Nancy's paintings in her Napa Valley studio

Every now and then, I am turning over the reins to my creative friends and letting them show and tell about their work-in-progress.  I also asked them to address the issue of how they make time in their busy schedules for their own work.  Today’s guest is painter and teacher Nancy Willis.

Nancy, what are you thinking about in your current work?

I am excited about this work because…

I have a new studio space in a redwood barn on a vineyard in Napa. To me, it looks and feels like France which I love. But the amount of working space that I lost in downsizing from my old studio is still challenging me. I can stand back to see a painting that I am working on, but do not have much space to move laterally. It is difficult to see the work in relation to other work.

I have been working on the Chandelier image for about three years, mostly in printmaking and painting on paper.  Those decisions were equal parts economic downturn and current space restraints. The smaller scale work really helped me know the form, which I realized when I recently started back in on larger format paintings.

I am striving to move away from a direct view of a chandelier and eclipse or mask it. A major theme in my work is the fragmentary aspect of time and experience, so I think this move supports that.

The larger green painting has been in progress for over a year. The source image is a chandelier in daylight in southern California. I wanted to encapsulate and simultaneously shatter the chandelier form while representing the incongruities of the form with daylight and ocean/nature. My process involves many layers of painting and sanding to find the way color and light reflect, refract and shift. The green keeps changing. This latest version may not stay as bright, or deep but for now, it pulled the form into focus. I will give it a few days and see what it tells me.

And how do you make time for your own creative work (and all the other things you fit into your schedule)?

I teach at the Napa Valley College and a local art center. It is not enough to support me, and while I have some modest gallery representation, I continue to supplement my work with catering shifts. I also produce workshops including a painting tour to France. I am responsible for everything in regard to itinerary, logistics, instruction etc. Right now, that is commanding most of my attention. Since my last solo exhibition in 2007, much of my studio time is plugged in around my “other” work. It is frustrating and deflating at times.  The days of 6 to 8 hour painting sessions are a distant memory. I am aware and can be proficient in a 2 to 4 hour period. On a good day, I feel fortunate to keep it all going, but often I feel like my “real” work gets interrupted, and the glass is half full.

I find the more I paint the easier it is to find the time from an already taxed schedule. In that, I mean there is the spark that comes from a day painting in the studio.  The process seduces all of me away from spreadsheets, syllabi, and documentation. It is a jolt, validation, and curiosity and reminds me of what is really important.

Nancy has a solo show of her work scheduled for 2012 at Robert Mondavi Wines. You can see more of her work at I. Wolk Gallery in St. Helena, the gallery at Sundance, and online at: