Nicole Forster with her portraits
Longford artist, Nicole Forster. Photo by Shelley Corcoran

Nicole Forster creates beautiful realistic portraits of pets and people

When local artist Nicole Forster was 13 years old, she entered one of her portraits into the 2015 Texaco Children’s Art competition. The portrait was so detailed and realistic that Nicole won the first place prize, as well as a huge confidence boost.

Since then, the Currygrane local has only improved her skill year on year, doing pet portraits as well as people and building up a huge portfolio of incredible talent.

In 2016, Nicole was awarded Special Merit in the Texaco Children’s Art Competition for a piece entitled ‘Roses’, while in 2018, she received a letter of commendation for her incredibly realistic ‘Portrait of My Dog Whiskey’.

“When I was sixteen, one of my entries, that had previously won third prize, was chosen to be exhibited in The National Arts Centre in Tokyo with four other Irish artists in their International High School Arts Festival.”

That particular piece, ‘Portrait of my Dad’ was a very lifelike image of Nicole’s father, Edward, smoking a pipe. It was entered in the 2017 Texaco Children’s Art Competition and was awarded third place before being selected to feature in an exhibition in one of Japan’s most highly regarded galleries, The National Arts Centre in Tokyo.

19-year-old Nicole was educated in St John’s National School, Edgeworthstown and attended St Wilson’s Hospital in Multyfarnham, where she did her Leaving Certificate exams.

Since graduating from St Wilson’s last year, Nicole has thrown herself into her art, improving what was already a rare and unmatched talent.

“I would like to pursue art as a career. It’s not easy trying to make a living as an artist but it’s what I really want to do so it’s something that I’m prepared to work towards,” she explained.

“I think Covid-19 has affected artists negatively over the past 18 months; there was no way to visit galleries in person or even to meet other artists and to try to get your name out there,” she continued.

“It was a difficult time for trying to get on your feet.”

Art is an integral part of Nicole’s life. Her father, Edward, has always encouraged her to pursue her talent and has even dabbled in art himself, creating a beautiful collection of detailed pencil portraits.

“I remember as a child, I think maybe when I was four or five, I used to make these colourful abstract paintings and a whole wall of the living room was just those paintings,” said Nicole.

“I also remember from when I was about that age, my dad and I would colour in pictures that he drew. I have always loved art and I think I just became more interested in it over the years.”

Nicole is self-taught and always learning new ways to produce her art. Her Instagram feed is bursting with lifelike images of people and animals, many of which are commissioned by art-lovers who are looking for a personalised piece of work to hang in their homes.

In fact, many of her animal portraits are so realistic, capturing the personality of a beloved pet better than any photograph.

“I prefer to do realistic work because it’s something that I can always strive to improve at,” Nicole explained.

“It’s a constant learning process; I keep learning new things by looking at ways to improve my own work and by studying other artists’ work. There’s always more for me to learn.”

Nicole spends as much time on each piece as she feels it needs, with emphasis on the finer details of her subject.

“My process involves firstly taking a good reference picture or obtaining one if it’s not possible for me to take the picture myself. I find this is very important for me because the quality of the reference picture has a huge influence on the outcome of the painting,” she said.

“From there I’ll often do a practice sketch. This helps me decide on things like composition and it just gives me a better idea of where I’m going with the painting and then lastly I start the actual painting.”

Nicole is happy to do commissioned pieces for anyone who would like to give a unique and personalised gift to a loved one.

And, while Christmas is still some time away, Nicole encourages anyone thinking of commissioing a piece to contact her on or More of her work can be seen on Instagram or Twitter at @forster_art.

Follow @jessicadotie

Follow @jessicadotie

First published in the Irish Examiner

Written by Jessica Thompson