elcome back, MilspoFANs!
This month, I sit down (virtually) with watercolor painter, Nancy Murphree Davis. Nancy’s gorgeous work speaks for itself, but we are lucky enough to learn a bit more about the techniques behind her paintings. Nancy also shares how she connects with other artists and communities and finds inspiration at each new duty station.
I’m so pleased to share her story with you all…
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are
Nancy: After 25 years, my days as a military spouse may be coming to a close soon. I met my husband when he was Air Force ROTC cadet and I was an art major at Auburn University. Since that time, we have moved twelve times back and forth across the country. I am disappointed that an overseas assignment never came our way, but we have enjoyed the beautiful sugary beaches of the Florida Panhandle, gotten acquainted with the magnificent monuments and city life of our nation’s Capitol, skied the mountains of Northern New Mexico, spent nights hearing the waves break on Monterey Bay, and snorkeled the reefs of Key West in a boat parked outside our back door. Not a bad run if I do say so!
Our son and daughter are in college far from our home in the Florida Keys, so I have a wealth of time to paint and promote my art career. If we didn’t have two dogs, I would probably do a lot more art-related travel!
MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your painting.
Nancy: My favorite medium is watercolor. In the last five years, I’ve gained a lot of skill due to the sheer time I’ve spent with a brush in my hand, which has moved my paintings unintentionally toward realism. I have always painted with the entire rainbow on the paper, but recently, I have been trying out a limited palette, mixing most of the colors in my paintings from just red, yellow and blue. While colorful, it gives cohesion to the artwork. That said, there are a few that can’t be mixed, like my current Key West influenced obsession, Transparent Turquoise which I allow myself to add!
MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Nancy: When I meet people who know I am a military spouse and am asked what I do, they inevitably remark that it is fortunate to have a career that I can do anywhere. In part, that is true; each new location brings new experiences and inspirations. I tend to paint from my experiences, whether that be my wonder at cherry blossoms in DC…
or sea turtles at Western Sambo reef.
What others do not realize is that making artwork regularly is best supported by selling artwork regularly, and finding new places to sell your work takes some time. For example, I lived only five blocks from a wonderful local co-op gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea, but you were unable to apply for membership before two years of residency. Many organizations hold an annual jury for membership, so if you miss the first chance for it or are not admitted on the first try, the typical Air Force assignment (2-3 years) makes it irrelevant.
MilspoFAN: You collaborated with “Alcohol Ink Artists” on Facebook to Create Free Alcohol Ink eBook: How It’s Done. What impact does social media and blogging have on your creative process or business?Tell us about the group, the collaboration, and why you created the free eBook.
Nancy: The internet has come a long way since I became a military spouse. On his first deployments, my husband and I wrote letters and survived on a weekly five-minute phone call. As email became common and the web became searchable, we could keep in touch in a more timely manner and art opportunities became easier to find. I research art centers and associations in new places long before I move now. In some cases, I’ve let it influence where we rent or buy.
Social media is probably the most beneficial tool for artists in the last century. Instagram inspires me with the work of others, some Facebook pages mentor me in business practices, some publicize calls for entry. In 2014, I discovered the medium of alcohol ink and was very active in Facebook groups on the topic. This resulted in the publication of an ebook called Alcohol Ink, How It’s Done.
This is an intriguing way of painting. It is similar to painting watercolor on Yupo, but with more movement of pigment.
In my daily life, I do not interact with artists. I consider many of the artists from social media my friends even though we haven’t met IRL! In the event I’ve visited their part of the country and met them, they seem like old friends. Artists are the nicest and most generous people! Connecting with other artists on Facebook and Instagram helps ease artist daily loneliness and soften the transition to a new duty station.
MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists or plug into the local art scene when you PCS?
Nancy: I’ve always been a “joiner,” so I visit art associations every time we move and decide which will be a good fit for me as a person and my art as a part of the collective. I like to find a group where I am not the worst artist, but not the best artist either. I like a challenge, but I’m also emotionally sensitive and hard on myself, so it is a tricky balance.
My advice is to jump in!
Volunteer to better some aspect of a group, being careful not to criticize the way it is currently done. Often, arts organizations are full of people older than the typical military spouse. They will embrace your contributions and long-time residents can tell you about every other group and gallery in the area, perhaps suggesting what is beneficial to pursue.
In smaller towns, ask questions of any artist you meet. They can guide you to opportunities to learn and to exhibit. In large cities, take a class and talk to your instructor and your classmates. Your success on the local level will come through local connections.
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Nancy: After the holidays, we will learn whether we are PCSing next summer or if we are retiring. When not researching possible retirement cities, I’ll be chairing a show for the Florida Keys Watercolor Society, entering my last few shows in Key West, taking a portrait workshop, and practicing my urban sketching skills for a summer workshop in Italy with my daughter!
Nancy, we wish you best of luck in all of those endeavors and thank you sincerely for sharing your story and paintings with us!
Facebook: Nancy Murphree Davis Art