See How An AZ Artist’s Effervescent Abstract Paintings Exude Vitality


Niki Woehler in a harness floats above a large blue painting on the floor of an art studio

Artist Niki Woehler commissioned Hollywood riggers to created a motorized artist for an easier large-scale painting process.

When artist Niki Woehler paints, color takes on a life of its own. She lets it misbehave, splattering, fizzing and flowing freely across her vast canvases, diverging from predictable paths into something new. Sealed in with resin, the final abstract work feels primordial, summoning the same sublime awe of vast sunset skies, ancient canyon chasms or oceans fathoms deep. “It’s this beautiful, delicate dance of learning where to guide and manipulate but also where to let go,” the painter says. “I always leave room for exploration, for surprise.”

a vignette of bottles of paint

Woehler uses a free-form approach to her acrylic, enamel and hand-mixed pigment paintings. She blends and scrapes the colors together to create nature-inspired works.

Orange-gray-and-brown abstract painting, a blue-and-white abstract triptych and a black-white-and-yellow abstract

"Because my studio is on Main Street in Old Town, people walk in and get to see the work being done," Woehler says. "It's this incredible touchpoint."

a large blue-white-and-gold abstract triptych in front of a white sofa

"My process has so many layers of different transparencies to get the effect. I then put things back, scraping things off and use chemicals in some places and not in the others," the artist says of her unique approach.

a red loveseat sits in front of a large abstract painting

Cozy seating in front of one of Woehler's paintings allow viewers to relax in front of the work.

a grid installation of 16 abstract, colorful paintings

Woehler is known for her resin-coated pieces, such as the installation Journey to the Soul.

Embracing the unexpected has become the theme of Woehler’s life. She painted for herself for years while running a successful boutique ad agency. But by 2012, art’s gravitational pull proved undeniable. Only painting provided “that constant stimulation I needed,” she explains. “It feels so fresh every single time. I live for that.”

Woehler begins by selecting palettes inspired by natural phenomena: from the way copper patinas in the open air to how seawater swirls with sand. She then lays her canvases on the floor, channeling waves of liquid paint around with trowels, squeegees and spatulas, letting the movement mold the shapes. For extra-large compositions, she climbs into a motorized harness designed by Hollywood riggers that descends from the ceiling. Floating above gives her greater control of the process.

The artist prefers mixing her own paints by combining loose pigments with different mediums to vary its fluidity, from loose splashes to a molten lava-like consistency. Other additives like sodium bicarbonate and denatured alcohol spark chemical reactions, injecting another layer of surprise into the process. “Whoever said watching paint dry is boring clearly hasn’t sat with me,” the artist laughs. “Because mine is always bubbling and festering.” Then comes her signature coat of glass-like resin, “which gives so much dimension,” she adds. “That’s when all the beautiful hues and textures come out.” 

These dynamic paintings are now breaking away from canvases and into a line of wallpaper, upholstery fabric and rugs. Featuring both previous work and new original compositions, the artist wants to envelop entire spaces with her colors in motion. “I love that I can paint something beautiful and turn the whole room into it,” she shares. For her, there is no greater joy in painting than drawing viewers into a shared whirlpool of sensation and wonder.