Thursday, July 12, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Nancy Parsons

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Nancy Parson's painting, River Walk - San Antonio, go to and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Nancy Parson's DPW gallery page:
I began a blog in the summer of 2010, as my husband Dave and I embarked on a 4,000 mile, six-week, artist sabbatical in our little pop-up camper. I began painting and posting each day on my blog at Since returning, I have continued to paint and post as a daily painter of what I have coined Not-So-Still Lives. 
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I began painting in kindergarten. As one of nine children, my art was the only way I could get noticed. Luckily my parents affirmed me with art lessons or there's no telling what I'd have done with my life.

I remember consciously deciding to be an artist at age six. By the time I graduated from high school, the thought of being a female painter in 1966 sounded way too scary. Out of fear of dying on the sidewalk from starvation, I studied commercial art in college.

Although I have always painted to some degree, taken scattered painting classes, and even won an award here and there; I really didn't start painting on a regular basis until a little over two years ago when my husband and I took off for 6-weeks in our pop-up camper. I began painting everyday and blogging. When we returned home, I was invited to do a one-woman show at a local gallery and sold enough work to pay for our entire trip. I was hooked and immediately signed up for a couple of workshops with two of my favorite artists (Carol Marine and Rene Wiley), joined several art organizations, bought and devoured every used art book I could get my hands on, and really began studying art.

River Walk - San Antonio

(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Lots of them. When my kids were little I was painting in watercolors and participating in local art shows, painting wall murals, and doing commissions for neighbors. Life was going good, or so I thought, until my first husband suddenly walked out the door and my world and fine art dreams collapsed.

Out of desperation, I took a full time job in international banking, but after 5 years was bored out of my mind. I eventually went back to art school and graduated from the Art Institute of Houston in Advertising Design, and then started my own graphic design business in 1984. I was still painting here and there and taking a few workshops, but dying with desire to paint full time.

So, after another 26 years of raising a family and running my design business, I realized that time was ticking away and if I didn't figure out a way to make this happen, I would never get to be a painter. I made a commitment then and there to start painting nights and weekends. I made that decision over two years ago and can honestly say I am happier and more excited than I've ever been in my life!

Z-Zinnia Tops
(click here to see original image)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

In the past, I have worked in many different genres and mediums including: watercolor, prisma color, scratchboard, gouache, airbrush, acrylics, pen and ink, charcoal, clay and silkscreen. For some reason, those mediums were not loud enough or loose enough to satisfy me. I longed for my work to be bolder and scream with intense color.

I now work exclusively in oils and love the flexibility and rich creamy texture of the medium. I currently work with pretty thin paint, but hope to learn to use thicker applications as I grow in my art. I usually only work with primary colors, plus white and umber, but lately have begun to explore other palettes and colors. This has made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

There's a wonderful relaxed, peaceful quality to many of your paintings. What can you tell us about how your compositions reflect your personal approach to life?

I think my compositions and subjects are intimate, honest and—hopefully—full of life and joy. I have a very active imagination; painting gives my inner child permission to come out and play. I like to paint in total quiet, so I can listen and hear. Painting is a meditation for me into the silence… like a prayer.

Shady Characters
(click here to see original image)

Once a painting feels complete, I become aware of something more wanting to be revealed. That's when I love to blog and share what my paintings have to say. I've never considered myself a writer, however I now feel my writing has as much to say at times as my paintings do. This has been an enormous step out of my fear and self-imposed limitations.

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

Procrastination—if it comes looking for me—looks like fatigue or exhaustion. I know I push myself pretty hard and only get about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I am a big believer in balance of body, mind and spirit. This is the secret I've learned which makes everything else I do work. Priorities come first.

I'm up early most mornings and in the pool by 5:00, followed by daily Mass, and then coffee with friends. By 9:00 a.m. or so, I'm ready to begin a full day of graphic design, followed by dinner with my husband and then—my playtime—painting and blogging.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I carry my camera or phone everywhere I go and am always on the lookout for color, light, reflections and shadows to jump out at me. Road trips are a gold mine and I drive my husband crazy with my incessant screams to "Stop the car... let me out!" I find paintings everywhere, even out walking my dog.

If I ever run out of ideas, I take a trip to the produce and flower aisles in the supermarket. You wouldn't believe how many colorful characters jump up and down, begging to get into my cart.

How do you keep art "fresh"? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

Bold strokes of clean color are the bomb!!!!  I try with all my might to put a stroke of paint down once and then leave it alone. Mud is the enemy to be feared and avoided at all cost.

(click here to see original image)

The key to avoiding burnout for me is always looking for something fresh and alive that excites and challenges me to paint, before I show up at the easel. I try to work loose and let parts of my tinted red canvases peek through here and there. I think these are major keys to help keep my paintings alive. If I start to get tight and fussy, I'll wipe the whole painting off and start over. There really are no mistakes in painting, just discoveries. Walking away from a painting—even before I think it’s finished—is my goal.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I am learning how to see, hear and feel on a deeper level... letting go and giving myself over in trust. I believe artists are all little brushes in the hand of the master Creator himself. He uses us as His instruments to express and share His love in the world. It's not always easy being a brush… but what the heck… someone has to do it. :-)

Rainy-Day Sunshine
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

I am happiest with my art when I am feeling the most vulnerable—and yet to my utter surprise—finding that vulnerability somehow opens portals that communicate and resonate with others.

Ana├»s Nin, a French-Cuban author once said, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."  I believe painting demands tremendous courage just to show up, but rewards courage with tremendous joy, satisfaction, and an intense appreciation and humble gratitude for the precious gift we call life.

Thanks, Nancy!

© Jennifer Newcomb Marine

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