fortunate enough to live in an era of limitless creativity.
While innovative areas such as coding, robotics and creative technology are seeing incredible growth, it’s one aspect of design, the painstaking and precise practice of designing nail art which has captured the imagination of this generation . Merging fashion, beauty, fine art and often complex graphical design through the prism of individual expression, nail art is one of the most interesting creative breakthroughs in recent years. Nail art is experiencing such a surge in popularity it has led to a yearlong creative partnership between Dublin nail bar Tropical Popical and The National Gallery of Ireland on the RENAILSSANCE display in summer 2019.
We spoke to one of Ireland’s foremost nail artists Rebecca McParland, Silver Award Winner at the Image Ireland Business of Beauty Awards in 2019, about her career and how she’s turned a personal hobby into a viable career in the creative industries. Rebecca is better known as @rebecca_vanitythronebeauty on Instagram, the online channel where nail artists display their spellbinding creative talents and often build a huge and devoted fan base of nail art followers.
What do you think makes nail art such a creative job?
I think that any creative outlet is a way to show personality and nails can be so much more than just a way to present yourself as sleek and tidy. When you add a design to them, no matter how simple or complex you are showing off your personality. When you get a sense of what styles your clients like, nail art can be a great form of expression and creativity for both them and you.
Personally I love doing detailed art and specialise in portraiture, although every day my clients push me out of my comfort zone by asking for different styles of art and they tend to be the sets that I enjoy doing the most as its more of a challenge. I always try to take clients out of their comfort zone too. Where most people may come in with a picture of another nail artists design, it’s always best to take inspiration from something that's not already been done. Sometimes the best designs come from patterns on clothing, inspiration from famous paintings or themes from your favourite band or movie. That way you'll have something unique to you and your personality.
When did you realise that you could pursue your creative passion as a job?
If you had told me when I was in school that I'd end up working in a creative beauty industry I'd probably have laughed in your face. I was never a girly-girl or into beauty whatsoever. I always wanted to be an artist. I planned on going to Art College to do Fine Art but couldn't get in to the course I wanted to in University of Ulster in Belfast after trying for 2 years. Instead I found myself studying to be a silversmith, a course that at the time, I absolutely loved doing and thought that maybe things worked out that way for the best. However, I dropped out of my course before going into my final year as I experienced PTSD around heat/fire after suffering from 3rd degree burns and a skin graft.
Even though it was unrelated to the course, I couldn't bring myself to work around the heat to melt metal and instead starting working in a jewellers. It was there that I started getting my nails done to look more presentable when showing off the jewellery. After a while I signed up for a Nail Technician course with the naive idea that I just wanted to be able to do my own as a hobby. Well, it all spiralled from there and I'm so glad it did.
I genuinely believe things happen for a reason. Something that just started as a hobby ended up being a lifeline for me when I didn't know where I was going career wise. It brought me back to what I always wanted to do, to paint. The only difference now is I'm much happier than before because I get to meet new people and chat everyday and help put a smile on people's faces when they love their new nails. My hobby gave me a new passion and career, something that I want to continue doing and strive to be the best I can be.
What's your favourite thing about your job?
It might sound like a cop-out answer, but honestly, everything. The best part is probably making clients happy and feel good about themselves. Art is a huge part of why I love and got into nails so being able to do it on a daily basis is great, although as my experience and time doing nails is developing I genuinely enjoy educating my clients on how to look after their nails. Most clients tend to come in with damaged nails due to the mistreatment of them with products and lack of knowledge. I enjoy working on a nail plan with them and seeing the progress when getting the condition of their nails back.
I'm constantly educating myself too and enjoy developing my knowledge in nails as I grow in experience, especially as I've just went out on my own now. Being self employed now is challenging but with putting in the hard work and hours, its rewarding and I've definitely got a new sense of pride in my work and in myself and I'm looking forward to what I have planned for the future and my next step as a nail artist.
What advice would you give for young people who would like to get into nail art?
Practice, practice, practice! Nail art can be so fun and if you're only doing it as a hobby it can be a relaxing distraction. Get yourself good tools. A very thin nail art brush is essential and dotting tools also come in very handy (you don’t have to spend a fortune on them though. Amazon and eBay have great products for nail art). Have a look at some nail art tutorials on YouTube or Instagram and just keep practising.
Have patience too. You could be the most amazing artist on paper but you might struggle with nail art. Remember that with nail art you're painting on a curved surface unlike a flat piece of paper. When you're painting a straight line your brush is going to naturally curve to the shape of the nail, so have patience and practice getting control of your brush on the nail. Enjoy it! Have fun and play a round with colours and ideas. You also don't have to be Picasso. There are loads of products out there for nail art so you don't always have to hand paint your designs. Try some nail stamping plates and look up some tutorials for them. You can achieve some amazing looks with them. Play around with foils and glitter too. Anything goes!
Try to get inspiration for designs from literally anything around you. Be creative with it rather than just copying from other work once you're more confident with styles and techniques.
Images used with permission from Rebecca McParland.