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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Barbara Nechis. Interview

Barbara Nechis is an artist who has developed a style known for its masterful balance of spontaneity and control of the watercolor brush.

The heroes of your paintings are shapes. Do they come to life out of your imagination or they base on life impressions when you create them? They come from inventing shapes, many that reflect those I find in nature. I use the fundamentally abstract patterns of nature both as a source of inspiration and as a compositional element sometimes in disorienting juxtapositions. The resulting paintings allude to the physical landscape without imitating it. My intention is to form an illusion of landscape even though the shapes themselves may or may not be found in nature.

Barbara Nechis. Flower Illusion_38x56 cm

Your watercolors look very much like painting on silk. Did you have that experience?
I have never painted on silk but have been told so often that my work would look good on silk that a company is now using my work to inspire a line of hand painted silk scarves.

Do you have the whole picture in your mind when you start painting?
I never have a picture in mind but usually after a few strokes my subject begins to emerge. Often I recognize a feeling of a place I have been and will develop it but I am always surprised by the result.
Barbara Nechis. Fascinating Rhythm_38x56 cm

Do you finish the painting work in one session? 

Hardly ever. Some paintings have taken me years to complete. When I get stuck I put them aside, but not for long. I constantly pull them out, looking again and making changes incrementally. I usually have many paintings going at the same time and if I get stuck on one or it needs to dry between layers, I work on another. When my motor coordination feels to be at its peak I work on those that need fine detail; when I feel analytical, I try to solve problems, and when I’m feeling exceptionally creative or totally stuck I begin a new one. By tuning into my own moods and performing the most suitable tasks I eventually finish almost all of them.
Barbara Nechis. IllusionCrevass_38x56 cm

Can you consider your painting style experimental?
Definitely, but I also call it abstract realism. In my mind I am painting real objects, rocks, water, etc. but I have no formulas and try to find new ways to portray my subjects so that my work does not become predictable or stylized. I can’t fail because I have no expectations and no preconceived plan. It would be difficult for me to be this flexible if I expected a certain outcome.

Barbara Nechis. Norway Remembered

Is your work more emotional or planned?

Probably only the beginning strokes are emotional and as a piece begins to take shape the intellectual takes over. Since paint and water behave unpredictably it helps to take a flexible, risk-taking approach. I rarely plan but I think about each stroke as I make it and try to blend intuition with control and structure.

What can you say about your idea of composition? 

All of the parts of a painting must work harmoniously together. Many of the other rules I have been taught seem to be extraneous. The working out of a painting involves infinite choices, some easier to make than others. Every stroke can be a struggle because each change can change everything, unlike in a planned painting where there is often little improvisation.

Barbara Nechis. Yosemite River. 56x76 cm

Do you prefer large size to work on?
I have no preference but when I work very large I may work on various areas of the painting intensely as if I were working on a small painting.

What is your paper choice?
I mostly use Arches 140lb cold press but I occasionally work on other surfaces. The 140lb is practical because I ship lots of unframed work and can roll this weight and ship it in a mailing tube.

Barbara Nechis. Majeska Falls. 56x76 cm

What is your criteria about your work to consider whether it is complete and satisfactory?
I make sure that every edge and shape is the best I can make it to support the whole. Every part of the painting must make sense and I try to edit what is extraneous to what I want to say? When there is nothing in the painting that bothers me that I can possibly improve, it is finished. I attempt to create something that pleases me and the colors, methods and forms are suggested by what the painting seems to need or wants to be. Sometimes the technical competence that comes with experience can fool us and we fail to examine each piece for its own intrinsic value. In my work I consider the failures to be those in which I have previously painted something similar but better, and the lack of a spark that differentiates the piece to make it memorable apart from my other work. I don’t ever want to be so complacent as to believe that if I did it, it must be art. I destroy pieces that fall below these standards. I find this cathartic and an immense space saver. I also finish almost every piece I begin even if I expect to discard it. As soon as I deem it a failure I no longer have an investment in it and can attack it with vigor. Some of these end up to be quite respectable.

Barbara Nechis

Do you consider it is important to get a basic drawing knowledge?
Absolutely. Without learning to draw there is no understanding of how things are made. Proportion, perspective and depth would be impossible to achieve without drawing skills. Drawing helps you to see.

Barbara Nechis. Tapestry. 56x76cm


  1. great to see this, thanks Barbara and Kostya!!

  2. Love the style, Barbara's paintings are very beautiful!

  3. Really enjoy Barbara's style. Its lovely to see more of her work. Thank you Kostya.

  4. Came across one of your paintings. So awesome.

  5. Thank you.. Lots of good info here. Enjoyed!