Monday, March 15, 2010

Nancy Natale - Remembering

All Relative
Encaustic and Mixed Media on Panel
24" x 24" x 1.5" - 2010

The World Wide Web is a wonderful place, especially when you discover talented and generous artists willing to share their art and information about their studio and medium. I do not recall just now how I came across the artwork of Nancy Natale but she fits right into the description I just gave. We have been communicating for close to year and I am delighted to present her work to you today.

All Relative - detail

Nancy Natale

My road to making art had a lot of curves and turns through a life that I thought had to be spent working in an office. I didn't begin painting until my mid 30s and then enrolled in art school at 40. At Massachusetts College of Art I majored in painting but spent a lot of time resist-dyeing textiles and looking at sculpture.

Until I met encaustic, I had a history of switching around in different mediums: oil painting, unique artist's books, collaged and painted ricepaper quilts, constructed paintings and in various odd materials and glass mosaic. Since I began working with encaustic about six years ago, I have pretty much been hooked on it - with occasional forays into oil painting. However, my encaustic paintings have been developing increasingly sculptural elements so that I now refer to my work as 2 1/2 D - living somewhere between the flatness of painting and the volume of sculpture - but still clinging to the wall.

My mother's recent illness and increasing memory loss due to her advanced age have had a major impact on my work. I have become more aware of aging and mortality and my work has become darker and more about time's passage. I am also beginning to include books as sculptural components in my work and think they will become an important addition. I feel that I am at a good stage in my work after many years of experimentation, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Current show: 5th Annual Encaustic Invitational, Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson, AZ , March 6-27, 2010.

Boys of Liberty
Deconstructed Book with Encaustic, pigment stick, rubber and tacks.
12" x 16" - 2010


Terry: At what point in your life did you know at your core that you are an artist?

Nancy: It took me a long time and a big life change to come to that realization. I was in my mid-30s and just began painting, gradually beginning to study and learn what I wanted to know about it. Within four years I had decided to completely revamp my life and go to art school

Terry: Do you ever get into an artistic slump and if so, how do you rejuvenate yourself?

Nancy: Usually I switch mediums. That gives me enough of a jump start to send me spinning into something new. I love the learning curve of a new medium and it gets my artistic juices flowing.

Terry: Please describe your studio activity....your work habit.

Nancy: I have always been someone who works in spirts under pressure of deadlines, but with the economic slowdown, there haven't been as many deadlines and that's actually been good for me. I've had many more ideas and have begun using a notebook in a more systematic way to record ideas for future works. I try to work in series because that's the best way to show and sell, and it actually does help to work out ideas from one piece to the next. The best way for me to stick to a series is to note down a series of ideas from the beginning and carry those out in the flesh. If I don't do that. I make too many changes as I go along and bump out of series mode.

Usually when I hit the studio, I just start working - either picking up where I left off on a piece or beginning to prepare a new work. I find myself making more sculptural constructions these days, so there's a lot of building up a piece that goes on before painting begins. I had been making my own wooden panels, but that was just too much work, and I felt like it was holding me back. Now I have invested in a large selection of various-sized panels and can envision my plans for a series in a very deliberate way, knowing that I can have all the pieces matched in size without my experiments in carpentry holding me back.

Dancing in Mourning
Deconstructed Book with Encaustic, pigment stick, rubber and tacks.
12" x 16" - 2010

Terry: How do you know when a work is finished and what makes a given piece 'special'?

Nancy: Ugh, that's a tough one to put into words. I guess the piece has to resonate with me and just feel right. I usually have to look at it over a period of time and get used to it before I can really evaluate it. I try to sneak up on it when I first come to the studio and get a fresh look. That usually tells me whether it feels right or something strikes a bad chord in me that I can fix or re-do. Sometimes this means that I completely repaint a piece, and other times it just reinforces that the piece is done to my satisfaction.

I guess the sense of being special comes when a piece really surprises me by coming together somewhat magically so that I wonder how I ever made it. Of course the newest work always has its own specialness that wears off over time as I get used to looking at it. The pieces that retain the magic for me over time are the truly special ones.

Terry: What are you reading right now?

