Thursday, February 7, 2013

DPW Spotlight Interview: Nora Bergman

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

To enter to win Nora Bergman's painting, "St. John's Bridge," go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing her interview.

From Nora's DPW Gallery page:
I'm an artist/mom living out my dreams in Clatskanie, Oregon with my husband and three young boys. Originally from Minnesota, I studied Interior Design and Art at North Dakota State University.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I've been very creative my entire life. I was always doodling, sewing, painting things onto my clothes, making the posters for school – just always crafty. I was the kid who got calligraphy kits and drawing supplies as gifts and loved it. My favorite teachers were the ones that incorporated art into learning, and my seventh grade art teacher taught me all I've ever needed to know about drawing in perspective. I enjoyed school and did well, but didn't really think I had the gumption to make 'art' a career, so I eventually landed in an interior design program. I would finish the drafting and designing part of a project as quickly as possible in order to get to my favorite part, the design rendering.

St. John's Bridge
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Nora's interview.

Throughout my education, I've taken many art and art/color theory courses, but never a painting class. After graduation from college, I avoided the design world and started down a rather random work path including youth ministry, floral design and picture framing. About fifteen years ago, I moved to the west coast and one of my friends suggested I try painting a mural on another friend's dining room wall. One painting led to another, and I essentially learned how to paint on bathroom and bedroom walls and living room ceilings.

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

Painting murals was only ever a part-time occupation for me, but I happily painted what other people wanted, thinking of fine art as a 'maybe someday' option. I knew I didn't have the inspiration or motivation, and, frankly, was terrified that I wasn't good enough.
In 2004, I married my amazing husband, Alan, and within the following seven years, we added three little boys to our family. Painting was random and rare for me during that time, but I did start my blog then, mostly just to have an online place to document all the work I had done up to that point.

In 2011, our family experienced a sudden loss that was heart-breaking, and for me, life-altering. It was as if God gave me a little shake and said, “Are you seriously going to let fear continue to stop you from really living?” All those trite cliches about seizing the day, living in the moment, you only have today, well, suddenly they were oh-so-real. A switch was flipped in me, and I haven't looked back.

Whatever Befall
(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?

I painted strictly with acrylics up until last year, and still enjoy using them. When my 'someday' became 'today', I went to my friend, the internet, to learn about oil paints. After a time, I stumbled onto Daily Paintworks and the art-blogging community. Right around this time, the ArtBytes were introduced, and Carol Marine became my teacher. I literally took her supply list to the Utrecht store in Portland and filled my basket. I nearly went crazy at first, trying to keep mud from appearing on my board, but every attempt brought small successes and things learned.

Since I haven't even been at the oils for a full year, I'm really looking forward to the continued learning and improving, to someday feeling like I actually know what I'm doing. And, to figuring out if I'm cleaning my brushes the right way!

I just love your scenes of a quiet, rural life. What can you tell us about how you find painterly inspiration, whether it's tools, a window latch or a grain silo?

Hmmm, I guess it's because it's what I know. I'm a farmer's daughter and the descendant of extremely resourceful souls - a junker at heart - so I see beauty in those things. Fields of crops, rural architecture, small town life, a tool that's been held in someone's hand over the course of decades -- I don't just see these as things, I see the people that came before us, I see their hard work, their dedication, their struggle, their legacy. I suppose I'm subconsciously trying to preserve a bit of it, to capture my own memories and experiences in a way that is interesting and unique. On the other hand, I'm secretly obsessed with urban areas and the way people live in large cities, for much the same reasons. I haven't experienced it myself, but if I do, I'm sure it'll show up in my art.

Old Glory
(click here to see original image)

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

Well, for the first time in my entire life, that word doesn't really apply to me! I've been the queen of procrastinators in the past, but I've never before felt a sense of urgency and excitement like I do now. I feel like a late arrival to the daily painting party, so I'm trying to catch up! I have so much to learn, so much I want to paint, and I'm a full-time mom, so my time is precious. But, having all these responsibilities is an advantage -- I accomplish much, much more when my schedule is full.

