The Artist's Road  World Map

Voices of Experience - An Interview with Donna Nyzio

Voices of Experience

An Interview with Donna Nyzio


Fish, It's What's for Dinner, 14 x 36", Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Fish, It's What's for Dinner                         14 x 36"                         Oil on Panel

   The reflective paintings of Donna Nyzio invite us into her world—the coastlines of the Eastern United States. She travels the back roads of North Carolina to find the scenes that inspire her atmospheric images. Her works welcome us into those places where ocean meets land and where the serenity and beauty of nature combine with the rugged, age-old occupation of commercial fishing. We asked Nyzio to write to us about her beginnings, her recent leap into being a full-time professional artist and her aspirations for her work in the future.

   I decided to become a professional artist in January 2016—only a few years ago. I spent a lot of time doing a lot of things, but not painting, at least not for others to view. I was painting to provide a counter balance to my “real” job. I worked very technically, privately, and I am quite sure, the quietness found in many of my paintings was the balance from reality. Several roads converged for me to make the decision to paint professionally. Sure, I wish I had made the decision earlier, but I would have missed out on many adventures.

Orange Hat, 14 x 18", Oil on Clayboard, © Donna Nyzio
Orange Hat                    14 x 18"                    Oil on Clayboard

   I started painting, though, at a young age—I don’t remember exactly when. I was always supplied with “stuff to make stuff”.  There were no computers or iPhones, so leaving the house in the morning and not coming back until dinner, or later, was not uncommon. If we had chalk, my neighborhood friends and I drew designs on the road and sidewalk. If we had paint, we had that everywhere too. As long as I was doing something, I was staying out of trouble and my parents were happy. So growing up, I never made a conscious decision to be an artist. It was just something I did, and did my own way. Since I did it better than the other kids, I kept doing it.

   I loved paint and charcoal. My parents did not encourage nor discourage me in any direction. It would not have mattered—I was pretty headstrong and determined to do what I wanted to do. I grew up in a blue collar town. Most artists I knew worked in greeting card, jewelry, or toy manufacturing mills. That was not for me, so I did not consider art as a career.

   I had the greatest high school art experience. It was my teacher’s first year teaching, and he used the four year syllabus from his just completed degree work at Cranbrook. I also had five really serious classmates to work with. We were all different in our approaches and media, and the competition was fierce—it was great. We studied black and white the first year, built into color the 2nd, added 3D in the 3rd, then built portfolios. My teacher, Glenn Davis, was not in for giving an easy A. In the first day of class every year, there would be many students signed up for an extra class or easy grade. Mr Davis would give a short lecture, “If you took art for an easy A, find another class, because you will probably get a C at best.” We studied a variety of artists for a week, learned about their history and incorporated history of the time they painted and how it affected them. We then created work using those tenets and had written and practical exams. We were constantly shown good art so we would know it when we saw it. Mostly, we studied realist based art, even though abstract art was big at the time. I really enjoyed the research and applying it to my own work—something I still do today.

   For example, I love Wyeth compositions. Instead of doing a master copy, I went to Kuerner Farm and painted in one of his most inspirational locations. I was then able to see what he saw, but I brought my own painting skills and vision to the table, so I would combine both to learn—good stuff! This year, I am going to study John Singer Sargent, creating my own portrait set-up and working on big brushstrokes, in a big room, (okay, hallway) and really trying his technique. My effort may not look like a Sargent, but I will learn something.

   I got a BFA from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA. I was not keen on going to college, but my mom wanted a college grad, so there you go. I started in Fine Art (with my mom hoping I would change my major). I should have—art school was not a good fit for me. There was way too much focus on the abstract art prevalent at the time. I was a realist, believed there were skills to learn, stuff to practice, practical skills and such. That did not seem to exist.
I was surprised by the lack of instruction in my studio classes. We had critiques and discussions about design concepts, but technical training was curiously absent. If the internet had existed at the time, I am sure I would have found an atelier or artist to study under, maybe workshops.

Pink, 20 x 36", Oil on Panel , © Donna Nyzio
Pink                                              20 x 36"                                     Oil on Panel

Fish House Path, 20 x 36", Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Fish House Path                              20 x 36"                                  Oil on Panel

   After graduation, I stopped painting for years. When I did return to painting, it was only for myself, not for any other audience. I picked up photo realistic airbrush, practiced technique, made my own variations. Now I have put it aside for oil painting. For me airbrush was very technique-oriented, and I wanted to move past that and into something more. I needed brushwork. I took a workshop with David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw and the rest of the Bright Light Artist Guild.

   I needed an artist with good painting concepts and found Stefan Baumann. I love his teaching style. He really can communicate ideas and critique well.

   Lately, I have been working thru Richard Schmid’s book, Alla Prima II. It is making a difference in my painting, I found exactly what I need and will be taking a workshop with one of his students, Mark Boedges. I cannot wait to see the results.

   The artist I look at often and am inspired by is C. W. Mundy. He is such an inquisitive artist. I enjoy and catch his excitement at experimenting, trying new things and moving boldly into . . . well, anything!

   And, James Gurney. He adds a whole other dimension to an artist who is able to make good art, build a business and teach it all to others.

Flooded Field, 24 x 36" Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Flooded Field                         24 x 36"                         Oil on Panel

    Would you tell us about the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists and your work with it.

   Absolutely. In 2016 I decided to be a professional artist, and it was about time. Since I am way past college age, I knew I had to work much smarter in addition to working harder. I found the opportunity for a year-long fellowship with the Clark Hulings Fund in the professional development section of an art opportunities list. That's what I needed— professional development. I applied and was accepted. Working with CHF was like getting a masters degree in art business, and the art business you were studying and improving was yours. How great is that? All the classes are recorded in various formats so anyone can listen and learn.

   One year became two, and now I am an advisor for the new fellows. So I am learning yet again while gaining a different perspective and sharing what I previously learned with artists who are interested in breaking the usual artist/business stereotypes. Teaching and advising are like learning anew. There is a big difference in making art and selling art. It is great to have some co-conspirators with whom to bounce ideas. CHF is a nonprofit that educates professional visual artists to be self-sustaining entrepreneurs. It helps artists get what they have on the easel out into the world where it belongs while creating income to live and make more art.

   One big learning point for me was deciding what type of painter I wanted to be and where I wanted to focus my time, effort, and money. It is different for every artist based on what path they want to travel. What I like best is that there are options. You learn something and decide if you should implement it. You're not guessing, so you have more focus, and confidence, and that translates into more success.

   I try to surround myself with good information and incorporate good business into my daily routine. I use Fine Art Studio Online, FASO, for my website, because it makes it easy to spend more time on my art. I can make big changes easily and quickly. It is made for artists and collects all kinds of analytics. (I use this to help in show selection, too. If I have a lot of people in Texas looking at my art, I will enter shows in Texas!) They also send out marketing and business information that is consistent with that of CHF. So both CHF and FASO are constantly providing ongoing business education.

Bad Penny, 8 x 16", Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Bad Penny                                     8 x 16"                                      Oil on Panel

   Tell us about your inspiration, your working methods and processes.

   I take back roads along the coast and look for … well, whatever I find. I look for old docks and boats, but there is so much more. It is an atmosphere that strikes me. It could be foggy indistinct shapes or how the light hits a road, path or tree that has a story to tell. Hopefully, there is a boat, or even better, a boat in use. Usually, most of the “action” is before sunrise, so cameras are not going to cut it. You have to have a sketch book and memory. Boats with good lines are magnets too—oyster boats, crab boats, trawlers—big shapes against the sky and water. Sometimes it is a balance of quiet space and the bustle of activity. The older, wooden boats seem to have a story, and become part of the story of a community. As I meet these working water men, I have become more interested in their history, current trade, and the future of fishing. Very interesting, so I end up becoming more entangled in their nets.

Planting Pound Poles, 8 x 16" Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Planting Pound Poles                              8 x 16"                              Oil on Panel

   I paint en plein-air, from photographs and from memory. I enjoy painting from life, Plein air is great for docks, a color study or quick sketch or even a tonal start to a painting. Often, when working on boats, on the water, or in places where there is limited ground for footing, let alone an easel, working from life may not be feasible. Other times, things are moving, moving and gone. So, photographs are handy, providing a detail or an insight into something that can be used for a finishing touch.

