About Nancy

Call me an optimist, but I believe that art can heal. Man has the powerful ability to dream, to create better worlds and new realities. And images play an important role in this. I paint with the conviction that my images can heal.


Pouring Resin-like finishes

How do you get that surfboard finish so popular on paintings? You know, that super clear, glossy, smooth top coat. The best results can be obtained using commercial resins. They come in two parts – a resin and hardener. They are, however, very toxic to work with. I prefer to use acrylic non-toxic fine artist alternatives that may not look as perfect, but will also last without yellowing or cracking.

My favorite technique is to lay the painting flat and very level, and propped up on containers to get it lifted off the table or floor. By the way, it is easier to work with rigid surfaces like panels. If you are using a stretched canvas then you need to prop up the center of the canvas to keep it from sinking downward while laying flat. I then pour Golden's GAC800 without diluting it with water onto the painting’s surface. I spread it out evenly with a plasterer’s knife, and then immediately spray lightly with isopropyl alcohol to eliminate any bubbles. This takes a day or two to dry but has a smooth glossy finish.

The GAC800 is the only pourable acrylic that I know of that can be poured in deep layers without crevising. So you can also take duct tape and tape around the outside edges of the painting creating a wall that stands out from the top surface of the painting. By applying a small amount of a thick acrylic gel where the tape and painting meet you can keep the pour from later leaking out. While the gel is still wet pour the GAC800 into the pool or well that’s created by the tape. You can get a very thick poured layer this way. The thicker the pour, the longer you need to keep the painting level and flat while drying – which may take weeks if it’s more than an inch thick. When the GAC800 is used thickly it will appear slightly yellow and cloudy, not really visible in a pour with no walls or duct tape, and is favored by artists that like the "wax" or encaustic appearance.

If you don't like the cloudy look of GAC800 you can use other pourable products but you can't pour them thickly in one pour, or they might crevice as they dry. Instead pour several thin layers. My favorites for these are Golden's Clear Tar Gel and Self Leveling Gel.


Stillness in Art

A recent inquiry regarding the idea of stillness in a work of art got my thinking juices flowing. For me, stillness is when we allow ourselves those moments to be connected to our higher self, or a higher place or source. This connection allows us to leave the realm of physical, material, emotional and instead flow into the universal vastness of “God” (or our own concept of the nonphysical). When we have this connection to our true source, it feels like stillness as we are in a timeless non-physical realm.

True stillness in a work of art comes from the artist and their process – when both are also connected to this higher source. Stillness in a work of art will rarely, if at all, come from a process that is overly mental, overly emotional and too thought out or controlled/contrived. That means there are no real tools, techniques or formulas that would allow this powerful connection to come through the work. Instead, overly mental processes, pinched off from source, create a blocked type of static. A painting is 2 D which by itself encourages a stillness, a time away from the normal reality viewing of our physical world, and propels the viewer into an alternate reality. This is a 2-way street. Artists can make the best work possible, and yet unless the viewer allows a certain amount of time and focus for viewing it, could miss out on all the rich potential in a work of art. So the stillness in a painting requires the connection of the artist in process as well as the viewer.


Transparent Layers - Glazing vs. Washes

There are 2 ways to apply a transparent layer of acrylic color. One way is a "wash" or "stain" which is made by using a mixture of water to colored paint in a ratio of about 8:2 (this isn't an exact science, but the idea is to add enough water that the acrylic binder is completely diluted, usually at least half water to half color). This makes a very diluted color which sinks down into the surface of the substrate. Washes and stains are usually made on absorbent surfaces. If your surface is matte (not glossy) it is absorbent. I use the word "wash" to signify alot of this diluted mixture sitting on the surface puddling up. While I use the word "stain" when the diluted mixture is applied, then quickly rubbed into the surface with a dry rag, so only a hint of the color remains - like a "stain".

The second way to apply a transparent layer of color is by glazing. A glaze generally does not involve water in any way, but instead uses a mixture of medium to paint color in a ratio of 8:2. (again, not rocket science, so feel free to play around with the ratio - but again at least half the mixture should be medium). By using medium in the glaze (instead of water as in the washes), glazes will sit on top of the painting surface and need a non-absorbent (or glossy) surface to apply evenly and easily.

At any point in a painting's process, when you feel the need to apply a transparent layer, take a moment to look at the surface absorbency. If it is matte then try a wash, if it is glossy then use the glaze. If it is matte and you would rather use a glaze, then first apply a coat of a gloss medium. Let it dry, then apply the glaze. The reverse is true too. If your surface is glossy and you want to apply a wash, then use some product that gives a transparent grit. My favorite for this is to use Golden's Acrylic Ground for Pastel, diluted at least 1:1 with water. If you don't dilute it, it will be opaque and may slightly veil or obscure the paint layers underneath.

Other tips: I like to apply glazes with a brush in very small areas at a time, then using a rag I spread the color thinly and evenly, which works better than using a brush for spreading.

One more idea would be to first apply a thin layer of the Acrylic Glazing Liquid over the surface, then while that is still wet, you can apply colored glazes, which will glide a bit easier.

Additionally, Golden's new Open Acrylics have a very long drying time, and make glazing very easy. You might want to try them instead of the traditional glazes with the more fast drying regular acrylic line of paints and mediums.


Writing an Artist's Statement

I paint. So why do I find myself writing so much lately? I have noticed how important writing has become to my career. In addition to painting, I take time to write artist statements, press releases, letters to galleries and clients, descriptions of my work, and of course, articles for my blog (oh yeah – and my new book due for release August 2010). I happen to enjoy writing. The more I do it the better I feel about it. Sort of like painting. Both mediums - painting and writing - are a form of communication. After a private period of experimentation, building technique and finding our own voice, we can relish the next phase where our work goes public – for better or worse. It’s the true test. Will viewers or readers get our message? What will they feel from our work? And the big existential question – will our work make a difference? I do believe that art makes a difference. Faith in this idea gets me through the rough spots, creative blocks and hard times.

I have written and rewritten my artist statement hundreds of times. As my work changes so does my statement. This may be one of the hardest tasks we have as painters, to describe in words what we create in a mostly non-verbal medium. In the past I tried to describe the images, but now I write about how I feel about the work and why I paint. Here’s the first paragraph of my current statement “Call me an optimist, but I believe that man has the powerful ability to dream, to create better worlds and new realities. And images play an important role in this. Our history begins with images, which go far back in time, even farther than language, and are cross cultural. We are united through images. I keep this in mind daily as I am barraged through news and media with sensationalist stories and events of world crisis. Part of me wants to join the peace corps but instead I paint. I paint with the conviction that my images can heal. I paint my versions of heaven; places that are beautiful and meditative not found on earth. Click here to read the full statement on my website.

Recently I found a cool new blog about art for healing. Manhattan Arts International's "Celebrate The Healing Power of Art 2010" is based on the belief that Art is a natural force that promotes heath and well-being for the creator as well as the viewer. Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International, is organizing an online exhibition of positive art that uplifts the spirit, plus collaboration with others who share this belief. Interviews and articles reflect the contributions of Art & Healing leaders and causes. Click here to visit their web site: Click here to visit the Blog:


10,000 Hours of Painting

10,000 hours of painting sounds exhausting. Yet, according to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers this is the amount of time it takes to make your first real masterpiece. While I was pondering this theory of Gladwell’s, another artist coincidentally emailed me with the following request:

“Can you can tell me how you got to where you are with your work. I mean, my art is all over the place. I don't know where to begin or when to finish. There's no commonality in anything I am making. How do I make paintings like the ones that you do?”

In Outliers, Gladwell looks at famous people from many sectors, such as athletes, musicians, physicists, financiers, etc. The common factor for each success story was putting in 10,000 hours which pans out to about 10 years working in a specific field. Many of the successful people he investigated and interviewed had been educated early on, and were skilled and passionate in their area of expertise. Yet it was right at that 10,000 hour mark where they “hit it big” or created something unique, something never seen or created before.

My email response for this artist was to just keep creating, and eventually consistent personal work will emerge. If you could see my work from 20 years ago you would not believe it. I started out as a realist, first mimicking artists and styles I admired. This was different than just copying, even though my work then did reflect the qualities of these artists and styles. Through this period I changed styles, images, mediums, sizes, brushwork, you name it, quicker than you can imagine and I built up quite an array of techniques and tools. At some point after many years of this, I found myself going deeper into my own ideas without looking at other work for inspiration. One thing led to another, and then I realized my work felt different - like work I had never seen. It really felt good to be creating work that held more closely to my own personal ideas and desires. After that point painting took on a whole new quality for me. It became a vehicle for my own transformation (some call it self-therapy - but I like to see it more magical than mere analysis - because for me it is more).

A friend who runs marathons recently told me there was a 20 mile mark where all runners hit a wall, no matter what. He noted that it’s those who continue past that wall that succeed. Perhaps Gladwell is right, that there is a specific hallmark point in time allotted to something that creates a shift.

To create personal work, something unique, an artist embarks on a journey, which according to Gladwell is a lot of hours. This should not discourage us. We all want to get to our final destination, but the real meat of the journey is to enjoy each step - not to find a quick trick to get to the finish. It’s the enjoyment of each phase of the journey that creates the final result. By the way, Gladwell’s other two books, Blink and The Tipping Point are both favorites of mine. And another “by the way” – I just finished writing my new book Acrylic Innovation: Techniques & Styles Featuring 64 Visionary Artists. Another coincidence, perhaps, but in this book I interview artists whose work I find exceptional, offering processes and tips on how they got there. The book is due for release August 2010. Now on retrospect, perhaps I should have just counted up their hours.

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