Contingent Remainders – Law School Inspired Art

I am a licensed attorney here in Indiana, but I have never practiced full-time post law school. Rather, I focused my efforts on becoming a full-time, professional artist. I often get asked the question “Why did you even go to law school?”  A difficult question to answer without telling my whole life story but in short, if I had known I could make a living as a professional artist before I went, I probably would not have gone.  But with that being said, I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  In law school, I found myself in a position where I was surrounded by entrepreneurial-minded people who taught me the business side of creating and helped me build a business over three years.

I am a doodler by nature and in law school I sometimes found myself doodling in the margins of my notes while listening to professors lecture.  Early on, the thought of selling my classroom doodles never even occurred to me.  It wasn’t until Legal Research my 1L year around October when I was doodling this spooky little house that Evan, a classmate, leaned over during class and whispered that the porch needed a pumpkin on it.  I drew a pumpkin on it and subsequently gave Evan that drawing and to this day he has the most extensive private collection of my classroom drawings from law school.   From there, I started turning some of these drawings into refined paintings that I showed in the spring of 2008. I started selling many of these drawings online via and finally got to the point that during Property, my 2L year, I started drawing right in my textbooks during class.  It was not uncommon for me to tear the page right out of the book and sell it after class – but many of them also landed as far away as Alaska and London.

In the three years since law school, I have been slowly creating pieces out of my textbooks, classroom notes, and bar exam study sheets.   For “Contingent Remainders”, I have gathered the best of the remaining pieces from my law school days and am showing them publicly for the first time alongside new paintings inspired by these law school doodles.


“Reviewability” is probably the most iconic text book drawing from my law school days and was created while sitting in the front row of Professor Moskowitz’s Admin Law class. This depiction of the whimsical house on the hill is a great example of the work I was creating at that time.

Default Judgment 2

“Default Judgment” is created out of half a legal pad of bar exam notes, and due to the very limited supply (I only have half a legal pad worth of bar notes left to create with), I knew whatever I created on that canvas had to be stunning. The first challenge in this piece was matching the yellow legal pad paper to the frame.  I bought an antique gold acrylic paint that matched the frame and then tinted a satin polycrylic for the glaze.  It was important to keep the notes readable so I used 3 transparent layers to achieve the right patina on the yellow paper.  Next, I knew I didn't want to cover most of the notes, so I spent several days looking at the piece until the simple birch trees idea popped into my head, and I ran with it. I finished off the piece by creating a really subtle foreground with grass & abstract flowers.

Law as Our Calling - Valpo Law Library

One last piece worth noting is the cover to my brother’s Civil Procedure book.  Right before graduating, 15 friends and I ripped up my brothers Civ Pro book and created a 9 panel mixed media painting out of the first 694 pages that currently hangs in the Valparaiso University Law Library.  The process of cutting up his book left the cover scarred with cut marks, glue residue and tape.  For this piece, I wanted the history of the book to speak for itself so I created yet another patina to help match the original color of the cover to the ornate frame it now rests in.  One of the horizontal cut marks made a great implied horizon, so I exaggerated it and then finished it off with a small intricate house.

Nates Civ Pro Book 2