   But my most successful paintings are from memory while combining the other 2 concepts. I often see exactly what I want to paint and the big shapes and movements that “make” the painting. I am amazed at how much I remember when I experience something. I may take a quick snapshot to capture a physical memory. I then select small details that make my painting sing, not everything in the photo. I use a pocket camera on an automatic setting. Just something to get the gesture of what I want. I may snap a photo to catch a detail, but not for the story of the painting. In addition, if you are always taking photographs, you are not experiencing where you are right now. You are keeping a barrier, the lens, between you and your subject. I use them, but not as the foundation for the painting. For that, it is the memory.

Pied Piper, 14 x 36" Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Pied Piper                               14 x 36"                                     Oil on Panel

   As an example, I saw a flash of light while riding on a ferry to Ocracoke at sunrise. There was a fishing boat, maybe a half mile away. I took out my camera to see if I could see it better and snapped a few photos. My photos are blurry and awful, but, they have good enough bones to release the painting in my head. That is how the Pied Piper came about, the flash off the front windows.

   Think of yourself only seeing in black and white and moving in slo-mo. Then POW—you see something, in a bright color or very fast—a flash, or maybe a movement. That speedy or colorful image is what stops me and makes me think. I think a lot before I paint. I do not often do thumb nails. I mostly start arranging things in my head to work out the composition. Once I pick my focal point, it is all about balancing that with what I have in the scene, or cutting it all out. Once I have the composition, I start blocking in my values. If I am going to make changes, it will be now. The balance may be off, or I change my focus to tell a better story, but usually, I start cutting things out.

   I often see things in patterns. After I block in, I usually take a break and see it with fresh eyes the next day and redraw anything that is off. I may use a mirror for this, flip it upside down or both. Then I add details and work on edges. (Right now I am working on softening, polishing, and varying edges.) I may finish or make more adjustments— the painting usually tells me. If something is aggravating me, I usually roll my eyes, put it against the wall and look at it later (and wonder why I did not see the solution before). 

   I paint in themes. One year was big shapes, another was texture, this year it is edges. If I focus on something for a year, I usually get better at it and it becomes a habit. It also helps me to focus on the structure of the painting.

Gloucester Fish Pier, 12 x 36" Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Gloucester Fish Pier                             12 x 36"                                   Oil on Panel

   This description may help. I started with big shapes because I like painting big shapes. So while you see a picture of 3 large fishing boats in the scene of Gloucester Fish Pier, I see a large red shape, kinda square, a long blue shape behind it, and the yellowish neutral wall that filled the background. (Most see the wall as sky, and that is fine.) So I see 3 primary colors in shapes that need to be composed to make a scene. There it was, red, blue and yellow. Three big shapes of primary colors.

   What materials and brands do you usually use? 

   It is the hand that holds the brush that determines the quality of the work, I see many artists using student grade materials making great work. I, however, think you owe it to yourself, as well as to your collectors, to use the best quality materials you can afford. There is a marked difference in some materials, and not so much in others, especially with the 3 most important things, what you paint on, what you paint with, and of course, the paint.

   Sometimes I may say “canvas”, but I do not paint on stretched canvas at all. I do not use any canvas for practical reasons. I live in a highly humid environment and canvas does not fair well. Once after I shipped a painting to a show, the change in environment drastically affected the canvas. It was warped and wrinkled. When it returned, it was fine. Never again.

   I do paint on panels, usually Innerglow Panels and Ampersand Claybord, sometimes Jack Richeson panels for Plein Air. Each has different qualities and I use them to achieve different results. All are very sturdy, resilient, and smooth, which I love. If I want texture, I use paint. I enjoy layering and working with transparent and opaque colors. Clayboard is lovely for that—such a nice glow.

   I use Vasari and Holbein oil paints. I was comfortable with the Holbein brand from using their liquid acrylic for airbrush. After taking a class from David Leffel and Sherrie McGraw, I decided to try the Vasari paint they used along with my Holbein. Great paint. I became more of a fan when I was in NYC, needed more paint, and decided to save myself the shipping by buying directly from their shop. I read the address from a tube in my pocket and off I went. I learned so much about paint and mixing while I was there. They treated me like family. Add that to the smoothness of the color, the consistency, and great customer service, and I have no desire to experiment with other brands.

