The Spirit Forges Ahead While the Brain Has To Figure It Out

"Stepping Out" by Nancy Boren

“Stepping Out” by Nancy Boren

A few years ago, I was fortunate to be involved in an unexpected conversation one day at my studio with an artist friend. I didn’t know when we started talking that the next few minutes would so significantly sharpen my understanding of one aspect of my painting. We casually looked through a group of my paintings while she offered her observations.


"San Patricio Church" by Nancy Boren

“San Patricio Church” by Nancy Boren

After much discussion, we both simultaneously realized we had stumbled upon a truth about much of my work. A common abstract thread that made sense of my varied subjects: it wasn’t so much the crisp white sail boats moving over dark blue water, big puffy clouds in turquoise skies, or white houses surrounded by greenery, but rather it was large white objects in a colorful settingthat I was painting over and over again. What an awakening! I thought I liked painting those different subjects and I do, but now I can see that they are all variations on a theme.  It’s almost like looking through a kaleidoscope; different shapes and patterns emerge, but there are always large chunks of white and scattered backgrounds of saturated color.


"House of the Little Old Lady" by Nancy Boren

“House of the Little Old Lady” by Nancy Boren

That may not sound very revolutionary, but in the blink of an eye, I suddenly owned two new possessions:

1.)  An answer for countless viewers who have remarked that I certainly painted a lot of different subjects. Now I had a way to tie many of them together.

2.)  A better understanding of my artistic hard-wiring, which

a.)  I can use on occasion to find what I want to paint faster and more easily

b.)  In a purely narcissistic way—a fascinating (to me) fact about myself, of which, after all these decades I had been unaware.


Every piece I do does not feature white on a color field, but now when it happens, I smile to myself and recognize it as another chapter in my love affair with this combination.


"Sailing" by Nancy Boren

“Sailing” by Nancy Boren

Painters speak in the language of paint; it doesn’t seem fair that every artist should also be required to speak eloquently in the English language about painting. But language and thought are so intertwined that verbalizing and analyzing your artistic visions, as difficult as that may be, can actually illuminate them.


"Princess Zazu and Pip" by Nancy Boren

“Princess Zazu and Pip” by Nancy Boren

Maybe Henry David Thoreau had an experience similar to mine that caused him to say, “So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.” And who can resist the colorful image this conjures up—maybe a white horse in a grove of yellow cottonwoods?


If you feel there may be a hidden theme in your work, or some unrecognized essence, or you wonder how all your painting threads connect, I have a suggestion: block out some time for a lunch with a savvy artist friend and leisurely peruse each other’s portfolios. A fresh eye and a frank discussion may uncover a powerful current flowing just under the surface of your paintings.


Be Sociable, Share!

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA 2018 National Exhibition OPA 2018 National Exhibition
Oil Painters of America’s Twenty-seventh Annual National Exhibition will be held at the Steamboat Art Museum (SAM), Steamboat Springs, Colorado, from June 1 through September 3, 2018. Learn More!
OPA 2016 Summer Online Showcase OPA 2017 Fall Online Showcase
The Fall 2017 Online Showcase is from October 1 - December 15, 2017 and will be open to Associate and Signature members. Learn More!
  • Nyla Witmore

    When so often we hear…”Just paint one thing…subject….specialize if you want to succeed” , you have given those of us who are skilled in more than one subject a handle on why we do it. Even though we are not always aware of the link between our subjects, your advise to find an art mentor who can help us delve into the connections we have, the commonality in approach, technique, color choice etc. is worthwhile. Otherwise, it can feel as if someone has yanked away an unborn baby from the womb to have to give up different subjects that so fill us with passion and joy when we paint them.

  • Jane Barton

    Such a great insight, Nancy! It always helps to have that third eye when ours are too close to our work. Enjoyed meeting you at the AWA show in Tubac and love your work–whatever the color….thanks!

  • Pingback: Nancy Boren – fun and playful()