Nancy Lou Canyon, MFA
USAAcrylic Paintings by Nancy Lou Canyon
I'm a fine artist working on a series of paintings based on reflections in nature. I've been making art for nearly five decades, beginning with drawing, then moving to oil painting, and since the late 80s, acrylic paint. My studio is located in Historic Fairhaven in a artist co-op building, in Bellingham, WA.
When was the first time you realized you were an artist?
When I was six, I was finger painting in the kitchen. My mother was taking a nap in the living room. I woke her to tell her I'd just painted Popeye. Clearly I'd arrived at a likeness and was excited about it.
My paintings range from photo realism to abstraction. When I begin a new series of paintings, my work is more realistic, as I continue to work, from canvas to canvas, the images loosen and become more abstract.
I work in acrylic paint on canvas. The paints I use are high quality and light fast. Some are transparent, some opaque. I don't use black, but mix a dark color from red and green.
Technique and Process
My painting technique begins with an excellent drawing done in my sketchbook that I transfer to a canvas via gridding the drawing and the canvas. Carefully I add the image with graphite. Then I paint in an under painting. After it is dry, I layer paint, transparent layers to develop lights and dark, and impasto to accent the movement in the piece as I near the end of the painting.
The main theme I've been exploring since the 80s is natural elements: trees and rocks,and reflections in water...sky, limbs, and leaves. I take photos when I'm hiking in nature of reflections in puddles, lakes, sea, and streams and use them as reference material.
Where do your ideas come from?
I get excited by color, shape and contrast. Nature plays a big part in my work, as I've been sketching in nature since I was a child. My current work evolved from happy accidents in some photos I took at Mt. Lake on Orcas Island, Washington.
Why do you create art?
I create art because it makes me feel good. It seems to release excess emotion and worry that I carry being a highly sensitive person. I also work as an artist since I've always thought of myself as an artist, have always done art, what else would I do?
How often do you paint?
I work in my studio two to three times a week. I'm also a writer so I spend a day working on writing...and I'm a massage therapist...so I work a day at helping people heal from head injuries and other ailments.
My family is important to me, so I watch my five year old, artistic!!!, grandson once a week.
What is the best artwork you ever created?
My best pieces have been arrived at more spontaneously than planned. I have had the experience of knowing that a piece will become phenomenal...this doesn't always happen. I think it is something beyond me, perhaps the muse that comes through me to create the most beautiful art.
What is the role of the artist in society?
Artist's in society express a collective thought or feeling. I believe we are like stop-gaps or release valves, letting off steam before something big happens to the whole. We are the highest form of the collective's functioning, telling the story of life.
Do you make a living with your art?
I don't make a living with my art, but I hope to some day. I am a massage therapist and a writer. I spend some time each week painting, time writing, and time with clients. All put together, I make a living.
I like to share my artwork on Facebook. It's a good way to have my friends take a look at my work, and to get new folks interested. I can also easily promote upcoming shows. Also, I write a blog and post my new paintings frequently.
The main art influence in high school was Picasso. Later, after I graduated, I got into Georgia O'Keeffe. Later still, I found Kandinsky, and developed a series of abstracts, acrylic paint on paper, that I liked quit a lot--both in the making of them and in the finished, framed artwork.
Please recommend a contemporary artist.
I have a friend who lives in Spokane, WA, Charles Palmer, whom I think is a great contemporary artist. What I like about his work is how he handles paint and color. He calls himself a colorist. He paints from nature, large format paintings, using big brushstrokes of paint. The paintings are quit impressive in scope and image.
Please tell us an interesting story in your life.
I visited the Vatican and Sistine Chapel in Italy in 2000. I'd say that trip was a turning point in my career, in that, the scope of imagery and the stories told by the paintings, blew my mind. I came home charged up, ready to engage myself in a way I hadn't ever before.
Did you ever feel inclined to give up creating art?
I gave up art in the 1994 for several years. I did it because my husband at the time (a chiropractor) and I opened an office together. The work load of running a new business was overwhelming and working on my art became impossible.
Where do you see yourself as an artist in ten years?
Ten years from now I imagine I will have gallery representation and will be supporting myself as an artist.
Advice for aspiring and emerging artists
As a painter once told me, "You must have an almost unrealistic belief in yourself to be an artist." So do that, believe in yourself even if it is hard.
Nancy Lou Canyon, MFA
Acrylic Paintings by Nancy Lou Canyon