Art Annual 2023

Artist Profile: Nicholas Heaney

Cape Cod Art  /  ART Annual 2023 /

Writer: Leslie Hatton

For artist Nicholas Heaney, finding respite in art has not been just a diversion from the world around him but a necessity in learning how to connect to it. Heaney often struggled socially and academically throughout his school-aged years, but he persisted despite his difficulties. Heaney graduated high school where he studied graphic design and when others may have been satisfied with the completion of what had proven to be a struggle, Heaney forged ahead. He went on to pursue an associate degree and even then, his thirst for learning wasn’t satiated. He culminated his education with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he studied art and graphic design. A recent diagnosis of Autism provided Heaney with a skies-parting, weight-off-the-shoulders moment and gave him some much-needed clarity. “Finding this out gave me an immense sense of relief and validation after years of struggling socially and academically. Finally so many questions I had about myself were beginning to seem as though they had answers. I was able to start making sense of why I had always felt so different from the other kids in school and why I’ve struggled to make friends as an adult, too.”

A Pink Summer Breeze • acrylic on canvas • 36″ x 24″

Heaney defines himself as an acrylic painter and loves “extra heavy body acrylic” in order to create more texture on the canvases he uses. The expression “go big or go home” could be a motto for Heaney as he thoroughly enjoys creating large pieces. “I am finding it fun to go bigger and bigger all the time. My largest painting to date is a triptych that I was commissioned to make and measures 124 inches wide.” Heaney mostly paints coastal landscapes, adding layers and textures, which translate to dunes and waves. “Many times I paint multiple pieces at once, one with heavy texture will be drying in the sun while I’m doing the underpainting on another canvas and while that dries, I’ll add final touches to yet another piece.” 

Artists often speak of the support they receive within their community and the significance of learning from mentors. For Heaney it’s been no different—except that unfortunately, he lost two of his mentors, whom he counted among his closest friends, within a year. He met gallery owners Steve Lyons and Peter Demers years ago, and worked closely as Lyons’ studio assistant. The men became like family—teaching Heaney about discovering his style as an artist and also the many facets of running their gallery. With a plan for retirement, Lyons and Demers hired Gabriel Beaton to take over the gallery’s reigns; but in an unforeseen and devastating twist of fate, both men passed away within months of each other—Lyons from cancer, and Demers from COVID. Leaving Beaton and Heaney to mourn and continue the gallery was an incredibly difficult time. “Gabriel encouraged me not to give up and to keep moving forward. He believed in me as an artist. He knew I was struggling and offered support.” Beaton’s support ultimately led Heaney to seek help from professionals which led to his Autism diagnosis. 

Healing and looking for inspiration, Heaney loves to immerse himself in nature and finds it all over the Cape, “from the Knob in Falmouth to Race Point Light in Provincetown and fabulous spots in between.” His advice for those new to the art world is simple: “Paint often. Keep painting. Don’t stop. Believe people when they tell you that they like your work and ignore the critics.” Despite the adversities, Heaney feels as if he is just starting, “I feel like my creative journey is just now beginning and that is a very exciting feeling.” 

Find Heaney’s work exclusively at Artnova Gallery on Main Street in Chatham or online at

Leslie Hatton

Leslie (Horne) Hatton enthusiastically joined Cape Cod Life in October of 2022. Educated in Mashpee and Falmouth, she graduated from Assumption College and received her Master of Education degree from Lesley College. A former teacher, she has taught middle school, preschool and most recently, fifth grade. She and her husband Tom have three children: Aidan, Colin, and Erin. Their newest family member is Millie, an outgoing, outrageously happy chocolate lab. She loves to talk about all of them so better not ask. One neat tidbit about Leslie is that she is the author of the locally best-selling children’s book Cape Cod ABCs, with over 10K books sold on Cape Cod, the Islands and across Massachusetts. Happiest in the summer with a little sun on her face, she loves being with friends and her family, laughing, drinking and eating all over beautiful Cape Cod.