If We Don’t Have Art… What Do We Have?

((Left) Gaia by Natalie A. Nieman, (Right) Natalie with a few of her paintings)

Originally from the Bay Area in Northern California, Bend artist Natalie A. Nieman started drawing at the age of four. “My mom reminds me of when I drew mice all over the inside of my closet with a sharpie… I guess I didn’t want to get caught!” She then graduated to finger painting, and her dad would wallpaper the garage with her ‘art.’ She was always entering art contests at an early age, winning first place every time. “I drew action figures and animal cartoons,” Natalie says, smiling as she looks back on what an accomplishment that was. “Now, painting helps me focus on positivity and lets me express myself — whether it’s out of frustration, loneliness or joy. Just really depends on my mood.”

Natalie believes nature is what inspires her the most. “What gives me serenity is being outside and seeing nature in its authentic form — living and dead,” she continues. “Today is all we have, so I try to be in the moment and realize how lucky we are to live here.”

The passion behind Natalie’s art is her interest in what what people view as ‘beauty.’ “Like the saying… beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Natalie said. “There are those symbols that seem to be taboo to some, and welcomed by others. For instance, snakes. Some people see a snake and think they are evil or scary, and some see them as magnificent. It’s just the interpretation. And that is what is so great about nature — that we all have our own perceptions and reactions to different images and concepts. Also, I seem to gravitate towards images of strong women. Kind of like superheroes that are within us all. It’s more of a feeling than anything… having our animal friends to magnify our strength — like a yin and yang relationship.”

When I asked Natalie about her favorite medium, she stated, “I work with acrylics, watercolor, pen, colored pencil and ink. I like acrylics because you can cover up mistakes — and the more covering up, the more texture you get. Also with acrylics, you can set aside a painting that is unfinished for a long time, and be able to come back to it with fresh eyes and kind of start again from where you left off… I have a lot of unfinished painting these days,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s funny though, I was always adamant about finishing a painting in the same sitting, no matter how long it took. These days I take my time. Must be my age now… there really is no hurry. 

“Watercolor and pen are super fun to work with too, but a little less forgiving,” she continues. “Acrylic and watercolor are two very distinct techniques. They are so different, and I love that. I like change and experimenting with different things.”

At the moment, Natalie doesn’t have a specific art scene, but figures it may be time to do something about it. “I’ve been here for almost four years, and [I] kind of keep to myself and paint at home. I’m more of an observer of the artists here in town. There is so much great talent! I’m always comparing my work to others, which has inhibited me,” she stated shyly. “I have heard all my life, why don’t you sell/display your paintings, etc? I don’t really have an answer to that. I have always painted for other people as gifts, now I seem to paint more for myself and they are piling up in my art studio.”

Natalie sees art is in everything, saying if we didn’t have art, what do we have? “Everything is art if you think about it… Art is in food, music, nature, people, animals — EVERYTHING. So it’s pretty important! I don’t think I would be alive if it wasn’t for art.”

Natalie is the production artist for Cascade A&E Magazine, and she handles designs and online communications for Cascade Publications Inc. She has over 20 years of experience in the production and design fields, including a bachelor of arts degree in visual communications/graphic design from California State University, Chico. After a short visit to Bend in 2016, Nieman fell in love with the area and decided to relocate. She enjoys painting, animals and adventure as well as making new friends and trying new things. “Thanks to the Cascade A&E team, I am able to display my paintings. Thank you for giving me the opportunity!”

To view more of her work, go to Facebook.com/NZNDesign.

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