   I use Rosemary brushes, I had a chance to see Symi, Rosemary’s daughter, demonstrate their brush-making process. I am very hard on my brushes. These last.

   I use Black Oil, made with mostly linseed oil, from Old Master’s Maroger for my medium. It dries well and works with my style and seems to affect my paint in a positive way.

   Your coastal work seems to be your primary focus right now. but have you also had the opportunity to travel to other parts of the world to paint?

   I have driven cross-country to Taos, NM—a trip that everyone should make at least once in their lives. Go out and see America! It is beautiful! There are so many wonderful things to see, people to meet and places to paint. I try to go to all the shows I enter, if possible. It gives me an excuse to go somewhere new and meet new people. My biggest memory is that each state seems to have its own color. I always wonder random things, like how did they decide a border should go here or there. With a river border, it is obvious, but when we would cross state lines, the color changes too, and the terrain—New Mexico was so purple. Oklahoma was golden and pale green (in the fall).

   My only travels outside of America were the Canadian Maritimes. The colors and textures are so different from where I live on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. There are many similarities too. This calls for further investigation.  I am currently planning a return trip to spend much more time painting.

Autumn Field, 24 x 36", Oil on Panel, © Donna Nyzio
Autumn Field                         24 x 36"                         Oil on Panel

   What words of encouragement or piece of advice would you give a beginning artist?

   I am not sure that I am at the point where I can offer advice to others. But I can say that my own painting has improved immensely in the past three years by painting. So, if you are a painter, paint! A LOT! Make it a habit. You will learn more by doing. You will find your voice, improve your skills, find your focus and ability to edit, learn your strengths and weaknesses—all by doing.

   Experiment, find what works for you and your vision. If you lack a tool in your artist's toolbox, find an artist who has command of that skill and go learn it, whether by book, video or in a workshop. You do not have to paint like them, but learn that skill and integrate it into your work.

   Start now, do not wait for everything to be perfect to start. It never will be. Just begin, keep painting, and keep learning. Every once in a while paint with abandon and without rules or goals or an end result and see where it takes you. I find this quote to be true as I improve, "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."  -  Edgar Degas

To see more of Donna Nyzio's work,
go to:  https://paintedworld.com
All artwork copyright Donna Nyzio




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
Become an Artist's Road Member Today!
The Artist's Road LogoClick here to become a Member and enjoy access to all the in-depth painting and travel articles, videos and tutorials. Guaranteed!
Search the Site
Pay-Per-View Articles

New! If you're not a Member of The Artist's Road, some of our articles are available as Pay-Per-View.

Click here to find out more!

Perspectives

Not ready to become a Member yet? Subscribe to our free email postcards, "Perspectives". Enter your email address here.

The Artist's Road Store
A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

New Member Content

Reflections at Grez sur Loing, 1884, Willard Leroy MetcalfOn Reflection



Vo
Late Afternoon in the Garden, Plein Air, 12x16", © Maria Marinoices of Experience:Maria Marino

ConTinder Alight, 11 x 15", Watercolor, © Ye Wangsumed by Fire



Bad Penny, 8 x 16", Oil on Panel, © Donna NyzioVoices of Experience:Donna Nyzio

Datura and Hummingbird, Brazil, Marianne NorthBotanical Art and the Amazing Marianne North

 

 The Artist's House at Giverny, 1913, Claude MonetThe Best is Yet to Come-Art After 65

 Before and After iPhone Edits © J. HulseyiPhoto Edits-From "Ho-Hum" to "Wow"

Night Fishing, Full Moon, Oil, © John HulseyA Tonalism Demonstration


 ArArtists in Red Poppies in Tuscany Italy, John Hulsey Workshopt Among the Poppies:Part II

 On the Hills of Settignano, Telemaco SignoriniThe Italian Macchiaioli
Forerunners of Impressionism


Students Photographing in the Poppy Fields of TuscanyArt Among the Poppies:Part 1


Photograph of John Hulsey Painting with Long Oil Brush
Oil Painting Brushes

 Landscape with Sunrise by Claude MonetThe Perspectives Archive

and MUCH MORE!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
About Ann
     About John
 Hulsey Trusty Studios

We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

TAR logo