Whimsical window art brightens RPL
Many around town have likely noticed the colorful window art scenes at Russellville Public Library in downtown Russellville. They’re the work of Moulton muralist Nikki Warren, NW Paint, recruited by library director Joshlyn Bowen to bring a little whimsy to the library.
Warren said her foray into artistry began about nine years ago. “I didn’t even know I could paint, and I just picked up a paintbrush and started painting something at my house and kind of stumbled into it,” Warren said, noting it wasn’t long before she started doing small paintings on windows – including teddy bears as part of a scavenger hunt in Moulton during the early stages of COVID-19.
She quickly moved on to much bigger murals, her largest to date coming in at 60 feet, on the side of a nursery in the Huntsville area. Other canvases have included football fields, fieldhouses and other nurseries.
“I started out painting little crafty items at home, including small boards, canvases and door hangers, and selling them for $10-$20,” Warren said. “When I realized I could do that, I started trying increasingly bigger sizes. I just started piddling around with it, and it kind of blew up, and I started getting orders.
“I don’t have time for the small items anymore, but people still write and ask me about them.”
Warren said mural and window art keep her busy. She’s booked out about three months right now.
“I also do face painting at birthday parties and hold painting party classes,” she added. This past Christmas she conducted an ornament-painting session at Russellville Public Library.
Warren estimates she has now painted more than 100 window murals. Among them are others in Franklin County, including Farmers Home Furniture stores in Russellville and Red Bay. She has also painted murals in Decatur, Haleyville, Muscle Shoals and Cullman.
Her first mural for Russellville’s library was June 2022, in preparation for the RPL’s ocean-themed summer reading program. She has since painted a fall mural there, as well as her most recent creations, painted the second week of January, with a bookworm theme.
For Russellville Public Library Director Joshlyn Bowen, the murals are providing a welcome inspiration.
“Once I stepped into the director position at RPL, I knew I wanted to invest somehow in the aesthetic of the outside of our building,” she explained. “I knew that if I could attract adults and children with the beauty of the outside, their interest would be activated to step inside.
“I cannot think of a more impactful way to catch the eyes of our community than through art,” added Bowen.
ENJOYING THE ESCAP
While it might sound like a lot of work to some, it’s work Warren explains is extremely enjoyable and meaningful for her.
“I enjoy the escape from reality,” she explained. “I’m married, and I have four kids. I’m a school bus driver. Our lives are utter chaos. When I’m painting, I don’t have to think about anything else except making the painting look pretty. Painting is now my main source of income, and I love it.”
Warren said the more paintings she does, the easier it has gotten – not only to get the results she wants but to accomplish them in less time.
She said the artistic journey she’s on now is not one she would have anticipated a few years ago.
“I used to wait tables and bartend years ago,” she explained, “and I was a broke, single mother struggling. It amazes me I had this talent and never knew it.
“Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things has really boosted my confidence and helped me take my art to the next level. It’s kind of like a game for me to see what I can accomplish.”
While she occasionally looks up images to work from, Warren said she mostly paints images out of her head based on client explanation of the vision they have in mind. She enjoys taking that concept, sketching a little and playing with the theme, adding fun details as she goes.
“With my bookworm murals at the Russellville Public Library, I originally imagined the bookworm smaller, but the size just changed when I really got in there and started painting,” Warren explained. “The painting evolves as I work on it … I start with a plan, and it changes as I go, and the painting blossoms into life.”
Warren said she enjoys going into different towns, being out in public and talking to more people. Each project she completes helps her get additional jobs.
“I love coming into a new community and meeting people and sharing my talent. I hope other people enjoy my work as much as I enjoy creating it,” she added. “I hope it makes them happy. I’ve had a lot of positive comments, and it feels good to know people enjoy my murals.”
Mostly self-taught, Warren describes her style as “cartoon,” and lists Bob Ross as “a huge inspiration.” Her other main inspiration is a Moulton-based oil painter, Carol Terry, who she said “absolutely amazes me.”
For her murals, Warren uses acrylic craft paint and “paintbrushes of all sizes, from little bitty craft sizes all the way to what you would use for painting the trim on a house.”
For those who are interested in trying their hand at painting or increasing the painting challenges they attempt, Warren said it’s important to remember to “never give up,” noting “if you fail, you can try again because it’s just paint, and you can change it.”