When the pandemic hit last spring, local artist and father of two young girls Nicholas Ystad was looking for work and struggling with mental health issues. When he received his stimulus check, his mother encouraged him to invest in something he loved, something that would infuse him with purpose and motivation.
"So I went to Best Buy, bought a laptop, then went home, got online, and immediately ordered some drawing equipment," says Ystad.
Ystad is a lifelong artist who attended the Art Institute in Chicago and the Milwaukee Area Technical College for welding. However, as of March, he had not drawn in three years. "It's crazy to think I went for that long without drawing, but I surprisingly came back to it as a stronger, more mature artist," says Ystad.
Within a few months, Ystad created an adult coloring book, "Mammalia, Vol. 1." The book features 17 highly detailed mammal faces including an impala, giraffe, horned owl, muskox, human and more.
"I wanted to create images of the lifeforms on this earth. I have such an immense respect for the bounty of life," says Ystad. "Humans and animals are meant to live symbiotically, truly. I think we were made for each other, in a sense. Maybe it is that we are just the most intelligent mammal on this planet, and we are no different than them in more ways than we realize."
"Mammalia" is the first adult coloring book in a five-book series. "Mammallia, Vol. 2" will focus on insects; "Mammalia Vol. 3" on marine life; "Mammalia Vol. 4" on reptiles, and, finally, "Mammalia Vol. 5" will explore human faces.
Ystad is also working on a coloring book of the 12 astrological signs. He has created a website, where his book – and future books – are available for purchase. It's also on Amazon. Ystad is currently working on getting it into local bookshops.
"So far, it is rewarding. I've made back what it cost to print my first run and then some, which is really exciting in and of itself. I remain optimistic, hopeful, and grateful to the people endorsing this dream of mine," says Ystad.
Ystad finds inspiration from the Internet where he studies other artists' techniques. He is also energized by his creative family, particularly his father, Milwaukee ex-pat reggae musician and artist Tony Brown. "I have two paintings that my dad did hanging in my house. One is staring down at me right now," he says.
A single dad of two girls, Ystad lives in Bay View where the three – along with their dog and cat – live "a very peaceful little life together." Ystad hopes he can support himself via his art and that he will not have to return to welding. He also has a history of working in restaurants, but would prefer to cook at home these days.
I took a leap of faith, hoping the universe would provide, and so far it has been an exhilarating experience," says Ystad. "The outpouring of support has been empowering to say the very least."
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Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.