For multimedia artist Nicole Herring, Cups is where she truly started to feel at home after moving from Ecuador to Mississippi. It was the first coffee shop she ever visited in the state, and after that first visit, Cups in Clinton became her go-to place for being inspired and planning her projects.

“The ambiance at Cups helps me sit and really think through what my next project will be, and what my plan is,” she said. “I’ve spent countless hours at Cups with my husband talking through my next steps. It’s definitely my go-to.”

Nicole’s creative process varies depending on what type of project she has, but generally she sticks to the same steps.

“My personal process is around five steps: Inspiration, Planning, Get Ready, Simply Grind, and what I call ‘Be Vulnerable’,” she said. “I find it most comforting to make a plan for my pieces, and Cups is my favorite place to go for this step.”

For detailed projects, like her realistic charcoal portraits, Nicole can spend up to 10 hours in the “grinding” phrase. Most of this time is spent capturing the finer details of her subjects–like their hair, clothes, or accessories. Nicole calls these “raw details” and they are her favorite part of the portrait.

“Realism is what I lean towards,” she said, “I love painting people in all of their contexts. Whether they’re in uniform or in memoriam.”

A portrait she did of her husband, a stunning charcoal drawing on canvas, took her a total of 120 hours over a two-week period. She broke her time up into eight-hour shifts (with a scheduled lunch break) to get the project completed, and then transitioned to an entirely different medium to keep her creative instincts sharp.

“I really enjoy switching between mediums. It’s refreshing to me because I do spend so much time on one project, sometimes over a hundred hours,” she said. “Switching gives me a chance to breathe. To go from pencil and texture to color and color theory is so great.”

Photo of Nicole

Nicole standing in front of her mandala on display at Cups in Clinton.

“I suddenly have the freedom to decide if this next portrait will be warm or cold–I can create texture and reflection in a new way,” she continued. “Switching even influences my body language and posture. I’ll stand for hours in front of my easel, but when I weave my mandalas, I’ll have a more comfortable, focused form.”

In addition to portraiture, Nicole practices woodworking, creates yarn mandalas, designs stickers, and paints in both acrylic and watercolor. During the time between projects, Nicole goes to Cups for inspiration (and her go-to Chai latte). But no matter the medium, there comes a time when her creative process is done, and her work must be shared. She says this stage is one of the hardest for her.

“At the end of the process, there’s vulnerability,” she said. “I’ve spent so much time creating these works, putting my heart and soul into them, and then to have to share them with people puts me in a vulnerable position.”

Cups gave Nicole a way to grow confidence and push past those feelings of vulnerability. It also helped her gain valuable insight, and a sense of pride, seeing her art next to other local creatives.

“Cups has definitely helped me work through those feelings of vulnerability by giving me a platform where I could present my work and feel proud to have my art on display.”

To any local artists wanting to have their art displayed at Cups, Nicole had this advice to share:

“It’s easy to get your art displayed at Cups! The cafe in Clinton has been amazing, the manager there is very kind and makes sure I can always get in touch with her.”

Be sure to follow Nicole on Instagram (@nicoleherring.art) for updates on her latest projects and check out her work on your next visit to Cups in Clinton!