Igniting Joy

Love Stored Up Pansies
Love Stored Up Pansies, 16X16, oil, information

There is something special about this spring, more special than many springs that have come before. It feels like we are reawakening from a long sleep, and the possibilities of life seem sweeter, the tomorrows more bright, and the knowledge that we will be able to see friends and loved ones again has taken on a level of importance stronger than ever imagined. I’ve been thinking about how this journey began, and the moment when I first knew I was an artist. I don’t remember her face or voice, but I remember the day my first grade teacher had us take a piece of paper, fold it into squares, and draw an apple in each square. After the exercise, she awarded me first place for my drawing, and I was gifted with a tiny U-shaped magnet. It wasn’t the winning that resonates, even today, it was the recognition, deep inside, that I was different. Not every authority figure in my life has encouraged this path, in fact I remember quite clearly my parents telling me, “No, you cannot study art in College, because you will starve.” (So I became a journalist and worked for many years with that degree at a salary barely above minimum wage.) I’m old enough now to understand there is no regret in taking a non-linear path to achieve a life goal. In fact, the winding has flavored and colored my choices both literally and figuratively. And having to fight for a dream has made it even more valuable.

When did you first know you were an artist? How many people have stepped in the way of that belief? Your parents? Your spouse, friends, or teachers? You?

Sadly, we still live in a culture where women artists are not always valued at the same level as male artists, and our culture has taught women artists not to take themselves seriously. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had students tell me they were not artists. Students who flew to Italy with me to paint. Students who had solo shows in galleries. Students who created beautiful, wildly wonderful bouquets of color and light on canvas.

What motivates you to keep painting? For me, it was being told I could not do it. I’m stubborn that way. Working for years in corporate America with the knowledge my easel and brushes were just out of reach, was a powerful engine for driving me to paint until midnight in the only hours I could dedicate to creating. Would I be the same artist today if I’d been given every opportunity from the start? I have absolutely no idea, but something tells me, if it had been easy, I would not value the art life nearly as much as I do.

In the first few weeks of Color Theory in college there was one student whose brilliance outshone every one of us. Two of our first assignments were to design a playing card and create a game board. Both of his creations were breathtaking. In the second week of class, our professor took him aside and told him that he was going to move the student up to a junior level art class. The next Monday when class began, many of us were feeling dejected and quite inadequate. My teacher sensed that, and he told us not to feel disheartened just because another artist’s gift was greater. He said that often the most gifted students never continued their art majors, because art was not a challenge for them. Success in art, he said, was 80% work, and 20% talent. I don’t think any of us believed him then, but I do believe him now. The challenges have been real, but they have certainly made me appreciate every moment I get to have a job, a career, and a life journey that I love. I am a lucky duck, and I try to never, ever take that for granted.



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Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1800 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

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