Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Feature: Nancy Standlee

"Pump Up the Volume" by Nancy Standlee
Today's Friday Feature is Nancy Standlee.  When I first saw Nancy's work I was immediately drawn to her colors and whimsy.   You just can't help but smile when you see her work.  On a side note I lived in Arlington, TX when I was a kid so I thought that was a neat connection between her and I.  Nancy is an Arlington, TX, award winning contemporary artist who has a hard time choosing her favorite medium. She paints cheerful and joyful paintings with bold expressive color in oil, acrylic, mixed media and collage.

To see more of her work

Online Gallery:
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"Turn Left on Bird Lane" by Nancy Standlee
How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

First, let me say thank you for the opportunity for the interview.
I've always wanted to "make things". My parents were very creative without training or workshops. My mother sewed all of my clothes and one of the earliest memories of my father was me complaining that my doll was bald. We lived in a little unpainted frame house on my grandfather's place far out in the country and little money or stores nearby. My daddy took the scissors to the family collie and got some snips of hair and glued them with good old school glue. During the elementary school years, my father would help me decorate my Valentine shoe box for the classmates to drop in their cards on the party day and I always thought mine was the best looking of the lot. I've always loved taking any classes and workshops from hat making to batik stuffed wall hangings. In the late 70's I belonged to a craft cooperative in Yorktown, VA and showed my batik caftans, head wraps, and hangings there after taking some summer workshops at Vassar with Morag Benepe. An early foray into collage was decoupage. I bought lumber, distressed it with a chain, stained it, cut it up and decoupaged small fine art prints and sold on the streets of Williamsburg, Va. I took an online course in papier mache, made candlesticks, then on to buying old tables and cutting off the legs and antiquing to make more candlesticks. Hat making and quilt making and some knitting all are in there somewhere. Since my retirement in 2000, all of my time has been devoted to  the development of my fine art skills in watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, gouache, sketchbook journaling and collage and in January 2012 I took my first oil painting workshop in California, after saying  I would not explore oils as I had no more room for art supplies. I've since made more room. I have not had any formal art training in college (with degrees in Home Economics, Special Ed, Library Science) but I've taken many, many workshops in the U.S., Europe and Mexico with some of the better known instructors of our day. I belong to a group (there are 8 of us) Canvas by Canvas and we paint collaboratively and I suppose that association helped me define myself as an artist. I've taken 14 workshops with California artist Robert Burridge and his influence can be seen in my figurative paintings and I want to explore adding some collage elements to these figurative works. I continue to gravitate back to putting a red haired woman somewhere in these works.

"Spur me on Sunflower" by Nancy Standlee

Where were you born? 

Gorman, Texas (about half way between Fort Worth and Abilene) a small community near my little country home in Duster, Texas. We later moved into De Leon, about 2200 population when I was in the fifth grade. My Texas roots run too deep to ever want to leave at my age but I sure like to travel. 

If you could live anywhere where would you live? 

See above.. will just stay in Texas. The thoughts of packing up this house would deter me from ever moving even down the street.

I've lived in California and Virginia for extended times but I will choose Texas because of my children and grandchildren who are in the area. We may not see each other for months but I know they are near. I have painting friends and we travel and lunch together and that is an important connection to me. 

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

This is such a hard question for me as I've often said I'm like a fickle lover, loving the one I'm with. I tend to love the medium I'm using at the moment. For instance in acrylic I love painting the impressionist figures with mixed media. In collage, I enjoy fruit, food, and fish and a few birds. (See what a fickle painter I am?)  In oils I seem to handle still life better and I'll tackle anything in my sketchbook journal. Some painters are know as flower painters, some for their pets but I just can't be put in a category because I'm always and forever wanting to learn something new without fully exploring the previous one. I've had people tell me "Oh, you've changed your style." My answer "No, I've just added a new one."
"California Roses" by Nancy Standlee

Could you talk about your painting techniques?  

Sometimes I think it's hard for an artist to recognize their own "style". My friends can pick my work out of a group of paintings which I've always found amusing. I have had a hard time settling on one medium and feel like a dilettante at times, taking up one medium and then wanting to learn to work in another. Bold color is the one factor I believe throughout all the different mediums. At age 77, I really don't have the time to settle down to one medium when there are so many avenues to explore. When I'm working in acrylic, it's splashy color with lots of water and working from the imagination. I want my paintings to be joyful and colorful. I'm not sending any messages about social reform but just wish to paint happy little paintings. In collage, there is more control, especially with the portraits when I trace the image to get a good likeness because the collage will distort the image during the gluing process. When I'm using my own painted papers for collage, I tend to paint with acrylic first to get an idea where the colored papers will go. I'm such a newbie in oil in January 2013 I took on the challenge of painting 30 paintings in 30 days and these were small and done faster from still life set ups or from my photos. In sketchbook journaling, I enjoy recording something in my journal each day to help remember the day. I don't feel guilty if I miss a day, a month or years but its something I always like to go back and review and always glad I've made the effort. I will use a pen and  watercolor for these entries.

