By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Nancy Bush grew up knowing it was possible to have a career as an artist. After all, she saw a stellar example of success in her uncle Ralph Rowntree, an internationally known portraitist. “When I first started out,” Bush says, “I was going to be a portrait painter like my uncle. But then I shifted.” Instead, she focused on landscapes, executed in a muted tonalist style. Bush’s richly atmospheric canvases have continued to evolve over the years, as the Texas artist has focused more on composition, design, and a masterly control of her palette. “Landscapes are just so interesting. You can be in the same spot every day and yet it’s different, especially in the low light of early morning or late evening or on rainy days or snowy days,” she says.
Has your style or approach to your art changed since you first appeared in Southwest Art? I experiment a lot more with tonal values. I also don’t do as much glazing as I used to, learning other ways to create luminosity and depth by working with color and enhancing the values rather than by putting a glaze on top. I also feel my work is becoming a little more abstract.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far? Probably my determination and persistence to keep trying to solve the mystery of painting—and, believe me, it is a mystery. There are always problems one has to solve, and each one is a challenge.
Would you have done anything differently? No. I think one has to go through things in order to grow.
What advice do you give to artists just starting out in their careers? Believe in yourself. A lot of people will tell you what they think or what you should do. But if you have a vision and focus on that vision, you can’t fail.
What motto do you live by? To be kind to others, loving, and accepting. I try to be
s helpful as I can.
What artists have influenced you? Obviously the tonalists, like George Inness, John Henry Twachtman, William Langson Lathrop. And then there are the portrait and still-life and landscape painters I love, including John Singer Sargent, Joaquín Sorolla, Fiodor Sakharovitch Sakharov, and Anders Zorn.
What are you working on now? I’m just starting to work on pieces for the Night of Artists show in March and for a solo show at InSight Gallery in September.
What’s your next big goal? I want to experiment and play around more with my painting.
Astoria Fine Art, Jackson, WY; InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Jack Meier Gallery, Houston, TX; Nedra Matteucci Galleries, Santa Fe, NM.
Celebrations Invitational Show, Insight Gallery, December 4-21.
Mistresses of the West: A Woman’s Perspective, Museum of Western Art, Kerrville, TX, January 14-April 3, 2010.
Night of Artists Show and Sale, Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, TX, March 25-26, 2010.
C.M. Russell Museum Show and Sale, Great Falls, MT, March 17-20, 2010.
First appearance in Southwest Art: Artist to Watch, January 1999
Awards won since then: The one that stands out most was at the Night of Artists show seven or eight years ago. I wasn’t even aware they were giving awards and I won best of show.
Show participation since then: It’s meant a lot to me to be in the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, which is an invitational show.
Price change since then: My prices have probably gone up 30 or 40 percent in 10 years. My small paintings, around 8 by 10 inches, are about $2,000; I recently sold a 40-by-48 painting for $20,000.
Featured in “Success Stories” in December 2009