Nancy: I haven't been able to read much lately that requires sustained effort. I start a lot of books on various subjects but don't finish because I drag on reading them so long that I forget what I read previously. Right now I pretty much stick to the Sunday NY Times and New York magazine plus the art magazines. Even with this limited reading matter, I usually don't get to read the Times magazine or book review every week. Either I fall asleep when reading or my mind wanders and I find myself thinking up art ideas, sometimes to the point where I put down the reading matter and pick up the pencil.

Terry: What influence, if any, has our access to the world wide web had on your art?

Nancy: I regularly read several blogs that show the work of various artists and that has made me a lot more aware of what is going on in the art world as a whole. I blog myself so I am also thinking about things I see in a more active way. Although I see a lot more art, however, the number of artists whose work I really like is not that large. I think it takes seeing the work in person instead of on the web. But if I do see someone's work in person that I have seen previously on the web, I feel more connection to it. I also follow the work of many artists, particularly people I know who work in encaustic, and it lets me stay in touch with what they are doing. I have made several friends though blogs - including you, Terry - and that is a wonderful result of the internet.

Artist Statement February 2010

My work uses the sculptural qualities of wax and embedded objects to make semi-relief, abstract paintings that reference the passage of time. The softening of form, the marks and scars deposited by events, the traces of things that have come and gone, the layers added or scraped away and the inclusions that make dimension, texture and pattern are all a record of process and passage. I'm thinking about what is remembered and what is forgotten, the darkness and the light, secret and revealed, life and death.

Nancy is the Co-Chair of New England Wax and maintains their website:

You can see more of her work at:

You can also find her excellent blog at:

Thank you Nancy for sharing your work and your story and thank you reader for visiting. You are invited to comment and support this fine artist.


  1. I love the artist profiles Terry. Thanks for another introduction.
    I have wanted to learn/try encaustic for awhile, but I'm afraid it will be another distraction from my current course in fabric. I loved oil painting in school, but haven't painted in 5 yrs. Painting, fabric, wax, paper...... it seems sometimes there are too many options! Wish I could do it all.

  2. Thank you Martha. Nancy's work is excellent and she maintains an equally excellent blog. Yes, I too would love to experiment with the encaustic but there are only so many hours in the day etc. I did a course with Fran Skiles this summer in paper collage and loved it....haven't had time to touch it since I came home.

  3. "retaining the magic over time" - that is so true! and that is the best goal for a piece that there can be...

  4. Her work is spectacular. Thanks for the profile, Terry, I always find the coolest artists through you!

  5. Thank you Judi. The quality of Nancy's work is so consistent and strong and I find her story very compelling. I appreciate your taking time to visit and comment.

  6. Terry and Nancy,
    I really enjoyed this interview and getting to know more about Nancy and her work. We met last year at the National Encaustic Conference and we have been touching base thru the web ever since. I’ve known Terry for many, many years and it is great to have similar creative minds cross paths. It really is a small world.

  7. Jane, Thank you for writing. I had wondered if you knew one another. I'm just in love with encaustic and you both make such wonderful but different work. Very neat. And yes, it is a small world as Nancy and I have identified another artist we both know. Thank you for commenting.

  8. Terry,
    Thanks so much for posting the interview with me. It's great to read the comments. I know you have a strong fan base organized around textiles, but I'm glad they appreciate my work in another medium. I actually think that my work is strongly related to textiles so it's not that far off the mark.
    Jane - I hope you are going to the conference again this year so I can hang out with you again.

  9. Thank you for posting this informative interview with an artist (ok, and a friend) who's work I admire and respect! She is very generous and it is just terrific that you have interviewed her and profiled her work. Plus, now I know about your blog too!
    Thanks. Lynette Haggard

  10. Thank you very much Lynette. I very much admire Nancy's work and I have enjoyed exchanging ideas online.

  11. Hi Terry and Nancy - I have really enjoyed reading Nancy's blog. Since I didn't go to art school, I love the art history that I get from reading Nancy's blog. The artists she profiles are interesting and I often go research to learn even more. Nancy is a generous blogger. Thanks for this interview Terry! Can't wait to see you do the mashed potato dance on fabric!