Nancy Richards West
About the Artist, Nancy Richards West
I am often asked, “When did your interest in art begin? My answer has always been that I have been drawing and painting since I was able to hold a crayon or brush. I was not always a responsible artist, however. One of my earliest artistic memories involves drawing on the wallpaper in my childhood home and then, to avoid blame, signing my little brother’s name to my work. My devious plan backfired, though, because my brother was too young to write his name. I grew up in an artistic environment. My mother and grandmother were both painters, and my father was a surgeon specializing in reconstructive surgery (a creative art form of a different sort). They could not have been more supportive of my desire to learn how to draw and paint, although I was undoubtedly punished for the wallpaper episode.
At the age of 10 I was chosen to be part of a group of talented children to attend a special weekend class at Carnegie Museum, and later at Carnegie Institute of Technology. My father drove me into Pittsburgh every Saturday morning for six years until I was old enough to drive myself. This program probably had more influence in my career choice than any other training I have ever received. Imagine the foundation I received studying at university level with a group of extremely talented peers from the time I was in middle school until I was graduated from high school.
I studied art at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where I was graduated with high honors for my thesis work in portraiture. Several of my paintings emerged from studies I did in the wards of Eastern State Mental Hospital and from photographs I took of working commercial watermen in New England. As an adult, I continued my studies at Barnstone Studios under the incomparable Myron Barnstone. The studios were set up as an atelier, where long hours of hard work were rarely rewarded with praise. Under Myron’s watchful eye, I studied classical drawing principals and advanced color theory. Both have added a strength and surety to my work.
When I moved to Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, I applied my experience in portrait painting to wildlife art. My ability to capture the “spirit” of the birds I portray is a direct result of my training in portraiture. Looking beyond the surface, studying my subjects in depth, taking cues from the environment, and setting the mood with lighting and color choices are aspects of my wildlife paintings that set them apart. At this point in my career, my path continued with wildlife art, but branched out to include painting landscapes en plein air and to my love of figure painting from nude models. Both types of painting involve working directly from the subject before you, whether it is a golden expanse of salt marsh in late afternoon light or a beautiful body as the light plays along its curves and planes. The most recent challenge I have set for myself is to learn sumi-e painting (the traditional Asian ink brush stroke painting, going back thousands of years).
My passion for drawing and painting continues to grow and find new forms of expression. Thank you for allowing me to share this passion with you.
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