Right now, what seems to be working is to paint first thing in the morning. For those who know me even a little, this is shocking! I've been a night owl for 39 years, and suddenly, I can't wait to get up in the morning to start a new day of painting. The more frequently I paint, the faster I achieve the results I want and the sooner I can give my full attention back to my family and the other chores of the day.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I paint from my photographs and have learned to take my camera whenever I leave the house. Also, I take photos of my still-life setups and paint everything from my computer monitor. It's easier for me to 'see' the composition when I get it on the screen – I can crop, re-crop, manipulate it all until it's just how I like it. This is the part that can hold me up – deciding what to paint. But, I'm getting faster and the more frequently I paint, the less I submit to the need to choose that 'just-right, super-special' composition or subject matter. Just get on to the work! Time's a wastin'!

Phone Book
(click here to see original image)

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

Since I've only been at this for less than a year, I haven't really had a chance to get burned out. I certainly have off days, where I can try painting all day and end up with nothing but extreme frustration, but I'm learning to fall forward. To not let the mistakes of today stay with me tomorrow, to move on, on to the next! No looking back! That's been the really freeing part of daily painting in a small format. Often, I'm thinking of what to paint next before I'm done with what I'm working on. I don't get too attached to my work.

I also change my subject matter frequently – still-life, landscape, car, I'm kind of all over the place. I do the same with my style; some days I want to see the details, others, I get a little loosey-goosey and just roll with it. I suppose when I'm at this for a few years I might settle into a narrower focus, but, I doubt it. That doesn't really feel like me.

Oregon Winter
(click here to see original image)
Of course, I'm not naive enough to think this crazy enthusiasm I have now will never wane, but hopefully if it does, daily painting will be a well-established habit, a natural part of my everyday life. When I do struggle, I take a break, get some sleep, do something completely different. I have a gazillion art-bloggers on my Google Reader, so flipping through the blogs on my phone before bed, seeing the new paintings posted on DPW each night, seeing what others have done each day really spurs me on. The community of this all is really, really encouraging.

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

Everything! Mostly, I'm learning that baby steps are better than no steps. If I can't do it all, or I can't do it all exactly the way I want to right away, don't freak out. Just paint! My to-do list of things to paint, things to learn about painting, or the internet or websites or marketing, etc, is exceedingly long, as I'm sure it is for most people, so I'm learning to take these other things one small baby step at a time and just really put my main focus on the art itself.

Reflecting Elm
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

When the completed painting in my head actually shows up on the panel!

The act of creating is just so rewarding to me, and when someone spends their hard-earned money on my work, well, that's just awesome, but the feeling that I'm actually living the life God intended for me is most satisfying.

Thanks, Nora!

© 2013 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


  1. Nora,
    Thanks to many family and friends who follow your work,I have become such a fan as well. Your art is amazing, but the above article and your inspiring story means even more. From a rural farm girl who is now a 40 year-old SAHM, I can totally relate and that makes your passion and renewed love for art all the more enviable. I wish your success to continue and grow- you deserve it :)
    Anita Yliniemi Griffeth

    1. Ah, Anita! Thanks so much! Wow, this just makes me grin from ear to ear. So nice to hear from you! :)

  2. Wow Nora,
    All these paintings are amazing! Your story is very inspirational too!

  3. Hi, Nora! I love and admire you balanced approach to your art practice. Especially the "baby steps are better than no steps" attitude. Your work is really lovely and shows tons of talent and promise. I would advise you to do at least some painting from life as opposed to photos once in a while. I hear all the time from artists I speak to (and certainly feel this way myself) that the color you perceive is SO much diminished in photos as opposed to life. Great interview, and beautiful work. Your friend, Sarah

    1. Sarah -
      Thank you, thank you! I so appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom. I think I used the reference 'baby', because that's exactly how I feel - and I think my art shows it. :) I'm so grateful for the encouragement from you and others - it's extremely helpful on what I see as a long road ahead. Although painting from life is not ideal with my three boys running around, I'm excited - and a little petrified, - but I think I'm up for the challenge! Thanks again!