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Right now I've been printing off lists and putting in my journal what other people have on their palettes for their watercolors. I really enjoy reading about someone who is so sure of their colors and can say "This is my palette."  I always enjoy reading their supply lists and I am so easily swayed by their suggestions, that I want to try it out also. I guess the one color I always want to have is a little bit of turquoise. I also enjoy wearing turquoise jewelry - the more the better and all at one time. 
"Who's Going to the Gala, Don't Wait Up" by Nancy Standlee
Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

In acrylics, it has to be Robert Burridge ( since I've just finished up my 14th workshop with him. It is so strange to be how one image can change your painting life. Several years ago I saw his painting of cups on the cover of a Cheap Joe's catalog and it really called my name. I found out when his next workshop would be and signed up for my first one at the Wenmohs Ranch ( in September, 2006. I've never had so much fun in a workshop while learning how to paint loose and colorful, besides he has always shared freely his techniques. I was honored to be able to attend one of his mentoring workshops in California last year.  

What have been some of your crowning achievements?

lol... When I sell a painting I feel like, wow, this is great that someone likes my art enough to pay money for it. It is very rewarding when someone emails saying I've inspired them to try an art technique or especially when I hear "I want to be like you when I grow up". (These are not children saying this but other artists thinking about their golden years.) I was published in 2012 with three of my images in "Painting with Mixed Media" Paula Guhin and Geri Greenman and that was a milestone for me. 

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

You know what? I just want to be here in five years learning new stuff. I've recently taken a plein air two day workshop with Don Getz in Dallas and realize how much I don't know about drawing and sketching. I've joined new groups on Facebook and have ordered new books all about Urban Sketching. I think I'd like to learn how to be a better drawer and sketcher in the coming years. When I went for a painting trip to Italy I had some goals and guess they are still in effect -- don't fall down, don't get lost, don't get sick, and don't let your purse get stolen.. all negative but these still tops the list.
"Sweet Summer" by Nancy Standlee
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

I saw this quote on Facebook this morning from Chuck Close and thought it very good if in effect it's from his as with FB you never can tell. but here it is:

"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case." -Chuck Close
I like to stress to beginners in my art journaling class "Love Your Life" it's not about making a perfect little drawing but it's yours and your life, so love it and make just a small little entry, make a beginning. If your life doesn't have room, time or space to make a large painting, at least keep your creativity nourished by making a small quick sketch in your journal. Do some art related activity each day. It doesn't have to be painting, Read an art blog, or read a book about art. 
"California Cupcake" by Nancy Standlee

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

Robert Burridge "It's all been done before but not by you." and "If you have to ask the question, the answer is always YES."

Added comment: inspiration comes from

Inspiration comes from art books, as an ex. school librarian, I love my books so much there is a storage problem and from seeing other artists work and painting with them in workshops. One of the perks of a workshop is the energy in the room with 15-20 people painting and sharing their work. I'm always happy on a Monday morning beginning a new workshop somewhere in any medium, seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones.

Chocolate or vanilla?

Your dream vacation spot?
The beach

Book or movie?   book (art books of all kinds) Arrived yesterday "Freehand Drawing and Discovery" by James Richards

Favorite author?
Anne Lamott, and can't leave out the Bible

Favorite movie?
Midnight in Paris  TV Lonesome Dove (I think McMurtry did us all a disservice when he killed of Gus. Can you image all the sequels we could be enjoying, Gus and Clara Move to Texas, Gus and Clara and Their First Grandchild", etc. "Woodrow and Gus on the Road Again."   

Romance or comedy?

Favorite dessert? Pie, just pie. all kinds..(maybe coconut cream, but then there's apple? hmm) I have a pie story. I learned to cook making pies from the red Betty Crocker cookbook because my father loved pies and every time I made him one, he'd say, "This is good, but I think you can do better" forcing me to try again. When I left for college majoring in Home Economics in 1954, I had my own copy of Betty Crocker with me and I still have it. Trust me, I am no Betty Crocker these days, preferring to eat my pie out to give me more painting time. 

Night owl or morning person?  Night owl 

Thank you Nancy:)


  1. Thanks Carrie for the interview and even I did a spell check but I find it amusing in the Dessert question I spelled college as collage..just too involved in Collage at this time and I love the images you have chosen.

  2. Great interview! I loved Nancy's goals, in particular!

  3. Terrific interview. I'm one of her fans who wants to be like her when I grow up! She is awesome.

  4. Thank you for sharing Nancy's work with us, Carrie!!...She does beautiful work...I LOVE "Turn left on Bird Lane"...I will be checking out her blog!!!

  5. She is wonderful and her work is so full of joy!!!

  6. I love Nancy's vibrant personality! I have been following her blog for quite a long time and am glad to know even more about her. She is a stitch! I feel like she is my new best friend! I'd love to meet her someday. Thank you for a great interview!!!

  7. Thank you Carrie for finding such great artist as Nancy. I love her art, it is playful, light, and simple in a good nostalgic way :0)
    Have a great work week!

  8. What an uplifting selection of paintings! Lovely, cheerful colours :0)

  9. When was Nancy born??? I'm doing an art project on her and i cant seem to find a page that shows her date of birth. Also want to say, your work is amazing Nancy!!! You're a born artist! Xxx