In the beginning God created the nail artist. And the nail artist was without skill. And God said, “Let her have the talent to draw.” And it was so. Then God said “It is not good for the nail artist to be without the necessary tools to develop her skill.” He took a paintbrush and gave power and dominion over all that she created. And God said, “Let there be paints and paper of very color and texture on the face of the earth.” And it was so. Then He breathed the breath of life into the nail artist’s hand and formed her first masterpiece……and it was good.

Ask the best nail artist in the industry how they developed their skill and they’ll tell you it’s God given. For nail artist Traci Suggs, her talent to draw began to manifest itself when she was only three years old!

“I draw a horse and knew that something was wrong with it,” says Suggs, owner of Great Lengths in Columbus, Ohio. “I asked mother what was wrong and found out that I forgot the mane and tail!” amazed that she could detect something  missing from the drawing at such an early age, Suggs says. “God gave me the talent to do it.”

Suggs thanks her mother and a school teacher for encouraging her to develop her artistic ability over the years. “Dad was no help,” she says. “He was a starving artist.”

Suggs was also encouraged by her peers. “When I was 14 and attending a school for girls in Rosemount, Ohio, I used to paint unicorns, rainbows, and stars on the girls’ nails,” she reminisces. “The girls used to peel off the paint and save the designs. I thought it was a compliment when they too a hunk of paint and put it in their jewelry boxes!”

When Suggs was 21, she enrolled in the Ohio State School of Cosmetology in Columbus. “I went to nail school when I figured I could make more money doing nails than I could working at Toys R Us,” she notes. The next step was to go to college; but, “I got stuck at Great Lengths and haven’t left yet!” Suggs says with no regrets.

“I attribute most of the salon’s success to doing nail art,” says Suggs. “The ability to do nail art got us on the Chanel 10 news, in a German beauty magazine.

Suggs paints to comic book characters. “If something strikes my interest, like Michael Jackson, I’ll draw it,” Suggs says. “I get ideas from everywhere. I watch certain artists and their work and try to copy them.”

You have to be inspired or you’re not going to put your best into your nails art, says Suggs, who receives much of her inspiration from clients. “I’m inspired by people’s reaction to my work,” she says. “Clients appreciate it and give me referrals.”


Suggs’ success is not only due to her God given talent; it’s due to hard work, she says. “Any nail technician can do nail art,” Suggs says. “Nail technicians need direction, practice and commitment, but they also have to be willing to sacrifice if they want to master nail art.”

“Being successful meant not having boyfriends, not going out, and not giving up,” she asserts. “I just kept practicing until I got it right. A lot of people don’t stick to nail art if they’re not successful right away.”

Suggs, also leading nail art competitor, says preparing for tradeshow competitions was the hardest. “I came into the salon at 9 a.m. and left at 9 p.m.,” she notes. On weekdays Suggs worked on clients and on weekdays she practiced for competitions. Within the last four years, she won 25 trophies.


If you want to be successful, you have to stay away from doing the same nail art as other people do, Suggs says. Hand-paint your design and don’t use decals. Apply yourself, gather information, and learn. “If I see something that I don’t know how to do, I try it anyway,” Suggs says, “I go out and find videos and books on folk art, and learn. A lot of people won’t try.” Some nail technicians look at nail art as a burden and won’t try to paint, using the excuse that their clients don’t like it, Suggs says. “That’s false,” she explains. “You can make a lot of extra money doing nail art at the end of a service, it attracts attention from other people and gets your name out there more, and word of mouth is the best advertisement.”

Suggs says she’s grateful for the opportunities to practice her skill. “There are a lot of people who are artistic but don’t know how to make money with their art,” she notes. “Nail art is way of channeling your artistic energy.”


No one knows better than Sharon Csiszer the need to put one’s talents to work. When 39 year old nail artist got tire of doing hair in 1981, she turned to nails. “I went to a hair and nail show and saw them doing flowers on nails and said, “I can do better than that,” says Csiszer, a nail technician and educator for Academy Mails in Pineville, N.C. she attended Page Beauty School in Lancaster, Calif. Where she began to challenge her artistic ability, and later began working at a salon in Lancaster.

