Thursday, April 26, 2012

DPW Interviews: Nora MacPhail


From Nora MacPhail's DPW gallery page:
Nora MacPhail is a professional watercolour artist living in Toronto, Canada. She has participated in numerous group art shows as well as juried shows. She is a member of the Toronto Watercolour Society, The Willowdale Group of Artists, Forest Hill Art Club and Central Connection. 
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I began watercolour painting over a decade ago and I took to it immediately. I never found it frustrating, like so many students do.

However, I did abandon watercolour for a few years because I thought 'serious' painters were 'supposed' to use oil. Fortunately, I found my way back to it.

Zebaydo takes the lead
(click here to see original image)

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

I almost stopped painting very early on because of a horrible art teacher I had. But I liked watercolour and I had excitedly purchased every single brush, paint colour, type of paper and many other supplies, so I figured I'd better give it another go!

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I have experimented with oil, acrylic, gouache and watercolour. Then I took a watercolour workshop with Alvaro Castagnet who told us that "Watercolour is not what you think it is; we've barely scratched the surface of it's possibilities."

His words of wisdom just struck me. Watercolour has a long way to go and I want to be part of that progress.

hey neighbor
(click here to see original image)

There's such a wonderful blend of confidence and humor in your art. How did you arrive at your "less is more" approach, where you sometimes combine just hints of shapes and color with a strong theme?

I don't know that there is 'humour' in my art. I am going for a sense of playfulness combined with solid technique. It's important to me that the paintings are well crafted and skillfully painted, but with a dash of playfulness. If you have one without the other you end up with all technique, like photorealism, which I'm not fond of, or just a playful artsy-fartsy mess, which I'm also not fond of. I'm a firm believer in balancing both.

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I don't have a problem with procrastination, in fact I want to paint so many things that having too many ideas actually distracts me. I have many projects swirling around in my imagination. I have to concentrate and focus on one idea.

I say to myself, this is what I am painting right now, today. Other ideas have to wait until tomorrow.

window light
(click here to see original image)


How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I paint whatever I want. I paint what is in front of me and inspires me. I'm not looking for a niche or concerned with what sells. If I don't paint what I want, it all falls apart.

How do you keep art "fresh"? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

I draw the human figure as often as possible to develop my drawing skills. Life models are such a great way to learn to draw. All the difficulties of shapes, form and light are right there to work with and learn from.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I'm learning how to incorporate line into my watercolours. I want my line, including construction lines, to be an integral part of the painting.

red stripes
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

My favourite thing to do is to draw. It's such a wonderful thing to have in one's life. It's a highly satisfying activity. Of all artistic mediums, drawing is the best way for me to find my style. It just develops naturally, like a signature. There's no point in attempting to draw like someone else, it's a personal activity.

Pencil and paper is cheap, it's fun, it's light to carry, it's immediate, and it's highly challenging.


© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Jennifer Newcomb Marine is the Marketing and Community Manager of Daily Paintworks. She's an author and blogging and marketing coach.

17 comments:

  1. I love Nora's work - so light lively, colorful! Her scenes always allow me into a unique, and yet familiar, world. Congrats Laura!

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  2. Thanks Mary! Support from fellow artists in the blog world is soooo awesome!

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  3. I adore Nora's paintings and drawings. I love her style. I love everything about them. They speak to me. They make me smile. This was a really informative article to read and to get to know Nora even more. Thank you both for doing it.

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    1. Thank you so much Lynn for your wonderful comment. What a wonderful thing to wake up to this morning!!

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    2. You're very welcome, Lynn. It was a pleasure to highlight Nora's beautiful work!

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  4. Great interview!! Very interesting! I love her unique style!

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  5. Thank you Giggles! Your style is unique and playful too.
    Happy Painting.

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  6. Nora is not just a fabulous artist she is a warm and insightful supporter of her fellow artists.
    I am really enjoying your series, Jennifer. Thank YOU!

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    1. Thank you so much, Julie. I love reading these too! :-)

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  7. Thank you Julie. Right back at ya'!

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  8. Terrific interview, thank you!

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  9. re-reading your interview and enjoying and learning from it once again!

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  10. Thank you so much Gloria! Happy Painting.

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  11. Just discovered this interview and wanted to gobble it up as fast as I could! Can't get enough of Nora's wonderful paintings! Amazing, unique, inspiring, fresh, wonderful, one of my favorite watercolorists ever! Thank you, Nora, every painting is a treat for my eyes!

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  12. Thank you so much for the kind words RoseAnn!

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  13. Nice interview. Always enjoy reading the background on artists who inspire.

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