Tallahassee Artist and College of Fine Arts alumna Nikki Ackerman (BA, Studio Art ’19) is so fond of her alma mater that she has built a successful business selling watercolor prints featuring all things Florida State University and Tallahassee. From officially licensed paintings of Doak Campbell Stadium to a portrait of a favorite academic building, or even a sticker featuring a drink from a beloved college bar, her business artxnikki has it all.
Though the New York native moved to Tallahassee in 2015 thinking that FSU would be close to the beach, Ackerman has very much come to see Florida’s Capitol City as her home, and she’s made a mark. She has partnered with many local businesses, including Madison Social, Picked vintage clothing and Ology Brewing Company, creating artwork for T-shirts, business cards and more.
The young artist also left an impression on her professors during her time at FSU.
“Nikki was a very dedicated student who never shied away from a challenge or hard work,” said printmaking professor Denise Bookwalter, “Her final book for my advanced class had more plates and printing than anyone else’s and required many extra press runs. I was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to finish, but she assured me she would. The result was an amazing artists’ book that used text and ephemera from her mother’s journals, revealing an intimate portrait of a young women’s personal growth and change as it related to the artist.”
After two years of selling her work online through Etsy, Ackerman is currently celebrating the opening of an in-person store in Railroad Square as well as the launch of her new website, artxnikki.com.
A: After I graduated in 2019, I moved to Tampa and had trouble finding a job, so I went to hair school. While I was there, I started painting and posting on Instagram and it just kind of blew up into a full-fledged business—not overnight, but within a few months. That was so amazing because I had worked so hard my entire life pursuing art.
Tallahassee is a great community to paint, and once I started painting things here everyone was loving it. The community was so supportive, and I really loved living in Tallahassee, so my fiancée and I moved back home to Tallahassee. It just seems like a good fit.
A: It all started with Madison Social. In the very beginning they reached out to me because they loved some of my paintings, and one of the owners wanted to get some copies to have framed for the other owners. We kind of built our relationship from there and they wanted me to do some T-shirts. We did a big run of them featuring my painting “Cocktails of Tallahassee” and ended up selling 300 shirts. It’s so cool to have people wearing my art.
After that, other businesses started reaching out to me to do a painting to display in their restaurant or store or to do something for their marketing. I’ve done a lot of paintings of mobile food trucks and coffee trucks that they’ve used for marketing and advertisement.
Creating art for someone’s brand is really special for me, because a brand is incredibly personal. It is such an honor to be trusted with that, and I still can’t believe that I’m able to do it.
A: I think just going back to basics was really nice. In high school, you’re taught art, but you don’t necessarily learn about all of the techniques and tools you need. I remember in my first oil painting class, for the first few weeks, we only worked on color theory. Really going into depth on that was so helpful and prepared me for a lot because I mainly work in color.
During my senior year I took two bookmaking classes with Denise Bookwalter. Those are my favorite classes I have ever taken at the school. I learned so much from her. Bookmaking helped me find deeper meaning in my artwork. We really got to dig deep and research what we wanted to do. She showed us so many different processes for finding inspiration.
A: Well first, I would tell them that it is possible to find a job creating what you want to create. My family was always very supportive, and I had supportive teachers, but whenever people would find out I was talented in art they would say something like “Be careful, you can’t get a job doing that.”
It doesn’t need to be like that anymore. With social media, there are so many outlets and ways for you to connect with people, and there is someone who will like what you’re making. It’s scary to go into business for yourself, and it’s scary not to have the security of a nine to five, but it’s worth it if you’re doing what you love.
A: I recently worked with a company that manufactures licensed collegiate art and painted 18 different stadiums for them to use on products. I love the culture at FSU and I know it well because I went here, but I think I will also to have success creating work featuring different colleges. I have figured out the system and the process of being license. I’ve made a lot of connections throughout the collegiate world, and I can really see myself growing to do other schools.
To see more of Ackerman’s work, visit artxnikki.com or follow her in Instagram, where she goes by @artxnikki.
Learn more about the Department of Art’s programs at art.fsu.edu.