Behind the Exhibit: Nancy Williams' Artistic Process

September's Featured Artist Nancy Williams creates soft atmospheric paintings derived from nature's beauty. Some pieces take on a representational appearance while others become more abstract. For Nancy, each piece correlates to a unique emotional experience with the natural world.

In creating paintings for her exhibit, Natural Elements, at Brush Strokes Gallery, Nancy notes that she sought to capture nature's emotional and spiritual significance.

She says, "Frequently having sought refuge, comfort, and inspiration in nature, my paintings highlight moments that have had a very special meaning for me. For this series, I decided to paint entirely without photographic reference; but have instead recalled memories and mental images for source material in order to work completely from my imagination." She explains that she began her work with an abstract coloration. She put down the lightest lights and darkest darks first. Then, being careful to to reserve details for later, she blocked in the rest of the painting.

"I check my progress by squinting my eyes to avoid having too many color values in the middle range, which will create a dull-looking

painting. Making sure the a painting’s lightest lights and darkest darks still show after the basic colors are blocked in is a good way to

keep the painting interesting. If things don’t look right when I squint my eyes, it is time to adjust the values of the colors. At this early stage a painting will always look rather abstract. I was taught long ago that under every good painting is a good abstraction. Sometimes, I might even decide to keep the painting more abstract than I originally intended at this point," she explains.

She says that she generally draws directly directly on the canvas with soft vine charcoal as she plans her paintings. Her reason for using charcoal is simple: charcoal doesn’t abrade the surface and is easy to remove with a kneaded eraser. With all big color areas planned, she then begins to put down paint on her canvas.

"When I’m in this stage with a painting, I’m in the “zone”. I listen to music, time flies, and sometimes I paint juggling three loaded brushes and a palette knife between two hands at the same time. I have a hard time thinking of how to explain what I do at this stage, except that it is the most intense phase of the painting process for me and that I’m constantly evaluating to see if the painting works as a whole. It’s an intuitive process that I do over and over until it is right. I save working on details for last. Finishing a painting that I want to show requires a deep commitment, " she says.

She also explains that some of her paintings have been completed in one day while others have taken three plus years, requiring many, many painting sessions.

"I am normally working on at least half a dozen paintings at one time. I don’t always hit a home run and sometimes I have to completely abandon, re-work, or even destroy a work-in-progress. In the end, I always want to show my best work," she says.