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Nikki Tran Blog | Designer. Artist. Photographer bio picture
  • Hello Friend…

    and welcome to the blog! I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves the romantic things in life. Tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, old and worn books, slow-dancing to records, painting by candelight, lakeside walks with Rusty, and starry-night picnics with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just the two of us - I hope it brings you smiles and happiness as you snuggle in with your cup of tea and begin reading. Enjoy, friends! (Latest posts on the right!) --->

Finding Your People | Nikki Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comWant to hang out under the twinkle lights tonight with me, friends? Okay, let’s go. Grab your drink (you can have one of my Mike’s if you’d like) and let’s go chat on the deck. I’ll even give you the whole couch to yourself. Ready? Comfortable? Let’s dive in, shall we? (Rusty might try to snuggle with you, hope that’s okay.)

I finally got a much-needed day at my cousin’s house and that’s really all I can think about. You see, I’ve forgotten how incredibly lonesome working from home can be (and I’ve only been back at it a whole 3 days since summer vacation started).

When I was working from home after college graduation and up until just a year ago, I didn’t really have anybody to talk to. Of course Paul was around after he came home from work, but really, he didn’t completely understand everything I was doing and wanting to talk on and on about. Talking about Instagram growth for an hour or what this really cool photographer was doing halfway across the country was not something he was particularly interested in (and I don’t blame him!). He had his work (which frankly, I don’t understand half the time either so we’re even) and I had mine. That’s not to say he wasn’t (and isn’t) supportive. He’s my rock, hands down. He’s my bff, support team, critic, cheerleader, financial backer, etc. But unless we were actually shooting, he really wasn’t my co-worker. And now that I’ve begun this other journey with another creative business, he’s definitely no longer that little bit of a co-worker (he’s just everything else to me – lucky me. :))

Which brings me to my well-spent and needed day today.

My dear cousin has been on this crazy entrepreneurial roller-coaster with me since basically, day 1. She’s gone from being a freelance editor to a content strategist/wonder-woman (she now has two kids in tow + her business – she’s amazing) and she is dang good at it. She’s my go-to when I need encouragement, ideas, or just someone to vent to about the latest fake craze that I seem to typically fall for. She makes me feel sane, like I’m not the only one upset about analytics or doubting my worth on a constant basis. She reflects what I feel and together we solve each other’s problems over delicious chili queso dip and chips from Chili’s (it’s a delicacy). I can feel her frustration and I get ecstatic for her when she has good news. She reminds me of my talents when I forget I have any, and roots for me from the sidelines.

I know I’m going to need her during this next little adventure of mine. We all need someone to jump into the ring with, to wade with in the deep end, and to fly with when life makes you soar.

Who’s your support crew, friends? Maybe it’s your spouse, maybe it’s your dearest mother, or maybe it’s your girlfriends on Instagram (hi girlies!!) – whoever it is, lean on them when you need it. ‘Tis a bumpy ride and we all could use a little help along the way. xoxo (PS – I’m here if you need it. We got this, friends!)

(You can visit her beautiful website here – she’s amazing.)

Watercolor Basics | Nikki Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comHello friends! Happy Monday, what a beautiful (and stormy!!) day, and all that jazz! :)

One of my main goals for this blog waaaaaay back in 2012, was to be able to help people with photography by educating. I wrote a few posts here and there, giving insight and tips to photographers, as well as brides, on the wedding day. I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked to, and if I’m being completely honest with you, it was because I was scared.

Scared?! Yes. I thought that if I helped too many people I would lose clients. I know I’m not the only on out there that has felt like that because also back then, very few people were willing to help me. I remember asking a photographer, whose photos I found while searching for Eden Prairie engagement session locations, where one of her engagement sessions took place. I contacted her because she had a beautiful engagement session with these gorgeous bluffs that made you feel like you were in the English countryside. Well, unfortunately she was one of those who refused to help me out – she wouldn’t reveal the location to me because she had found it herself. It really felt like a dog-eat-dog world out there. I didn’t give up on that spot, however. Paul and I drove around Eden Prairie until I held one of her photos up to the location and BAM! Found it! Did a happy dance! And then vowed never to turn away someone who needed help. (See Ellen and Andre’s engagement session if you’re curious about these dreamy bluffs.)

So, although I tried to help out as much as I could, I still felt that insecurity feeling of not wanting to lose clients.

If it sounds stupid, that’s because it is stupid. And it’s not happening anymore.

Which brings me to the focus of this post. :) For any of you wanting to learn how to watercolor, I’ve put together this cheat sheet of my art supplies. They’re nothing fancy, and they’re products I’ve come to love through much trial and error. As I’ve stated before, I am certainly no expert, but if I know something that you may not know, I want to share it with you. We’re all friends here! Pretend we’re chatting having coffee and tea, and you just asked me,

“Nikki, I’ve been meaning to ask you – I want to start painting with watercolors and I don’t really know where to start. Got any ideas?”

Yes ma’am (or mister) I do!! Here is exactly what I use and what I’ll continue to use until I find something better (it’s a constant game of learning, is it not?):

(I buy everything at Michaels – lots of people shop at Dick Blick but Michaels does the job for me and is much closer to our house.)

