The Hon. Alfred G. Nicols Jr. (BA 63, JD 65) has a long list of impressive judicial appointments on his biography. The last is U.S. magistrate judge, a position he held before his retirement in 2006. Add to that list his two years in the U.S. Army and a career as a general practice lawyer. However, it might be his latest endeavor that he ends up best known for.
His web address says it all: www.southernlandscapeart.com. The website features his biography as well as a portfolio of his paintings, works for sale, and how to order prints.
Since retiring from the bench, he is able to devote more of his time to painting the landscapes around him. He said he used to paint other subjects as well. The other subjects, however, didn’t capture his interest for long.
“Somehow I always seem to come back to the Southern landscape, back to the images that haunt me: images of fall fields and meadows following my Dad quail hunting as a boy; of fishing small farm ponds during my college days; of duck hunting cypress brakes and Delta marshes; of sailing the reservoir and Gulf Coast; of canoeing Strong River and Black Creek; of walking the gravel bars and roads of my Copiah County farm,” Nicols said at the 2004 Art for Heart event in Jackson.
He has been painting now for more than 45 years. His works have been hung in places such as The Inn at Ole Miss, the Federal Courts of Mississippi, the National Advocacy Center, the Mississippi Bar Center, St. Dominic Hospital, Rankin Medical Center, Regions Bank, BankFirst, and The Mobile Press Register. The Mississippi Supreme Court has more than a dozen of his works hanging in its chambers, several of which Nicols says are “really big works.” There are also pieces in Ole Miss’ art collection and in private homes. Both former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (BPA 63, JD 67) and current U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (BA 73, JD 75) have Mississippi paintings by Alfred Nicols hanging in their Washington offices.
In 2010, International Artist Magazine named his work “Where Wagons Carved the Land” as a finalist for the 2010 worldwide landscape competition. Nicols was the only artist from the Southeast to be a finalist in the competition.
Nicols said his painting isn’t for relaxation, and that anyone is crazy if they think standing in front of an easel painting for 12 hours a day is not exhausting.
“It’s hard work, very stressful, tedious hard work, but it is extremely rewarding that someone thinks it’s good enough to pay substantial money for today, and that it may be on someone’s wall somewhere a hundred years from now,” Nichols toldMississippi Courts for its April 2011 newsletter.
Nicols recently told International Artist magazine for their April/May 2012 publication that while he has had no formal training, he has studied the works of well-known artists to figure out if what works for them is something that he could use.
“My approach to improvement has been methodical,” Nicols told the magazine. “I see a great painting and I say: ‘what is this artist doing that makes this painting better than yours?’ There are probably many things, but there is usually something clearly better: values; composition; drawing; brushwork; use of texture; edges; color harmony; and the list can be extensive.”
The magazine article also featured Nicols’ technique of painting from the preparation of the canvas to the fine details.
Nicols also credited the Internet with allowing more people to view his work.
“At this point (over a two-year span) I have had over 5,700 visits to my website from 61 countries around the world, all 50 states, and they have looked at over 67,000 pages,” Nicols said in the magazine. “The world wide web is truly amazing.”