Nicole Hanusek

    My Story

    I started drawing mermaids when I was in the fourth grade - I suppose that was my first art obsession. I loved creating color palettes for them along with different outfits and fun patterns.

    Later in the seventh grade, Disney’s The Little Mermaid came out, and of course I loved it! We had an assignment in art class to choose an image, draw a grid on top of it and then scale it up with another grid on a larger piece of paper. I did such an amazing job and got a ton of attention (who doesn’t love some attention?), I decided right then and there that I would pursue a career in art.

    All through high school I was known as an artist, always being asked to draw something for someone. I don’t even know how many random people have a cherished, original NH drawing sitting somewhere in their house.

    The first time I made money with my art was in high school. It started when I won a competition for painting a car, literally painting artwork on a large car. I airbrushed it and got first place. That led to several commissions and then during the last two summers of high school I did portraits and airbrushing at the local amusement park, Geauga Lake.

    I attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and studied Illustration. While there, I got a job in web design and continued down that path. I now own my own successful web design company, Smack Happy Design. We’re a team of artists creating web sites that really capture the essence of a person or business, helping them make a connection and win business.

    Historically, my art has been very realistic. I suffer from what I like to call “the accurate police”. As I’m creating from an image, I worry about them coming along and checking my work compared to the photo source. When I started doing the abstract octopuses I was finally able to tell the accurate police to go ef themselves. Now I’m free, I can create whatever I want and change whatever I want! In many cases I’m taking an image that I took and making it better in the new art form, usually watercolors or acrylics. I’ve also recently gotten into pet portraits.

    My world is incomplete without art!

    Artist Statement

    Most of my artwork is influenced by my love of children's books, comic books and fantasy art. In my portfolio you'll find black and white line drawings, colorful paintings in acrylic and watercolor, and my new favorite, abstract octopuses.

    I struggled for a long time trying to find my "thing" in art and I have finally found it in the abstract octopuses. What I discovered while painting the first one was that I didn't have to make it look exactly like the image. I always put these rules on myself, the accurate police were going to come and compare my art to the photo reference and if it wasn't exact I would fail. These octopuses break that rule. I have so much fun when I'm painting them and each time I do a new one I'm thinking about what I want to try with the next one.

    Embracing that kind of joy is why I became an artist. When I was ten, I started drawing mermaids. I obsessed over it, and came up with clean two- and three-color palettes. By the time I was in seventh grade, the Little Mermaid was everywhere and when I drew her for myself, I felt the connection and I knew that I wanted to be an artist. I dedicated myself to art in high school, and went off to the Savannah College of Art and Design. After a year, I came back to my native Ohio and transferred to the Cleveland Institute of Art and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Illustration in 2000. I’ve been working as a professional artist and designer since.


    Cleveland Institute of Art – Cleveland, OH
    Bachelor of Fine Art, 2000
    Major: Illustration  |  Minor: Graphic Design


    SF Open Studios, San Francisco: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2023

    Castro Art Mart, San Francisco, November 2023

    C.A.N. – Holiday Arts & Crafts Festival, Concord, October 2023

    Chocolate & Art, San Francisco, July 2015

    Raw Artists: Awakening, San Francisco, February 2014

    Holiday Art Show, San Francisco, December 2011

    Holiday Art Show, San Francisco, December 2010

    2220 A Spaces ODDyssey, Cleveland, November 2000