“A Portrait of Nanette” is an exclusive Q&A series with Nanette V. Hucknall. This series will feature in-depth conversations to explore Nanette’s background, her inspirations, her many interests — and her advice to those looking to pursue their passion projects. In this Q&A, we cover Nanette’s work as an artist.
Can you tell us tell how you first got into art and painting?
I attended Cooper Union, majoring in Graphic Design and I also took a painting class each year I was there.
What was your very first painting and what was the inspiration for it?
Even though I did some painting in college, it wasn’t my main interest. When I graduated, I saved my money for a year and went to Europe for six months with a friend. We traveled to every country, going to the cities and the countryside, seeing the beauty and unique charm of the different nations. Some of the nature I saw was so compelling that it awoke in me the urge to paint.
When I returned home I rented a room and immediately bought a large canvas, put it on a table with my paint cannisters and decided to paint a scene I saw from the top of the mountain in Salzburg, Austria. I went to work during the day and came home every night and sat and looked at the blank canvas. I just couldn’t start it! Somehow I knew if it turned out badly that I would never paint again.
I did this every night for about two weeks. One night, as I sat there looking at the canvas, I heard a voice say very loudly, “For God’s sake, get up and paint!” It scared me so much that I did just that and painted the scene in 3 hours. It ended up being good enough for me to continue. Years later when I met my teacher I realized it was his voice.
How has your work developed since you first started painting?
It’s become more abstract and now I do a Gesso undercoat that gives texture to the painting.
Many of your paintings feature landscapes and natural settings. What does nature represent to you?
Nature brings beauty into my life. I’m fortunate to live on a lake surrounded by hills and mountains. I watch the sunset in the evenings reflecting on the water and the reflection of the sunrise in the mornings. The vibrancy of nature inspires everything I do.
What do you love about painting? How does it make you feel?
To me, it’s completely getting in touch with feminine energy and the inspiration that comes from the feminine. It’s also physical. I use my whole body when I paint. During the process, it’s never mental. Only when stepping back and looking at a painting does it get more into my mind.
What’s your favorite painting of and why?
Monet’s Blue Water Lilies at New York Modern Museum of Art.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My brushes and pallet knives, which I’ve had for many years.
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
Always in nature. I have some beautiful gardens that I’m thinking about painting.
What’s the last artwork you purchased?
A large painting by Shichan Takashima from her estate after she passed. She was a good friend of mine and a well-known Canadian artist.
What famous work of art do you wish you owned?
That blue Monet I mentioned or any of his work.
Who are your favorite artists (living or deceased)?
Monet and Nicholas Roerich. Most of the Impressionists, and I also like Turner, Picasso, de kooning, and Rothko. There are so many I like that this is difficult to answer.
Do you have any advice for budding artists?
Just let your heart guide you.