Nicole Briscoe, Pleasant Grove High School Art Instructor, uses art as a way to connect with life and better understand the world. Her eclectic way of thinking guides her instruction in the class, encouraging students to step outside the box and push themselves as artists. She has won several honors, most recently the Humanities Texas’ 2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award, where over seven-hundred teachers were nominated.
As a young girl, she was very creative, though she never felt intelligent. She considered herself an average student, not able to see her full potential until she began her journey through making and teaching art.
Briscoe was originally a pre-dentistry major in college, but began taking art classes to relieve stress. Her professor observed how frequently she was stopping her own assignments to help other students. Thankfully, he voiced his observations and persuaded her to change her pre-dentistry major to art, eventually earning her degree in Art Education and Fine Arts.
She’s taught for over twenty years now, channeling her pensive and methodical nature into helping her students discover and place meaning into their own work. She emphasized that art has a message, even if it is subconscious or unintended.
Her confidence in the lifelong skill allows her to make artwork for her own pleasure, not to necessarily make art to please others. This morale was attained through many years of teaching others and critiquing and pushing herself to become more creative and free.
“I make to my spirit and what God wants me to make,” she declared.
Much of her artwork retains thematic elements of alpha and omega, life and death, beginnings and ends.
After losing her mother 3 years ago, she became fascinated with ascension and spirituality. She explains that the life event enabled her to retain an artistic visualization of heaven as space, freedom, white, peace, and purity.
Her diagnosis with an autoimmune condition has crept its way into themes of her art too. Some paintings have elements that are missing and falling away, or scribbles, scratches and text that represent her emotional and physical stresses of not feeling whole or well.
“My artwork deals a lot with space and being centered, focused on life and the elusiveness of the aftermath.”
She now shares her passion with her twin children and carries on her messages through them. The idea of her mother, her children, and herself being connected provides some sort of solace and comfort to Briscoe. It is a theme she is still discovering and growing during this phase of her art collections.
Teaching art has enabled Briscoe to remedy her obstacles and physical discomfort in a constructive way. it’s not uncommon for Briscoe to paint over an almost complete painting or to cut a canvas in half.
“My students say it freaks them out, but it is nothing to me to just take a painting and completely pour paint over it.”
It is better to take on a challenge than it is to be safe or make something boring. She’s finding answers to her life questions by connecting with others around her.
Briscoe’s influence has materialized in her students over the years. Daniel, the subject of discussion in her essay for the humanities award, most notably.
The recollection of a former student still clinging to their fascination for art is part of what drives Briscoe’s passion for teaching.
It’s moments of sharing an appreciation for art, even if intermittently, that makes teaching for Briscoe so remarkable. The instances where a student, child, or friend can dissect the meaning of something through their inference of culture and humanities, not merely as black and white.