“Autumn Symphony” Oil, 20×30, Winner of Best Landscape in the 2016 NOAPS Online International Exhibit, Private Collection.
I’ve read that what captivates an average observer when looking at a painting is the content of the painting. The viewer will relate to and form an opinion based on the subject matter, formed by their own experiences or emotions. The artist, when viewing a painting, may look at it for technique and skill. So when an artist can capture the experience, emotion and outstanding skill, they have created a masterful painting. “Autumn Symphony” does just that; the feeling of a warm and serene autumn day, the background that beckons us to follow the stream, and the superb skill of the artist create an unforgettable piece.
Barbara Nuss has always been an artist. From painting her first oil at age 8 to frequenting the National Gallery of Art to study the impressionists and post-impressionists as a child, she realized that art was her path for the future. After majoring in illustration at Syracuse University, Barbara worked as an illustrator in a department store. Her illustrations were in India Ink and grey washes, so she became proficient in watercolor technique and learned the importance of value contrast. She was later able to devote herself to painting full time, and studied at the Schuler School of Fine Arts in Baltimore. This study provided her with the techniques of the Old Masters under the mentorship of Ann Schuler, focusing mainly on still life and portraits.
“Alabaster Horse” 24×30, Oil on Linen, Berkley Gallery
“Daffodils in Crystal Vase”, 24×18, Oil on Linen, Berkley Gallery
Landscapes are the primary the genre for Barbara, and interestingly she notes that both the impressionists and the Hudson River School painters are those who inspire her. She looked to the Impressionists Pissaro and William Merritt Chase for their use of brush strokes and color, and the realism of John Constable, Frederick Church, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Moran. In order to study landscapes in depth, Barbara spent several years copying the works of Constable, Inness and Metcalf at the National Gallery, and the influence of this study can be seen in her work today.
“Miller’s Pond” 14×24, Oil, Berkley Gallery
A very critical part of painting for Barbara is painting from life. Whether it is en plein air or setting up a still life in the studio, she knows that there is no substitute for working from life. She finds inspiration in the light cast on the landscape, the simple beauty of a piece of fruit, or the dewdrops on a flower. Her work begins with thumbnails, sketches, and plein air studies. For larger landscape paintings she uses her plein air studies and photo reference to work from, but remarks that “it takes a lot of plein air work to know how to paint from a photograph, without copying the photograph…two entirely different things.” For the landscape, the most difficult aspect is editing and composing, and this she does with the initial sketch. She may even do a small completed painting from her plein air studies before she tackles the larger piece.
“Murphy’s Farm”, 12×24, Oil, Private Collection
Barbara’s palette consists of white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, permanent madder deep (a permanent substitute for alizarin crimson), burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, phthalo green and ivory black, and from these pigments she can create all her colors. She does her small pieces on gessoed board, and prepares her own stretched Belgium linen for larger works.
As an art teacher, Barbara had difficulty finding a good reference book on composition for her students, so she wrote one: it was first published in 2004 under the title “14 Formulas for Painting Fabulous Landscapes” and was published again by North Light Books in 2012 under the title “Secrets to Composition”. The book will soon be reprinted by Echo Point Publishing. In this book, Barbara takes the reader “from their first encounter with the landscape, how to approach it, what compositions would work, how to take the reference photos, how to make design changes, and how to make it all work into a successful painting.” This well written and informative book is now used by many art teachers to help their students create successful paintings.
If Barbara can impart to our readers her words of wisdom, they would be to “paint, paint, and paint, as often as possible. And paint from life. Don’t paint from photographs…photographs lie.”
Barbara is represented by the Berkley Gallery in Warrenton, VA and the McBride Gallery in Annapolis, MD.
To view more of the National Oil & Acrylic Painters Fall Online Exhibit, visit http://www.noaps.org.