After receiving his National Diploma in Design (1965) from Hornsey College of Art, London–where he studied with Bridgit Riley and John Hoyland–Nicholson attended the Brooklyn Museum School of Art, where he studied painting with Reuben Tam as a Max Beckmann Memorial Scholar. He later received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College of Norwich University, Vermont.

He has had 23 one-person exhibitions, including four in New York City. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, notably “AdoRnmenTs,” which originated at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in SoHo and traveled nationally; a touring show to American consulates in Brazil; a print exhibition in Germany; and, under the auspices of the Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, at international art fairs at Miami and Los Angeles.

Nicholson’s first solo exhibition in New York was at Kingsborough Community College, Brooklyn, in 1978. Since then, he has had one-person shows at Marymount Manhattan College Art Gallery, Condeso-Lawler Gallery and Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery in Manhattan. He has exhibited extensively in group exhibitions in Manhattan, including Condeso-Lawler, Katharina Rich Perlow, Bernice Steinbaum, Ludlow-Hyland, Nancy Moore Fine Art, and at the Doral Bank.

Nicholson’s bibliography is extensive. His work is illustrated and discussed in “Long Island Landscape Painting: Volume II, The Twentieth Century” (Little, Brown, 1990), “Long Island” (Crescent Books, 1986) “Studios by the Sea” (Abrams, 2002) “Hampton Gardens: A 350 Year Legacy” (Rizzoli, 2004) and “Along the Way: MTA Arts for Transit” (Monacelli Press, 2006). His exhibitions have been reviewed in The New York Times, Newsday, the East Hampton Star, the Southampton Press, the Philadelphia Enquirer, Artspeak, Art and Antiques, and Long Island Life.

Feature articles about him and his work have appeared in Hamptons Country magazine, Dan’s Papers (featuring his painting on the cover), and Hampton Jitney Magazine. Video interviews with him have been broadcast on BBC Television, LTV Channel 27 (East Hampton) and Cablevision (Riverhead), deposited in the Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.

In recent years, Nicholson has exhibited extensively on the East End of Long Island. He is currently represented in Manhattan by Suzanne Randolph Fine Art and by Alpan Gallery in Huntington, NY. His work is in numerous private and several public collections, including the Royal College of Heralds, London; Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal; Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton; Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington; The Long Island Museum of American Art; New Jersey Bell; and Texas Commerce Bank, Houston. His year-long project, 52 Weeks, was exhibited at the Heckscher Museum of Art in 1998. Following purchase by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta the project is now installed in the Bank’s new headquarters building.

In 2002 he completed two, 7 x 33-foot glass mosaics for Long Island Rail Road’s Hicksville station, for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program. The project was among those honored by the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s 2003 Masterworks Award to the MTA. A recent public project is a 28 x 20-foot installation of nine paintings in the lobby of the Meridian Building, Columbia SC. His most recent project is a commission from Metro Art Los Angeles for two 55-foot long glass mosaics and a large skywell for the Gold Line Portal at Union Station, LA. Installed in 2006.

As an extension of his work as a visual artist, Nicholson has collaborated on three major dances with the choreographer Karla Wolfangle, a former principal dancer for The Paul Taylor Company. Petit Sensations, for which he created costumes and a twenty-four-foot folding screen stage setting, was performed first at the 92nd. Street Y in Manhattan in 1994, and at the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1998. It was performed at Jacob’s Pillow in July, 2000 for Paul Taylor’s seventieth birthday. He designed the decor and costumes for Ms. Wolfangle’s Temperaments , at the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1996, and Strata, performed the same year at the DIA Center for the Arts in Manhattan. Premiered in 2009, “Roy Nicholson” was performed by the Stockton Dance Company at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, with projections of Nicholson’s work.

Nicholson is Professor Emeritus, Long Island University, where he has taught full-time since 1986. He received the Trustee’s Award for Scholarly Achievement in 2000.

Listed in Who’s Who in American Art, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in The East, Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Strathmore’s Who’s Who and New York Art Review