“I painted cartoon characters, seasonal designs, flowers, face of movie stars and client’s boyfriends – anything they wanted, I painted,” Csiszer says. After cosmetology school, she walked her designs from salon to salon, drumming up business.

“Everyone had their mouths open; they couldn’t believe I could paint so tiny and detailed,” she says. “Everybody wanted me to work for them. “ Csiszer simply choose favorite salon and let the clients come to her. Within six months, she had a full book.


It didn’t take long for the self-confident Csiszer to take her place on the competition floor. In 1985, she competed in her first flat nail art competition at the Last Vegas Toe and Nail carnival, taking first place.

“I painted all 43 singers from the song “We Are The World” on four inch long nails,” says Csiszer. “It knocked the judges’ sock off!

At the time, the competition wasn’t time, so Csiszer painted the nails before the show. It took 25 hours!” she reveals.

Csiszer competed next at the Spring Fever Nail Art Competition in Los Angeles, calif. “I painted Elvis Presley and ’57 Chevy on the nails but I hadn’t practiced enough,” Csiszer says. Even so, she managed to place third. Csiszer competed more14 more times over a six year period, taking first place eight times, and second place five times, and third place three times. She hasn’t lost a competition yet.

Csiszer left California in 1991 and later went to work at Arcade My Nails.

 “A woman called me up after having seen me in NAILS Magazine and offered me my own art studio in the back of Academy Nails. I painted the walls to look like film strip with Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and Katherine Hepburn.” Csiszer has worked on more than 200 paintings, portraits, T-Shirt, murals, banners, and license tags. Many of her paintings have been displayed in art galleries.


What to do some incredible nail art that will make your clients’ head spin? Take some advice from an old pro, Sue Tumblety, a nail artist at Body Beautiful in Aberdeen, N.J. Tumblety, born into a family of artist, began drawing at age 5. A 13-year veteran of nail art, Tumblety reveals some family secrets she learned from the cradle.

  • If you want to paint a picture and you’re having trouble copying it, turn the picture upside down. This helps you look at one part of the image at a time.
  • If you’re working on a long nail, imagine it as a rectangle the size of a piece of paper. This will help shrink a large picture into small one.
  • To make your work look more advance, paint an entire scene not just one subject of the scene. “If I were copying a picture of a tree, I wouldn’t cover the nail with only one tree,” explains Tumblety. “I would include the ground below it and the clouds above it.”
  • When you’re drawing Disney characters, clean up the black line used to outline them. Make sure the lines are straight and have the same thickness.
  • Never outline flesh in a realistic portrait. Blend the right colors. You can add purple to a flesh color to give it a realistic look.
  • When painting flowers, don’t just stick them in the center of the nail. Let them flow with the shape of the nail “If I’m doing a three stem flower, I make it curve up the side of the nail and I paint any remaining stem by the cuticle area.” Explains Tumblety. “Work with the space of the nail to please the eye.
  • Draw the design on a piece of paper before begin to paint. You have to know where you’re going with the brush. Otherwise, painting can be very frustrating. “It would be like building a house without the plans,” she says.


The Sunday Paper. “Inside the paper you may find a picture of a bedspread with different patterns,” Tumblety says. “I’ll see a flower in that pattern that might look good on a nail.”

Wallpaper. You can find several different patterns of flowers or designs that might look attractive on a nail.

Watches. “I had a client who had a watch with a coyote and cactus in an Aztec print on the watch face,” explains Tumblety. “The next time she came in, I did the design on her nails.”

Dinnerware. Most plate sets have designs on them that would make great nail art. For example, you might want to copy the flowers that line some china plates.

Clothing. Study the designs on your clients’ shirts, sweaters, etc., and offer to paint the same design on their nails.

Tattoo Books. “I do a lot of fantasy work on the nails that I copy from tattoo magazines.” Tumblety says. ‘They have a lot of beautiful design.”


Csiszer doesn’t remember when she discovered her talent, but she does recall one oil painting she made in high school that took her instructor by surprise.

“In ninth grade, I took a painting class and the teacher really praised me,” she says. “I painted a snow scene and he bought it from me for $10.”

