Introducing local artist Natasha Nash, painter and handbag designer with a style all of her own! A Damascus-based artist whose work is featured at the Trolley this week, Nash has a passion for lighthouses, fabrics, and all things art. You can find her on Facebook and her website, artisancrab.com.
I grew up in Frederick County, Maryland. Always doodling and drawing as a child, it was with encouragement from my artist mother that I pursued art as a young adult. After watching her painting one day and commenting on how I could never do that, she told me to try it and see. I loved Disney characters, so it wasn’t surprising that my very first painting was of Fantasia Mickey. After that painting was finished, I was hooked. I taught myself using tutorials from magazines and books, and over the years, created my own unique style.
Well, fast forward to present. Working full time as an office manager for a busy veterinary clinic, painting and crafting are my stress relief. I have a studio in my home and work there frequently, but I still take over the dining room table for projects! I participate in various art and craft shows in this area and on the Eastern Shore. In addition to painting, I also have interest in jewelry and fabrics. I designed and hand-crafted a collection of polymer clay jewelry pieces, including pendants and bracelets. All pieces are accented with glass and crystal beads, as well as natural stones. I also make fine silver pieces as well, using precious metal clay that I fire in a kiln.
While I love working with cloth and beads, my favorite medium is easily Acrylic paint. The drying time is short, and it’s no problem to go over any mistakes. I also enjoy its versatility, being able to water it down so that it acts as if it is Watercolor, or adding texture mediums for an endless amount of effects. I frequently work in pastels and charcoals as well, and tend to add many layers to my pieces so that I end up with a velvety texture in the end.
Something every artist gets asked is how they’ve grown as an artist, or how their style has changed. Personally, my style is completely different from my beginning.
Self-taught, I first enjoyed tole painting. I painted on everything from flower pots and glassware, to unfinished wood pieces. Donna Dewberry’s “One Stroke” technique was a favorite of mine, and her magazine even printed a photo of one of my pieces. Subjects varied anywhere from flowers, to animals and fruit, and landscapes. I eventually decided that I wanted to try mural painting. My parents were brave in letting me attempt my first one on their bathroom wall! It’s a Maine lighthouse scene that my mother and I actually worked on together. Looking at it when I visit brings back a lot of happy memories.
Since that first mural, I have completed many others as well, including the walls of a Curves gym in Frederick. One of my friends asked me to paint her baby’s nursery several years ago. More recently I had the pleasure of painting what I call her “big girl” room. She has a pink “Paris” theme. I have also painted her brother’s room with WWII fighter jets and bomber nose art. I am especially proud of my murals! Last year I was lucky enough to gain a painting job after pictures of one of the rooms went up on Facebook. That homeowner ended up with a piece in her “avian” room that features the birds that she owns. This was fun to do, especially since I had cute little finches and parakeets to keep me company and sing to me as I worked.
My friends and clients really help me via word-of-mouth. Similarly, joining the Frederick County Art Association has given me lots of opportunities to take my art to the next level. Through membership I’ve participated in many gallery shows and events. I also joined the Plein Aire Painting Club and realized that I am not really that good at plein aire painting!
You live and you learn!
A key part of who I am as an artist actually began with photographs from my parent’s holidays to Maine. The beautiful lighthouses inspired me, and helped me bring about my own style. Now I love being by the sea, travelling to the beach as often as I can for the relaxation and inspiration I find there. In addition to canvas paintings and murals, I’ve also begun crafting jewelry and working with fabrics to make totes and handbags. Designing my own bags is a new journey for me. It’s definitely something that I never thought I would be doing.
As an artist myself, I feel that parents should expose their kids to art. Luckily, it is very easy to do in this area! Maryland is a great state for the arts. Just go to downtown Frederick on a First Saturday; you can stroll through the galleries, or maybe go to an art opening where you can meet the artist. For anyone looking to encourage their child’s creativity, it’s fun and engaging to start crafts and other projects at home. But don’t just sit them in front of an easel. You can begin with a simple exercise, like taking a picture of your family pet, and asking your child to draw or paint the animal any way they would like. Or paint flower pots together, and have everyone plant something this year to watch it grow.
It was thanks to my own mom that I became an artist—she and my family and friends are my biggest fans, always helping me to get my artwork out there. For that, I’m incredibly grateful! My art grew into a side business when I would show people my work and they would say, “Wow! You should sell that!” This encouraged me, so I started with mostly commissioned work for co-workers and friends. I still do commissions, but have graduated to gallery and art and craft shows, and, most recently, to local shops.
One important lesson that I have learned with art and business is that quality suffers when quantity is your goal. Bearing that in mind, I do what I can to stay within my limits. I can’t say that I am always successful with this, but I try. Time management is a learned skill. My partner, Brett, has played an integral part in helping me with all aspects of getting my artwork into the computer to be printed, emailed, etc….I have taught classes as part of an after-school program called Young Rembrandts, for instance, but had to leave the program when it became too much for me with my busy work schedule.
You might guess that most of my free time is spent creating. It’s my stress relief and what I absolutely love to do with my Shih Tzu, Noodle, at my side. My favorite project is a long-term series of paintings that feature Maryland lighthouses. Part of the fun is visiting them and photographing the lights. I have even gained a few collectors of the series, who visit me at some of the craft shows where I participate to see what my latest work is.
The lighthouses I paint are beautiful, but their histories are fascinating. I find it important to include a history with every print or note card. I feel like everyone should know why these lights are so special—and it’s this included history that makes my work a bit unique as well. I always try to paint in non-traditional angles, really making my work stand out. While visiting, I take multiple photos and then choose the most interesting one to work with. Recently, I have also been dabbling in hand-painting purses. I call it “up-cycling,” because I find gently used purses and wallets at thrift shops and flea markets, and then paint them to give them new life. This is something that you do not see locally very much, and I hope to build up a beautiful collection of these soon. It’s true that I’m especially proud of my painted handbags, and I am now even designing purses that feature images of my artwork. These are fun, and it allows me to infuse my paintings into another form.
I am very happy to be a part of the Main Street Trolley gift shop. It’s a wonderful shop with lots of beautiful things. You can also find my work at Flights of Fancy and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St Michaels. I also do special orders and commissioned work (including pet portraits), so please contact me if interested!