How do you describe yourself as an artist? The first word that comes to mind is Explorer. I enjoy trying new techniques and mediums. I have worked in fiber, leather, ceramics, watercolors, oils, encaustic, mixed media acrylics and printmaking. Discovering the possibilities is the fun part for me. Not being a perfectionist has been very helpful; you play, see what happens and then go from there.
Please describe your work. I often use words in my work. Not only do they convey a message, but I like the idea of an alphabet. I like that each letter is a symbol, and that a symbol changes in meaning depending on what other letters it sits next to. In my paintings, I apply the lettering as script that has dimension so it literally adds another layer to the piece. I like how the paint then plays with that dimension. In my prints I also use words, but they often get obscured with layers of ink. I prefer the suggestion of an image over a realistic rendering.
Describe the path you have taken to develop your art. In high school, after an argument with my mother, I took my paints out to the garage and furiously painted what turned into a fiery sea of waves with a black boat sailing away. It felt great and I forgot all about the anger that inspired it. Afterwards, I took it back in to show my mom, and I was surprised to see she was still angry. It was one of those ah-ha moments. My art has had an emotional connection ever since. My “word” paintings began when my husband (boyfriend then) had a dream of me he was embarrassed to describe to me. At my insistence, he wrote it out and just handed the letter to me. I loved it and used his letter as the writing on my first “word” painting “The Dream”. It is still one of my favorites.
What inspires you? I get excited seeing images or materials used in new ways. I like seeing the creativity in repurposing materials as found in folk art. While I appreciate the skill involved in representational work, I find inspiration in an artist’s interpretation that adapts what one sees into what one feels or thinks.
What do you want to communicate with your art? I want the viewer to see what I feel. By keeping the imagery suggestive, I hope they stop and take a moment to explore the work themselves. I find that making art is a wonderful way to make sense of my world. Sometimes, despite all my efforts, a piece just goes off in another direction. I learn something about myself in every painting. I so enjoy the journey.
Which galleries are you associated with? I have shown paintings at the Huntington Beach Art Center, Orange Coast College, Hellada Gallery in Long Beach, Showcase Gallery in Costa Mesa, and currently I show my work The Avantgarden Gallery in the Santora Building, Santa Ana Artists Village. Also, I was one of 12 Orange County artists selected for The Art of The Violin auction & fundraiser by the Pacific Symphony, a wonderful event!
Please tell us more about the projects near and dear to your heart. I teach painting workshops with Art & Creativity for Healing for people struggling with grief, illness or stress. We work in battered women’s shelters, with Wounded Warriors at Camp Pendleton and for various non-profits in Orange County.
I have made weekly visits to CHOC in Orange for the past 10 years to go bedside and make art with the patients. Seeing a child totally forget his pain or the IV line he has while creating art is such a gift. Making art is transformative. After seeing so many worried families, newly admitted to the hospital, not talking, waiting and the child sitting alone on the bed afraid, I created a coloring book called The Many Colors of Me. The book is designed for the child to choose colors to express feelings and to describe himself, his family and what he likes to do. It is bi-lingual and often the whole family contributes. I had one mom say she was going to save it and show it in a slideshow at her daughter’s wedding (the daughter was five years old).
I have also created an art series based on media exploration called “Art Start” that I designed for schools and available on-line through Discovery Communications.
See more of Nancy’s work: http://nancytorbittstewart.com/