Emerging Artists | Nancy MacDonald

Truthful depictions

Nancy MacDonald, Roots, oil, 11 x 14.

Nancy MacDonald, Roots, oil, 11 x 14.

This story was featured in the July 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

When Nancy MacDonald moved with her family to California from her native United Kingdom 22 years ago, the artist found herself in a rather welcome situation. “I didn’t have a green card, so I couldn’t work,” she chuckles. Having juggled a full-time teaching job in the U.K. while raising her three young children, MacDonald now suddenly had more time to explore her passion for figurative painting. “That’s when I came across Bob Gerbracht’s work,” she says. “He offered two night classes a week, and that’s where I really learned the bulk of what I do now.”

An esteemed portrait artist, Gerbracht (1924-2017) emphasized the importance of portraying one’s subjects truthfully, says MacDonald. “You can leave things out, but don’t invent things,” she explains. “But you could also push color around; he gave you that free reign.” Today, she continues to push the limits of color while pursuing the principles of representational integrity that Gerbracht championed. MacDonald, who paints in both oils and pastels, finds inspiration in a range of influences, from Dutch Golden Age portrait artist Frans Hals to Australian plein-air artist Ken Knight. In fact, while she considers herself a figurative painter at heart, she is also an avid landscape painter, and she has snapped up top awards for her work in both genres.

A few years ago, the artist moved to the mountains of Sundance, UT, where she frequently captures dazzling destinations like Stewart Falls en plein air. Equally compelling, however, are the intriguing models she has found within her new community. Last fall, MacDonald’s pastel portrait of a local outdoorsman named Lewis received a merit award at the American Impressionist Society’s national juried exhibition. “Lewis is really into the mountain-man look,” she says of her bearded subject, whom she painted from life over multiple sessions. “He made his costume, and in the background is some tanned leather he made himself.” Playing upon his frontiersmanlike attire, the artist blocked out the natural light in her studio and instead projected low, artificial lighting on her model to replicate the warm glow and soft shadows of firelight.

For MacDonald, every painting calls for something a little different, from the level of chromatic intensity to the degree of realism she wants to convey. “You bring yourself, you have an idea of what you want to achieve, but the painting has a life of its own,” she says. —Kim Agricola

representation
www.nancymacdonald.com

This story was featured in the July 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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