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Wearing her heart on her canvas

Local painter shares emotionally charged work at regional fine arts festival

Posted: April 7, 2014 2:18 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2014 2:18 p.m.

Artist Nancy Eckels sits with her three-panel 54-by-72-inch acrylic painting called "Fire and Sage" at her home in Canyon Country.

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Impressionist artist and Canyon Country resident Nancy Eckels will showcase her emotionally charged paintings at Southern California’s largest fine arts festival, Mission Federal ArtWalk in San Diego on April 26 and 27.

Selected from more than 700 applicants, the full-time painter is one of 12 artists who will be featured among the 350 total participating artists.

Eckels hopes viewers will walk away with more than just a painting in hand.

“I like people to react and feel something,” she said of her work’s purpose. “It’s up to the individual to decide what they see in it – color, emotion, motion.”

Though Eckels comes from a family of artists, it took her a while to come around to art as a career. For 25 years, Eckels worked in TV, spending 13 years on the set of “Bold and the Beautiful” as an associate director and later director, she said.

“In TV, there are a lot of opinions influencing what you do,” she said. “I wanted more creative control. And I always knew I’d end up doing some kind of art.”

So Eckels said goodbye to daytime TV and set up a studio in the spare bedroom in her house.

“Painting is completely within my control – I can take all the accolades or all the blames,” she said.
Before applying paint, Eckels first layers on a texture medium that pops off the canvas.

“The surface of the painting is not flat,” she said. “Underneath the acrylic paint is molding paste. It’s almost like creating a sculpture on the canvas first, allowing it to dry, before painting on top of it.”

Eckels uses brushes, palette knives and automotive shop towels to smear paint across the textured peaks and valleys popping off the surface of the canvas.

She can scrub in paint with a brush or sweep it across the top with a towel, layering colors with intentionality and design.

And the emotion associated with color drives the whole piece, she said.

“I pick colors to start playing with on the canvas, and when I see a composition start to emerge, I follow it,” she said. “It’s mostly about emotion. I don’t usually plan a piece ahead of time.”

Through color and texture, Eckels creates non-representational, or abstract, pieces that reflect the mood she’s feeling at present.

“You can’t see any realism in it, but every once in a while, I go crazy and put a tree in it,” she said with a laugh.

By sharing her emotions on the canvas, Eckels hopes to forge a connection through her art because, for Eckels, painting has been a source of solace.

In 2012, Eckels was diagnosed with breast cancer. To get through chemotherapy, she turned to two passions.

“Painting and poker,” she said with laughter. “It was something I could do to take my mind off the chemotherapy.”

Throughout her treatment, the colors and emotional undercurrents of her work turned calm.

“It could have been because I was working my way out of all of that, or it could have been simply because I didn’t have a lot of energy,” she said.

A recent survivor, Eckels has once again turned toward more intense, vibrant pieces.

“You learn things every day when you paint,” she said. “Once day, you may find a different way to use the brush or move the paint around the canvas. You have to keep using those skills to build on them – it’s the only way you keep getting better.”

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