Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Sally Nixon

by Sabrina Smelko

On the second floor of a quaint 1910 apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas, you’ll find illustrator Sally Nixon plugging away in her studio, her dog Sookie resting on the chair in the corner. For Sally, who was raised in Pine Bluff, AR as the youngest of five girls, happiness comes from life’s simpler pleasures. So when she was hunting for a space to call her own, her humble must-haves list only included the following: must be located on a quiet street, must offer a nice view, and must be close to a dog park. This 1,100-square-foot space not only checked off all of those boxes, but a few extras as well, offering her a dedicated studio off the living space and close proximity to the Arkansas Arts Center.

While she admits that, at times, she’s guilty of working from her bed or on the living room couch when Little Rock’s temperatures reach extremes, nothing beats having a dedicated sunroom studio with ample light streaming in at almost all hours. “It’s a very pleasant atmosphere to draw in,” she begins, “The view is the best. My neighborhood is gorgeous, with lots of trees and beautiful old houses.”

As a renter, she didn’t have many options when it came to designing the space, but she was showered in passed-down pieces from various family members and friends, all of which combined to create a naturally eclectic space that’s anything but fussy — which suits Sally just fine. As she explains, “I move things around a lot, and rearranging my space usually helps me break through creative blocks… When I was a kid, I would rearrange my room about once every few months just for fun.”

And while Sally’s penchant for curation brings her joy inside, it’s really what’s outside of her walls that inspires her. “Downtown Little Rock is gorgeous,” she shares, “It’s mostly houses and apartment buildings built in the early- to mid-1900s.” And with affordable rent to boot, Sally is perfectly happy spending her days and nights drawing from this little room that she loves so dearly. –Sabrina

Photography by Sally Nixon

These large windows look out onto a community garden and a small violin shop across the street. "I've rearranged the space so many times, but this is by far my favorite place to have my drawing table," Sally shares.
When Sally was about 13, she stole this drawing table from her sister's room while she was off at college. "She didn't miss it, so I've kept it ever since," Sally laughs. The little stool under the table was made by her Grandma Margaret. "I like to prop my feet on it when I'm working."
"I like keeping the drawings I've done recently close at hand in the set of drawers next to my drawing table," Sally says. Oftentimes, she'll reference them for inspiration on new projects -- or to revisit color schemes and patterns she loved in the past.
Spanning the width of the windows, Sally hung a wire to hang up drawings, notes, and inspirational bits and bobs.
"One of my favorite things in my studio is this magnifying lamp," Sally explains, "It used to belong to my grandfather. He'd use it to do his crossword puzzles every day. After he died, it got put in a closet at my parents' house. I found it one day a few years ago and nabbed it for my studio."
Sally uses old cigar boxes from her grandparents' house to store pattern samples and materials.
"These are some of my pattern samples and small drawings. I use these to mix and match and figure out what patterns to use in my illustrations," she explains.
Sally plugging away at a new pattern sample.
Sally found use for an old wine rack as a marker holder. "All of my markers are double-ended, so it's important to store them horizontally," she notes.
Again, ingenuity and recycling are at play! Sally uses old pickle and jam jars to store all of her pens.
Sally got this antique sewing box from her grandmother's house. "It folds out and has little compartments where I store my extra pens," she explains. Beside it on the armchair, Sookie rests. Beyond her through the french doors, you'll happen into the apartment's living room. As it turns out, a single pane of glass is missing, which acts as the perfect doggy-door for Sookie.
"This is Sookie's favorite spot," Sally says, "She spends about 75% of her day sleeping on this chair."

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