Thursday, October 11, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Nadi Spencer

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

To enter to win Nadi Spencer's painting, "85 Pumpkin Flower," go to DailyPaintworks and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Nadi Spencer's DPW gallery page:
I have lived my life as a professional artist for 40 years. I paint in a vibrant, bold, colorist style, and I paint 7 days a week. My studio is my favorite place in the world. I often have giveaways on my website, Please, feel free to contact me about commission portraits of dogs and people. 
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I recently began writing about this in a new blog My Life as an Artist. I tell stories about growing up with art, starting with my first art sale when I was 7. I was always encouraged to paint by my parents, who also paid for the "Draw Me" correspondence course. Later, in high school, I had wonderful teachers who let me design my own assignments.

85 Pumpkin Flower
(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?

I lived in Yosemite when I was 19 and married another artist. I was young and in love so, when I learned that he was resentful of my art, I stopped painting – for 5 years. But I missed being creative, so I took a wood shop class at the local college. Instead of making a shelf, I cut out little animal characters, eventually building a business and selling them to 300 stores nationwide. My husband became my partner and we did this for 15 years. When the marriage and business ended, I was left with 4 daughters and a mortgage. I sold the wood tools, switched to watercolor, and never looked back.

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 early days, I played with pastels, oils, watercolor, acrylic, leather, and scratchboard. I even made "puff paint" before there was such a thing - mixing white glue with dry tempera. After the wood art, I painted only in watercolor for 6 years, painting my woodland creatures on paper instead of wood. Then in 1996, I painted my first city mural, using Nova Color acrylic paint. I loved it - Nova Color is like painting with pudding. And I want my paint to dry 5 minutes ago, so acrylic was the perfect choice.

77- Quail Family
(click here to see original image)

For 15 years now, I've only painted in watercolor and acrylic. Going back and forth keeps me fresh. I still paint large murals, but most of my time now is spent painting my own original pieces. Cut-out wood has recently re-surfaced in large pieces, and I want to explore more of that.

You have a very distinctive style and wrote a funny post on your blog about critiques from family and friends that you've had to learn to shrug off. What can you tell us about how you not only developed your style, but embraced it so wholeheartedly?

About 8 years ago, I was asked to paint a mural with 200 local students – K through 8th grade. I wanted it to look professional when finished because it would be permanent town art, so I came up with a process. Black lines were painted on very bright orange ground color. The children were told to fill in the colors, but not to touch the black lines. The orange color that was left (on both sides of every black line) gave movement and vibrancy to the mural – the colors popped like in a stained-glass window. Since then, I have painted 3 more student murals.

18 Maile's House
(click here to see original image)

It was a success with the kids, and I was left wanting more. I began painting canvases in the same way, letting them evolve as I went along. I realized that the vivid color, the sense of playfulness, was what I was missing in my work. I can't stop now.

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

I am a very organized artist. I designed a 2-year planner built for an artist; I want to know what I'm working on for a year or more in advance. Ideas, projects, and deadlines are all kept in order. I also schedule time for procrastination or tangents, which occur daily. I often have trouble finishing a piece - I'm already on to that next adventure. So I go to the computer instead.

I love the internet. I love Facebook, I love e-mail. I love other artists' sites and photo sites. I can spend a day doing research. And that's OK because my whole day, every day, is about my art. I rarely do anything else and I almost never take a day off.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Arriving at ideas is the easy part. The hard part is narrowing them down to one at a time – the one that excites me the most this minute. I get ideas from books, magazines, artists' sites, driving, watching movies, cooking, even cleaning the house. But my favorite way is with a camera.

Saddle Texture
(click here to see original image)

I often don't see an exciting composition until I narrow it down in a view-finder. I've trained my eye to forget what I am looking at, and to see only lines, shapes, color and shadow. Composition excites me more than subject matter.

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

My biggest fear in life is being bored – I work hard to avoid it. If I'm feeling uninspired and need immediate aid, I run for my "I Love" scrapbook. For longer-term solutions, I make sure that I have an adequate amount of "challenges" spread throughout my planner. They could include themes (in amounts of 12, for calendars), new towns to paint (I recently added Cambria, CA), or joint projects with my artist friend (80 paintings in 80 days).

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

I'm fine-tuning my style – learning what excites me most, and what doesn't work – always pushing my comfort zone. I'm learning to navigate social media online. Many of my friends (60 - up) avoid it. I find it magical. I sold my 1st painting online in 2011. Now almost all my sales are online. It's a new world, and I'm jumping in, eyes-wide.

Me 'n' Navarre
(click here to see original image)
What makes you happiest about your art?

I have lived 40 years as a professional artist. It is the only job I have ever had. I raised 4 daughters and by my actions, gave them this message: Work hard, love the work, and don't give up – ever. Wow - what a ride!

Thanks, Nadi!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


  1. Great intersview! It's inspiring to hear that Artist has been your only job. Love your work, Nadi!

  2. So inspiring! And such an amazing, driven woman! She didn't mention how much time she devotes to her community as well!

  3. I love Nadi's work, and she is definitely an inspiration. The only part I don't understand is the planning ahead for two years! I am kind of a one day at a time person ,so far. I know I should probably have some sort of "business plan" but I am constantly exploring new media and don't know how to narrow down. Thanks, Nadi for the comment about using a viewfinder, and the tips on composition of shapes. Great reminders!

  4. Good interview! I love to hear about someone surviving as a professional artist. I also really like to see someone who isn't completely stuck in one style. Some really cool works!