"Dream" Watercolor, © Barbara Nechis
The art of Barbara Nechis
reflects the rhythms of life in a manner both primal and sensitive. Her artistic vision, one that goes to the core of what creativity and being an artist true to oneself is, first struck a chord with the public when Watercolor The Creative Experience
was published in 1979. By the time Watercolor From the Heart
was published in 1993 she was well into her own personal artistic journey.
She has termed her style of painting "abstract realism," but the actual essence and power of her work lies in her ability to reign over the chaos and mystery that watercolor itself, as a substance, likes to create while taking the evolving image to it's logical or illogical completion.
As teacher and author, Barbara encourages her students to trust in their instincts, and quells their fears about the process of finding one's own creative voice through watercolor painting. A true believer in "follow your bliss," it eventually led her 3000 miles from the bustle of the city to land gently in the heart of California's Napa Valley
wine country where her studio rests amidst the rolling vineyards.
"My shapes are completely abstract and in combination make something realistic."
Although her studio rests in an idyllic setting, Barbara herself is busy painting and teaching, using the studio as the base of all her activities. Her own artistic interests started early. As a little girl growing up in Mt. Vernon, New York
, Barbara enjoyed early support for her artistic endeavors. "My mother encouraged it (drawing and painting) and I had paints when I was about 4 years old." she recalls.
By the time she was in 4th grade, she was the member of an after school oil painting club. "My elementary school art teacher was a serious artist with a studio. She was instrumental in creating a real studio (more like a loft than a classroom) in our school."
With Manhattan 30 minutes away, she grew up with ready access to New York's great museums
where she experienced first hand the images and objects of history. In school she developed a strong interest in history, art, and photography.
Both her high school and college teachers were members of the American Watercolor Society
. She remembers first being "seduced" by the magic of watercolor while watching a classmate flow a wet-in-wet wash
onto the paper. It reminded her of the "softer world" she enjoyed seeing before getting glasses as a kid.
"I never wanted to paint like
Ed Whitney or Carl Molno although
I studied with them for years."
After graduating with a BA in History and Fine Arts from the University of Rochester
followed by an MS from Alfred University
, she started teaching private art classes in 1966. When she "found three people who knew less than I did" she started teaching art classes while her 3 month old napped.
In the late 60's through the mid-70's she took classes with the infamous Edgar Whitney
, leading to her turning point in watercolor painting. A favorite story of that time concerns how in her impatience to get to painting, she tended to jump the gun in class and start painting immediately without always doing the customary preliminary sketching and value studies. Watching her one day, Mr. Whitney, realizing she really could draw, exclaimed, "You draw with your brush!"
"It is easier to
make your own statement."
Barbara Nechis discovered how to use watercolor loosely and freely in the fresh light of creativity. She can coax images, hints, shadows and form from the creative process itself. To learn to do this she first took the time to learn the methods and processes that were working for her teachers.
Like most artists in training she learned to design, compose, make value sketches, and finally put paint to paper with a finished goal in mind. But she quickly grew weary of painting to a specific predetermined payoff. She likes to relay the artistic truism, "Goals are for football players."
The turning point in her artistic career occurred when Barbara "began to experience form instead of things" and "chose to try to paint the landscape so that it would clearly evoke real images in the viewer without the distraction of extraneous detail."
As far as watercolor's attraction, Barbara says "I was always attracted to its ethereal look," and the physical working properties of the medium are key to her philosophy and her success. "I work mostly in watercolor because it insists upon creativity. I do not have to think of anything first, just begin and it creates problems that need solving."
As for her influences, Gustav Klimt
comes up as a personal favorite “for his use of small shapes to add up to bigger shapes”, and she thanks her teacher/friend Carl Molno
for introducing her to the works of the likes of Milton Avery
and Arthur Dove
for the way they used color and shape.
Teaching has always been a large part of her life. Barbara became a faculty member of the Parsons School of Design
in 1982, teaching there for 12 years before her career led her to northern California. She seems to get as much out of teaching as she gives. For herself "teaching helps me clarify my thought process," and as an empathetic teacher, "I also love to recognize an "early me" in hungry students, recognize their process and hopefully help them save time by avoiding some of the pits I fell into."
"I allow myself to
respond to the entire
experience of nature."
Her work appears in Watercolor Energies
(North Light Books, 1983) and Strengthen Your Paintings with Dynamic Composition
(North Light Books, 1994,) by Frank Webb
. Her paintings are also found in books by Ron Ranson
, Richard McDaniel
, and Nita Leland
; and in Splash 2: Watercolor Breakthroughs
(North Light Books, 1993). Barbara has frequently been featured in American Artist
, The Palette
, and Watercolor Magic
magazines. Watercolor from Within: Transparent Layering
(Creative Catalyst Productions
,2009) is her latest DVD.
you have been taught."
In 2010 Barbara will be holding workshops in Mexico, California, Michigan, and South Carolina. Her full workshop schedule
including supply lists and pricing is available on her website barbaranechis.com
. You can order copies of her books Watercolor The Creative Experience
or Watercolor From the Heart
, find the DVD release of Barbara Nechis, Watercolor Artist
(Artists' Video Productions, 1986) and read more about the new Watercolor from Within: Transparent Layering with Barbara Nechis
(Creative Catalyst Productions
, DVD 2009).