Csiszer says her creative approach to art has brought her a long way. Most of her design ideas come from current events.

“When Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, died, I did a memorial portrait of all the Muppets on the nails,” she explains. “When the space shuttle crashed, I painted the Challenger and all the astronauts who died.” Csiszer also paint seasonal designs and sports symbols, which she says are very popular in Pineville.

Her work has gained national and international media attention. She has receive mention in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Star Magazines, and five European magazines. Csiszer was filmed painting the Mona Lisa in a video called Phenomena and painting a Japanese movie star in Eye on Toyo.

Csiszer attributes her success to having an imagination for art.


Most nail art experts will tell you that even if you don’t think you have God given talent, you have to motivate to create your own art. One nail artist learned that lesson the hard way.

“I failed art in school,” says Liz Fojon, salon owner of Phenomanails in Fair Lawn, N.J. “A lot of people say you have to have something special in you to be motivated and encouraged.” Fojon didn’t wait for her instructors to motivate her. She took it upon herself.

“Since the ninth grade, I had always decorated my nails,” says Fojon. ”It was a hobby of mine.” But her hobby was not well received by her peers at that time.

“Everybody laughed at me,” Fojon says. “Twelve years ago, you weren’t artistic; you were weird.” How times changed.

Fojon remained and determined to keep learning and practicing. She worked on new designs every week to cosmetology school, graduating in 1983. Two years later, she opened up her own salon and immediately threw herself into the competition ring.

Fojon’s self-esteem soared the first time she won a competition. She took first place five consecutive years at IBS and took first place three consecutive years at WINBA. Fojon competed successfully in hundreds of other competitions between 1985 and 1990 and now serves as a judge for several shows.

She continues to work diligently on her craft, spending as many as 12 hours a day in the salon. She does anything from portraits to 15 different types of French manicures. Cartoon characters are her favorites. “For Christmas, I paint the Tasmanian Devil with a Santa hat on, or I paint him getting married or giving a manicure.” When Fojon’s in the mood for change, she paints the Tasmanian She-Devil!

Fojon, now an educator, says you can’t teach the kind of art she does. “If you motivate your students and encourage them, the art will come from their hearts,” she says. They need direction and the proper tools, and they have to have faith in their art. “Everyone has an artistic side,” Fojon insists. “They just have to find it.”


Top nail artist agree that students need encouragement, and being a nail art educator puts you in the position to help extract a student’s inner talent.

“Before I started teaching, I didn’t know that anyone could do nail art.” says Sheryl Macauley, an independent educator and the owner of The Nail Resort in Bakersfield, Calif. “Most of the people I knew of had been in art classes all through grammar school.” Macauley realized that by breaking down the art instruction and using visual aids, she could teach anyone who wanted to learn.

“I think nail art can be taught to the point where students can compete,” says Macauley, who has won several competitions herself. “If nail technicians can do nails, they’ve got the talent to do nail art. If they look at a picture and don’t know how to paint it, they can be taught how.”

Macauley admits that when she was a budding nail artist, she didn’t think she would be as good as she today. “It took two years for my girlfriend to talk me into doing nail competitions,: she says. “I was afraid of failure.” Discouragement is common among artists who don’t want to face rejection, Macauley explains. Looking back, she says her mother was a fantastic artist who stuffed her work in drawers. “it takes a long time to get to the point where you’re comfortable with your works,” she says. I’ve got several paintings that are half done because I was afraid of finishing them.”


After 13 years’ experience as a nail technician and 11 years as nail artist, Macauley eventually gained confidence in her work. Now as an educator, she often sees glimpses of her old self in her students. “I taught a class in Denver and two ladies came in with smirks on their faces, saying, “You’re not going to be able to teach us how to paint this tree.” “Macauley recalls. “I said, f you don’t learn how to paint it at the end of the class, I’ll give you your money back. They learned how to design better than most of the other students in the class and the women were giving me money for next session!”

If you want to learn how to be good at nail art, you’re going to get frustrated easily, but just keep practicing, Macauley says. “Anytime you get advice, try it,” she says. “You’ve got to be open because you’re always learning something new.”

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