I think nail art is some kind of innate skill that certain people are born to have. Where some folks are able to draw precise lines on their own fingernails, or dip their fingers into water to create a marbleized effect ala Pinterest, I seem only capable of creating a mess of my own hands. I have decided to pretty much stick to nail stickers or go to a professional for my nail art needs.  Just when I tell myself to give it up and turn it loose, I’ll see a Facebook post by Sheri, my friend from grad school days. Sheri and I went to college together. I did an MFA in Creative Writing, she did an MA and then a PhD in Literature, and now she is an Assistant Professor of English in Missouri. AND an incredible self taught nail artist who inevitably has the sickest manicure of anyone in any room, anywhere. LOOK.


I mean.

Her skills are SICK.


Can you EVEN.


I recently had the chance to catch up with Sheri over lunch at The Gage (one of my favorite spots in Chicago), and while doing so I totally oohed and aahed over her amazing manicure and then pressured her for details on how I could do it myself. BEHOLD.


Over lunch, Sheri told me about this amazing nail place in Miami where she learned everything she knows. And then she was like “well you paint this layer then that layer and use this and then use a dotting tool” and I was like, wait what? Then I asked her to write about her process so I could try to get on her level. Being the amazing person that she is, she responded to my request immediately and with an eloquence that inspired me to give this nail art thing a try once more, interpreting it this next time as therapy rather than an exercise in futility. Read on!

The Gospel of Nails according to Sheri

Four essential products:

1. Duri Cosmetics Rejuvacote – The nail place I used to go to in Miami used a base and top coat that they call “the magic”. They’re very mysterious about what product it is exactly. They buy it in bulk and refill polish bottles that say Duri. They sell it for $14 a bottle, but I guessed it could be Rejuvacote after trolling the Duri website. It smells the same and works just was well as “the magic” so it’s my go to base and top coat. I usually buy it for cheaper from Amazon.

2. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat – Sally’s stocks this, but priced too richly for my blood, especially since it also can be had far more cheaply on Amazon.

3. Orly Cuticle Therapy Creme – Almost $8 at Sally’s, but I shut my eye and buy it there sometimes. It’s that good.

4. Sally Hansen Vitamin E Cuticle Oil – Easily procured at Walgreens.

Product Regimen:

This Miami place also had a strict home work routine involving these products. They could look at you nails and tell if you did your homework and would threaten you with no longer allowing you to book appointments if you didn’t keep up. As a self described nail clinic, their logic was if you just wanted to get your nails painted you could go to one of a bajillion other places. With folks on their waiting list who wait up to a year for an appointment, they didn’t need to keep any client who didn’t keep up with their regimen. Excessive? Perhaps, but one look at my gel or acrylic-looking real nails and you know the home work works for strong long and healthy natural nails and you suck up the grief and do the home work. Their shop is also an unassuming hole in the wall in North Miami that I miss so much, because strictness aside, going twice a month was like therapy. Damn, no wonder I got into nail art when I moved away from them!

Anyway, the homework:

For nail care –
Ideal: Cuticle creme twice a day (it’s really rich so a little goes a long way) Rub it lightly into cuticles on the sides of nails – fingers and toes

What I actually do: I keep the tub by my bedside and most days I get in a rub before bed. Fingers and toes

Ideal: cuticle oil on fingers and toes once a day around the nail and cuticle like the creme, after the creme.

What I actually do: oil only on toes once a day in the winter (because dried toe cuticles hurt!) other seasons only when I notice the toenail cuticles lookin or feeling thirsty

For long polish wear –
Ideal: one coat of on the day after your manicure, the day after that, and every other day for as long as the color lasts. I don’t always do this, but when I do, my polish has lasted up to ten days.

The Rejuvacote serves as base coat and first top coat and the Seche Vite goes on top of that after letting the Rejuvacote dry for 2-3 minutes. When painting the nails, brush a thin layer of polish across the top of the nail tips. When you look under the nail you should see a little bit of this layer across the top, just a touch. Then as you paint, pull each brush stroke past the tip of the nails, all the way up and off the nail, then once the layer of color fully applied, run the brush across the top again like you’re sealing it. This helps to delay the color from pulling away from the tip of the nail the older the manicure gets. Apply the base and top coats like this too – a sliver across the top and another swipe to seal after you finish each layer of color.

Super neat manicures on both hands take practice, but my tried and true, never fail me thumb trick has served me well. The trick is to paint both thumbs last, and use them throughout to clean up around the edges. If you are right handed like I am, the last nail that you paint after all the others are done is the left thumbnail, and I use an orange stick to clean around it with my dominant right hand. Left handed? Switch it around – right thumbnail last, clean with the orange stick in the dexterous left hand

When doing nail art with tape and multiple colors (like the puzzle mani below), I’ll also put a layer of Seche Vite on top of each color layer and wait 15 minutes to put the tape down and start the next layer. It takes a long time, but it prevents the tape from pulling up the polish that it is stuck on. Be patient; Seche Vite needs those 15 minutes to do its no smudge magic.

The contrasting dots design I was wearing today, I got from Pinterest. I joined Pinterest solely for the nail tutorials, stayed for the cooking ones, and every fabulous manicure I have painted (and a few delicious meals I’ve made) is because somebody posted instructions to Pinterest. Only two of the popular nail techniques still elude me – water marbling and nail stamping. They never come out right and both are time consuming, messy, and too imprecise for my OCD. I’m going to keep trying though! I will do a clean stamp or execute a fly water marble one day!

This is the tutorial I learned the contrasting dots technique from.

You don’t have to go all fancy with dotting tools. I bought these when I was going through my dotting phase (which I might still be in) and am happy with them — Nail Art Design Tips Dotting Painting Brush Pen Set

But there are lots of tricks to get the same effect:

These are my favorite tutorials for the designs I do most often:

Monarch butterfly



Piet Mondrian

I have made peace with the fact that if nail art is involved it takes upward from an hour to paint my nails and for them to dry properly. Quick projects never end well. Wow! Now that it’s all down, who knew I put this much work into my fingers? Yep. Therapy.

Thank you Sheri for your AMAZING POST!!! You can follow Sheri on Pinterest @RockstarPHd.



pets says:
January 14, 2014, 4:23 pm
So technical! but so beautiful to behold.
LaNeshe says:
January 14, 2014, 4:41 pm
Her designs are awesome!
http://Www.Youtube.com/ says:
January 14, 2014, 5:45 pm
This is what happens to your nails if you apply French manicure. Most companies have supply the standard colors of reds, pinks, and purples that will draw attention to your hands and bring a smile to your face. "Only a heat-pressurized sterilizer offers complete protection.
glamazini says:
January 14, 2014, 9:18 pm
This is definitely not my ministry, but her nails are beautiful.
Jess says:
January 15, 2014, 4:08 am
What is the name of the salon she went to in Miami?
Lush-Fab-Glam.com says:
January 16, 2014, 7:07 am
Nail art is definitely beautiful and you're right there are some amazing designs out there that you can't even begin to replicate, luckily so many companies are now making pretty nail strips designs that even the clumsiest beautista can easily apply to their nails. See some of the cutest and chic ones featured here: http://www.lush-fab-glam.com/2012/05/get-80s-rock-chic-nail-designs-with.html
David Morgan says:
January 23, 2014, 4:51 am
Thanks Bella for sharing your important tips with us. Nails are so beautiful and looking really awesome. Nair art is surely required some intense imagination power.
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