Nikki Pinkham (@521gemini) is one of our favorite sources of mood and ingenuity. Her pieces are always perfectly colored - even when there are only two colors involved. Nikki’s terrifically unique form of iPhone administered charcoal drawing sets her style apart and sets a mood that is alluring and emotive. We recently spent some type with Nikki to learn more about her as a person and an artist and to uncover a few of her editing secrets. Read along and learn with us! portrait

Well, I am Nikki Pinkham - wife to the best husband ever and mom to beautiful twin daughters. We live in rural Pennsylvania, which is why I have so many tree shots. I shoot what is around me. I do a lot of driving for work which gives me an opportunity to shoot pictures throughout the day. I do my editing at night to help relax. It is my creative outlet in this busy life we lead.

I remember when I first started posting on Instagram a few years ago, I was so intrigued by the feeds that had a distinctive style and wondered if I would ever find my niche. Well, I guess I have found it and people seem to like my moody and sometimes dark style!


So what first got you in to taking pictures?

I have always loved many types of art. Drawing was where I started, but my favorite was always charcoals. In college I took a photography class as one of my electives and found that I loved it. It was a black and white only class and that was my first experience using a darkroom. I didn’t really get into it again until I found Instagram. All my work is currently shot and edited on my iPhone - because I always have it on me. I do own a camera, but I really only use it for taking pictures of my daughters.


So if Instagram is what really got you back in to photography, how did you get into Instagram?

Actually, someone that worked for me was talking about it and showed me what is was. I downloaded it and was hooked from there!

Hearing that your favorite drawing form was charcoal really fits with the feel and style of your feed.  How exactly did you develop that style?

I have always been intrigued by all things moody and creepy - from movies to books to places - and it has translated into my work. When I am editing I keep going until it "feels" right and that always seems to end up on the gloomier side. It is definitely not a reflection of my personality but rather an outlet for my creativity.


Because your style is so unique, what does your editing process generally look like?

First, I start by deciding if I will be blurring it or not. Usually the blur is a mix between an app and blurring by hand to get the look I want. Then I go in and add any elements such as the birds or figures I use - which by the way are mostly of my husband. I use only elements that I shoot myself. When I started, I used apps to add in different items but moved away from that a while ago.

I then take the image into Mextures. I always start with my saved formulas to see if the lighting in one of them is what I like. From there I either tweak the formula or start fresh on a new edit. I use the Multiply blending mode a lot to get that darker overall look I prefer. I am a big fan of the textures (Grunge Pack, Intensify Pack, etc.) and the Grit and Grain textures. I think they add another element of depth to my images. I usually just keep trying different things until I hit something that makes me stop because it feels right.


Are there any formulas that you’d like to share with the Mextures community?

Sure! Here are a few:

Mocha - ASQJLTC - I love the hue in this formula and how it highlights right across the center of the photo.

Dreamy - CQESXZE - This one works well in both color and b&w.

Mystic - IHYPREC - This is one of my favorite b&w formulas. I love the little streak of white in the foreground! It adds a great depth element.


What unique elements do you feel like Mextures offers for your editing style?

The textures and Grit and Grain are the first things that attracted me to Mextures. Then once I really started to dig in I was able to manipulate lighting with overlays to change the focus of the eye and also highlight areas I wanted to draw attention to. It took me playing with it a ton to figure out how to get the darker look I like - especially because before the most recent update many of the colors were too bright and cheery for my particular style. My use of Mextures has definitely evolved.


You’re involved as an admin with several “hubs” on Instagram.  Care to share anything about those?

Well @creepywindowsunday was my first. The tag was started by two Instagrammers who closed their accounts and asked me to take it over. I started a page and have run it on my own ever since. I worked with a few other hubs and then I was approached to be a moderator for @jj_sombre. I loved the page and was excited to join. I was then asked to moderate and eventually to admin for @jj__mextures, a page I loved and so I accepted. It is so cool to look at what people can do with Mextures. There are just so many ways to use it!

The other hub I moderate for is @RSA_mystery. I’ll be honest, it took some convincing to get me to agree, simply because of the time commitment of working with so many pages. To be honest, if it was any other group of people that I worked with, I do not think I would have agreed to take it on. But it is a great bunch from all over the world and we all jump in when we can with no pressure and no drama. We just share the amazing work that we find on Instagram. I truly enjoy making someone's day just a bit brighter by featuring their work.

It is amazing how Instagram can bring people together through pictures, comments and emojis.


Who are the people that have most inspired your work?

I have been following @debbie.6 for a while. She closed her main page and started a new account and has posted very little of her work, but it is brilliant.  I would love to see Debbie start posting again.

I adore the work @tonyinseattle does. He shoots interesting subject matter and pulls out some fantastic editing skills!

@painterdave created brilliant work. He is sorely missed, but his page is still up to remember the art he shared.

I am also a huge fan of @oveck. His work is always fresh and new. Clean but with an unexpected twist!

I also love well executed urbex. Some of my favorites are @jamiebettsphoto, @_soliveyourlife_, @tonydetroit and @pablocruise33.

And those are just a few of my favorites!


Make sure to follow along with Nikki’s work at @521gemini!