Watercolor Basics - Art Supplies | Nikki Tran Art & Design |

  1. BrushesGrumbacher Round Watercolor Brushes, sizes 000 (my favorite), 0, 3, & 5. 
  2. Paints Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours (Individual tubes – my favorite colors so far: Cerulean Blue, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Turquoise, Dioxazine Purple, & Spa Green)
  3. Paints Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours (12-color palette – I also use a generic 28-color palette that probably cost me $5 – nothing fancy but it works, too, although the Winsor & Newton colors are definitely richer than the generic palette)
  4. Paper Strathmore Watercolor 6″ x 9″ Sketch Pad, 15 sheets, 140lb, cold-pressed & acid free & heavy weight (I take this when we travel or when I just feel lazy and don’t want to carry the big pad around. :))
  5. Paper – Artist’s Loft Watercolor 9″ x 12″ Pad, 24 sheets, 140lb, cold-pressed & acid free & heavy weight
  6. Ink Micron Archival Ink Pen – sizes .25mm, .35mm, .45mm (I just bought this brand and have yet to try it, but I’m assuming it works just like my other pen, #7 – we shall see. :))
  7. Ink Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen, size XS (The ink is running low so I thought I would try something different, hence #6.)
  8. Eraser Staedtler (I use mechanical pencils when I draw – nothing fancy, just the ones you can buy in a pack at Target – and I use this as my eraser.)

I hope this gives those of you who are interested, a running start at figuring out what you want to use in your studio, even if your studio is your dining room table. :) And if you have any questions or would like me to post certain blog posts, you just let me know! We’re a team, don’t forget. :)

And now I must get to my own paintings – I’m creating a few gifts for you, dear readers, and I’d like to get them on the blog soon! Stay tuned!! :) Have a wonderful rest of your Monday!! xoxo

Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote | Nikki Tran Art & Design |

(How true, Laura.)

  • Patricia PowersJune 13, 2017 - 9:35 am

    Thank you for this info. Very helpful as I plan on trying my hand at watercolor and had no idea on where to begin. I have done oils in the last but far too much stuff and expense to carry everywhere. Too much prep time as I don’t have a set place to paint. I appreciate the help.ReplyCancel

    • NikkiJune 20, 2017 - 8:51 am

      Hi Patricia! I’m so glad this was helpful to you! I’ve always wanted to try oils – I think oil paintings are absolutely beautiful. Most of the art in my house is oil paintings. Enjoy learning watercolors! :)ReplyCancel

Hello, hello, dear friends!

My mind is telling me to work but my heart just wants to play. I swear, I tried to work when I came home, but then the sun danced at me and a good-looking boy asked me out to dinner. How could one possibly refuse? And then after dinner I thought to myself,

You can’t go home! There’s iced coffee next door and flowers down the street – peruse. Sip coffee. It’s hot out, you deserve a cold drink and new flowers for the garden.

Now really, who am I to say no to all that goodness? I couldn’t fight it. But then I came home for the second time and again, I just wanted to play. Weeding the garden and tending to the veggies seemed like the thing to do. So we did.

Then I came inside – the bugs were biting and playing didn’t seem so fun anymore.

But then I looked at my piano, and it looked at me, and we knew I couldn’t work just yet. So I serenaded Paul while he read with Rusty on his lap. It must have been an hour or two until I noticed the sun going down. The lake became still, the birds were beginning to hush, and then the moon looked at me, reminding me bedtime is near and there’s work to be done. (He can be such a party pooper.)

But then I remembered, this isn’t work! I’m writing to you and designing all sorts of goodies! You just wait, friends. Good things are coming. I’ve been creating a bunch of lovely freebies to send to you, and I’ve been putting more pretty touches to the new website (it’s clean, simple, blue, and feels so wonderful), and I’ve been painting for myself, too (which is always fun). I’ve even created a few mock-up pages for a book I’ve been dreaming about creating for years and years.

I’m learning, as one does when starting completely over again, that I’m horrible at balancing life and work. Sometimes I come home and only do things that are technically work – I don’t play. And then I get burnt out and the fun ends. And then I get frustrated and lose hope. (Losing hope is the most awful feeling. Don’t lose hope, friends. Watch Cinderella, sing her beautiful song, and remember everybody’s got a Fairy Godmother of their own. She’ll help.) And when I lose hope I stay away from the things I love, like painting. And music. And being in my little office that usually brings me so much joy.

We must learn to play between work. And learn to lose ourselves in moments that give us butterflies. And then take that joy and scooch it over to our work, making it become play as well as work.

What about you, friends? Are any of you in a similar boat as me and beginning your own creative business? Am I the only fish in the pond? Or maybe you’re years in and still can relate to balancing work and play. Or maybe you’re just a kindred spirit who enjoys play over work. Either way, say hi. It’s nice to know we’re not alone. :)

Happy Weekend, friends. Cheers to making it through! :) xoxo

  • Pat ConwayJune 9, 2017 - 4:00 pm

    Nikki, you have a lovely way with words. I felt like I was tagging right along with you and yes, it did sound very hard to concentrate when life was calling you in many beautiful directions. But then again, those are the moments we cherish. Be kind to yourself. It’s fun—and necessary—to do the things that make us smile.ReplyCancel

    • NikkiJune 10, 2017 - 1:04 pm

      Pat, that is so nice of you to say! Thank you so much for the kind words! :)

      I completely agree – those are the Dear Diary moments. :) Cheers, Pat!ReplyCancel