How did you get started and then develop your career?
Nancy Tankersley: My journey as an artist has been as a result of serendipity. I didn’t come from a family of artists and there was no original art on our walls. I credit my start to my older brother who had received a Jon Nagy Learn to Draw Kit but didn’t have much interest in it. I found it fascinating, especially how everything starts with basic shapes, and I began experimenting with sketches of relatives.
By the time I was ready to go to college I knew I wanted to be an artist, but to keep my options open, I enrolled in a big university. Having no idea of how to turn what I learned in my art classes into a career, I switched to sociology and after graduation worked a few years in that field. After I had my first child and I took a night course in portraiture, I started doing commissioned portraits and all thoughts of any other career disappeared! However, I’ve never been happy following a single path, so I continued to take painting courses and found as much satisfaction painting other subjects.
In 2004 I became heavily involved in the plein air movement, helping to found Plein Air Easton, and that opened many other pathways that have aided my career. I love teaching and have devoted much of the last 12 years of my career to sharing what I know. Winston Churchill’s small book, Painting as a Pastime, talks about the many benefits of learning to paint at any age.
How do you find inspiration?
I snap lots of photos randomly, many out of a moving car, boat or train, and sometimes years later will go back through them until an arrangement of shapes or interesting light effects catch my eye and I start to see a painting. My work is impressionistic and gestural but with a strong suggestion of the underlying foundation of what I am trying to interpret.
I paint outside mainly to familiarize myself with nature and improve my skills as a painter. Over the years, my paintings of people at work, in restaurants and at leisure have been a mainstay of my gallery work. Painting people at work seems to be my strongest theme, and the one that I return to over and over. Two years ago I was honored to be the featured artist at the 49th Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD exhibiting my paintings of Chesapeake Bay watermen at work.
Currently I am developing a body of figurative landscape paintings focused on the agricultural life of the Eastern Shore. I love the landscape but especially when there is some evidence of the humans. It would be easy to make a political statement, but mostly I am an observer and leave it up to the viewer to interpret.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
I think we are the luckiest people in the world because we don’t have to retire, and we can always get better at what we do. Painting is mostly centered in the brain and the heart, so even though our physical strength, endurance and ability may decline, we still have our imaginations and our knowledge to help us to continue the creative journey. The wisdom that comes from age may even start to seep into our work, and that’s when some of our best work may be born. Monet’s gigantic water lily paintings, done when he was half blind with cataracts, are absolute proof!
To see more of Nancy’s work, visit: www.nancytankersley.com