How did you get started and then develop your career?
Nanette Fluhr: I was drawn to art in childhood and always loved drawing and painting. I attended Rutgers University where I studied Art and Communication. After graduating I accepted a job as the Executive Director of a medical society but realized I wanted to pursue art professionally. I enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in NYC to further hone my skills. There I met John Frederick Murray, who taught me drawing, painting and picture making skills gleaned from the techniques of the Old Masters. In a time when abstract art was in Vogue, it was wonderful to learn classical techniques of the great figurative artists.
Seeing my affinity for the Masters, John suggested I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and copy directly from my favorite masterpieces. I registered as a copyist with the Met and painted replicas of works by Lawrence, Le Brun, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velazquez, and Van Dyck at the museum.
I’ve always been drawn to people and human emotions, so painting portraits was a natural choice for me. In the early 90s I entered my first art competition and won an award of excellence. I also received my first portrait commission which was the start of my professional art business.
I’ve been working as an artist for over 25 years and enjoy painting portrait commissions, as well as creating personal work for my collectors and myself. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge of traditional realism through teaching.
How do you describe success?
For me, success is work that enriches my life and others. It is very satisfying when collectors tell me I’ve given them their greatest gift, and when others connect with my art and find joy. Of course, it’s nice to have one’s efforts recognized, and an honor to win awards and be invited to show in prestigious museums and galleries. I am also grateful to be able to make a living in my chosen field. However, at the end of the day, knowing I have done my best is the true reward. We all have unique gifts and skill sets and I feel I am successful if I am using and sharing mine to the fullest. I always want to grow as an artist and continue to create meaningful and lasting art.
As Maya Angelou beautifully states, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
How do you find inspiration?
As an artist I find myself constantly inspired. I love observing and conversing with people; I am fascinated by their stories and am inspired by their beauty — the way color and light illuminate the forms on their faces. Nature also inspires me. I walk almost every morning and love hearing the birds, seeing the clouds and trees and feeling the warm breeze on my face. I delight in the rhythm and light that pull me into the moment. Beautiful art, especially that of the old masters, is always an inspiration. Beauty is everywhere and it cultivates my creativity.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
Being an artist enables me to see subtlety and beauty in the world, to capture and portray my vision, to have an idea and bring it to life. I am grateful to be able to tell someone’s story that will be part of their legacy for future generations. It is a joy to create a timeless work of art that captures an individual’s true essence. I feel fortunate that I am able to follow my passion and do what I love.