Nona Stephens is a landscape artist who exhibited an interest in art at the early age of six, entering a Christmas coloring contest of a local department store in her hometown of Forrest City, Arkansas. She won first prize for girls. As fate would have it, her future husband won first place for the boys’ division, although they did not meet until she was fifteen. They have now celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary and reside in Gainesville, Georgia. She received her BA degree in interior design, graduating magna cum laude from Brenau University. She later studied for three years with classically trained artist, Chris Didomizio of Atlanta, and has also studied in workshops with noted artists Don Demers, Gregg Kreutz, Gil Dellinger, Robert Johnson, Roger Dale Brown, the late Timothy Thies and Ken Auster, and others. Since 2006, she has sought more en plein air or outdoor painting, and states “Mother Nature is the toughest, and perhaps the most rewarding instructor.” While painting on location she is not only recording the scene in front of her, but also mentally recording the smells of the earth, sounds of water, wind, and birds. There have been unusual instances while painting. Once a raccoon played “peek-a-boo” from under the little bridge she was painting from, and another time she recounts, “I finally saw the 12 foot alligator just across the pond that made my heart stop.” When she paints in the studio from the studies done en plein air, all those sights and sounds come flooding back. She prefers painting with soothing, non-obtrusive classical music, because she states, “I have a running dialog with my painting. I prefer no distractions of music with a beat or lyrics, or I would not be able to hear my painting talk to me! I love to get “in the zone” and lose myself in the process.” In the early years she would not sell her paintings and explains, “I am usually very emotionally tied to what I paint, and found it difficult to bring myself to sell that “piece of myself”, or record “of my existence”. I began selling my art when I discovered a particular painting had so much emotion attached to it that I had to get away from it. One painting was done after 9-11, and another of a maritime disaster. I discovered sharing my art with others had pleasure in itself.” In reference to her painting style, she prefers the much more subtle colors of nature, and fleeting moments of light, especially at sunrise or sunset, and loves the challenge of capturing the “atmosphere”. She marvels, “it is true, everything has a season. So many times an ordinary scene explodes with life and drama in a certain light. I strive to find the magic moment, and may go back many times to a particular scene to study the light patterns at different times of day.” Her paintings are referred to as being serene, soft, and calming. Her painting style would be described as representational with a touch of impressionism. But she confirms her painting style is not something she is complacent with. “I will never stop learning on this quest to study about art and painting, or striving at the very least produce a painting which satisfies me. Brush, paint, and canvas have a way of bringing you to your knees. But I love the challenge. An admitted traditionalist, I prefer to work in oils. I strive to capture a special light effect of the moment or the serenity of a landscape. Although I use many photos, sketches, and en plein air field studies, I love to spend time sitting quietly absorbing the nuances, and the way the scene “feels on your skin.” My plein air studies serve as inspiration for larger studio paintings. When painting, I sometimes feel “in the zone” losing all track of time and place and feel transported back to the sights, smells, and sounds of the scene being captured on the canvas, and many times the painting seems to take over and demand a life of its own, “talking” to me, adjust this here, add there. When the painting stops talking, I know I have finished the painting. As for a philosophy of life, there isn’t enough time in a lifetime to learn all that I want to learn, and I will always be a student of nature, light, and the artists before me. My reverence for the scenes I paint is why I long to try to capture the essence of the moment on canvas, and make that moment a journal and record of my existence, but more importantly, to give voice in some small way to help protect the beauty of this earth we live in.
- Space Available
- Casey Harper