Cincy is Creative: Inspired by natural light, Nancy Nordloh Neville spins art from 'plein air'

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati and the greater Tri-State region are home to people who excel in artistic and other creative disciplines. Each week, we focus on a creative individual who is bringing new perspectives to our lives and enriching our cultural diversity.

  • WHO: Nancy Nordloh Neville
  • WHAT: Artist specializing in watercolors and oil paintings
  • WHERE: Pendleton Art Center and Summerfair
  • LATEST: Watercolor paintings of Mt. Adams Bar & Grill and Madison’s at Findlay Market
  • GREATEST: Still life watercolor painting of lilacs

If you see artist Nancy Nordloh Neville at Summerfair 2014 next weekend, ask her about the story behind one of her paintings. Nancy enjoys sharing tidbits about her art when she meets current (and aspiring) art collectors at outdoor festivals.

Exhibiting at Summerfair is like experiencing my life in review, laughs Nancy: “I put my work out there, and remember where I was and what it was like when I painted each piece. “

Nancy Nordloh Neville has plenty of stories to share because she prefers painting plein air. Plein air is a French term for painting in outdoor light. It’s a branch of impressionism that attempts to represent outdoor light and air.

“I love plein air,” says Nancy. “There’s a sparkle to it that you don’t always get in paintings that use photographs as reference.” One challenge of plein air painting is selecting the best scene and details when the lighting is just right.

Nancy tries to decide what to paint within 20 minutes of discovering a beautifully lit location.

“You can’t walk around questioning whether this scene would be better than that one,” says Nancy. If you return to the same spot at the same time the next day, the lighting can be much different.

“A lot has to do with the light and how it catches the moment,” explains Nancy. “Late afternoon shadows are wonderful.”

Two of Nancy’s most recent plein air paintings depict Mt. Adams Bar & Grill and Madison’s at Findlay Market. Both paintings will be for sale at the 47th annual Summerfair CIncinnati, May 30 through June 1, at Coney Island. While her husband, artist Bruce Neville, will be offering a few prints of iconic landmarks he has painted, Nancy only sells originals.

Some of her paintings are still lifes she creates for the workshops she teaches at “The Barn” of the Women’s Art Club in Mariemont or in her studio at The Pendleton Art Center in Over-the-Rhine.

When she can’t paint outdoors, she prefers working from a tangible object instead of a photograph.

“Your darks are always darker when you’re working from a photograph, so you have to compensate,” explains Nancy. When she serves as juror for various art shows, she says “I can always tell when “I can always tell when someone has worked from a photo.”

A Lifelong Love of Art

Nancy fell in love with painting when she was 8 years old and took art lessons at the Cincinnati Art Museum. She studied art throughout high school and at the University of Cincinnati, and learned from some Cincinnati’s best-known artists, including Reginald Grooms, Robert Fabe, and Don Dennis.

Dennis taught her see her subjects differently.

“He told me, ‘You may paint lilacs because you like lilacs. But you have to divorce yourself from thinking that they are lilacs. Everything is just a shape against a shape’,” Nancy recalls. “That was my biggest breakthrough as a painter. Now, I paint what I love, but I dissect it into shapes in my mind.”

Nancy started out doing oil paintings in her home. She switched to watercolors when her children were young because, “I didn’t like the toxicity of the oils around children.” Now they are grown, she has gotten back into oils.

Earlier this spring, Bruce and Nancy Neville participated in art shows in Louisville and Indianapolis. From June through September, they will travel to nine more shows near Cleveland, Columbus, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Lake Michigan.

At many of these shows, Nancy reconnects with people who have purchased works from her before:

“It’s nice that they see how you’ve grown as a painter and how your work has improved.”

Some people she meets at art fairs register for the small-group workshops she conducts in her Pendleton Art Center studio the spring and fall. Others commission her to do special projects. At one Summerfair, Nancy was commissioned to paint the garden of an Indian Hill home. The painting hangs on the client’s dining-room wall. Some people buy Nancy’s paintings as one-of-a-kind Christmas or wedding gifts.

Advice for Artists and Summerfair Visitors

Summerfair is juried show that accepts more than 300 artists in mixed media, ceramics, drawing, fiber, jewelry, leather, metal, glass, painting,

photography, sculpture, and printmaking. The event runs 2 to 8 pm on Friday May 30, 10 am to 8 pm on Saturday, May 31 and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, June 1.

While many Summerfair visitors may look “mature” on the outside, many are young at heart. Some may recall that Summerfair originated in 1967 when some Mt. Adams residents decided to hold an arts festival to celebrate the opening of the Playhouse in the Park. What began as a funky and hip little art show in Mt. Adams and Eden Park has become one of the nation’s top 100 art fairs.

“Artists work very hard getting ready for shows like Summerfair,” says Neville. “You might have at least two years of work on display there.”

Nancy Nordloh Neville encourages younger artists to start with simpler, one-day shows. Nancy has applied for hundreds of art fairs and said, “It took a long time to get into Summerfair. You just have to keep painting and keep trying.”

One way artists can discover opportunities to exhibit is to join arts organizations. Nancy belongs to The Cincinnati Art Club, The Women’s Art Club, and the Lexington Art League.

While selling art at summer art shows is wonderful, Nancy believes artists do need a studio where they can show work year round.

“Collectors don’t want to think that you’re a part-time artist who got lucky and did a few nice pieces. They want to know that you are a consistent painter who will be developing over time.”

As for Summerfair visitors, Nancy Neville encourages them to come with a general idea of what space in their home or office they want to fill with art.

If you see an original piece that you like but need to think about it, it’s OK to ask the artist to hold it for you for an hour or so, says Nancy. Otherwise, the piece might be sold by the time you make up your mind. You can also take the business cards of the artists whose works you admire, visit their websites, and call them after the show.

At Summerfair, Nancy Nordloh Neville and Bruce Neville will be in Booths 36D and E on the Yellow Court. In addition to asking them about their work and passion for watercolors, ask them about their small-group workshops. Nancy’s next two workshops are November 7-9, 2014 and March 6-8, 2015.

Connect with Nancy:

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