Welcome to our artist spotlight series! In this edition, we have the privilege of sitting with Natalie Daise, a brilliant artist whose canvas comes to life with vibrant colors and captivating strokes. Join us as we delve into the world of artistry and inspiration.
Rice Museum: Can you share a little about your artistic journey? How did you discover your passion for painting, and what path led you to where you are today?
Natalie Daise: I was the little girl who drew pictures for the other little kids in kindergarten. I played with my big brother's toy watercolor palette (I never saw him touch it.) I drew all the time. When I was 12, I visited a friend who took art classes. She had an easel in her room and paint in tubes. When I returned home, I must have told my parents about it because, for my 13th birthday, I received a Grumbacher oil painting kit. I painted my first portrait on my birthday. I later discovered pastels and other forms of color and played with them. I taught myself how to copy images, and I particularly loved faces. As a teenager, I would make pencil portraits of my friends. I never considered that I was or could be an artist, though I was known as "artistic." I'd never met anyone who was an artist. I figured I would do a normal "Grown-up" job. I never really had many of those jobs. I became a professional storyteller, traveled on that circuit for many years, and then did several years of children's television. During those years, I only made a little visual art. After TV, I opened a little studio on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County and rediscovered my love for painting. I didn't consider myself an artist until 2010 I finally claimed it.
RM. Your artwork often showcases a unique blend of styles. How do you approach mixing different techniques, and what inspires you to experiment with various artistic influences?
ND: I am, first and foremost, a storyteller, so my techniques, mediums, and styles arise from the story I am trying to tell. My imagination and my curiosity lead me. My work falls into the magical realism category if it can be categorized.
RM. Colors play a significant role in your paintings. Could you elaborate on your color selection process? How do you believe colors contribute to the emotions your artwork evokes?
ND: Once again, the colors arise from the story or the feeling of the piece. I use a lot of nature colors, for example. Much, much, MUCH, green and blue. During the pandemic, most of my work was influenced by my garden and the nature that I interacted with. I also am fascinated by skin tones. The colors of the people of the African Diaspora are so rich and diverse. And I am also in love with yellow!
RM. Many artists develop rituals or routines to create a creative mindset. What's your approach to preparing yourself mentally before starting a new painting?
ND: I have a specific ritual. Creativity is my spiritual practice as well as my work. I start each day in my studio by lighting a candle, making a cup of coffee or tea, and writing in my journal (I've been doing morning pages as inspired by Julia Cameron for the past 25 or so years). I always end my journaling with gratitude, listing things I am thankful for. Then, I turn on the overhead lights, put on my paint-covered apron, and sit in front of the piece I am working on. I might be working through a problem on my laptop or a sketch pad, or it might already be on the easel. I turn on an audiobook or music and get started.
RM. What draws you to that particular subject?
ND: My favorite subjects are people of African descent. I love the colors of our skin, the violets and the blues and reds, the way the light shapes the planes of our faces. I also love to paint things from the garden and nature - collard greens, birds, bees, and the flowers that bloom throughout the years. Most of my work will have some aspect of each of these.
RM. Could you show how you achieve such depth and dimension in your paintings?
ND: My best answer is that I look at things clearly. I look for the light and how it follows contours and moves across a face.
RM. Artists often need creative blocks. How do you overcome these hurdles and find inspiration when you feel stuck in your artistic journey?
ND: The answer to my blocks is in my ritual. The journal and gratitude, first of all. And sometimes, I have to walk away and do something else. My garden is a respite, a recharge, and a walk on the beach. Or ten hours of Netflix. But I approach making art as my work and spiritual practice, so I show up in the morning and write and express my gratitude. I put on the apron, even if all that happens is that I stare at the canvas or the laptop screen. Eventually, the work, bubbling underground, surfaces again, and I move forward.
Collaboration between artists and other creatives can lead to fascinating projects. Have you ever collaborated with other artists or professionals? If so, how did those experiences influence your artistic perspective?
I seldom collaborate. It's typically just me in the studio. On the occasions when I have, I've enjoyed how the interplay of ideas or energy has influenced the work. It is seldom direct, but it's evident upon review.
RM. Your artwork evokes strong emotions and connections in viewers. What do you hope people take away from your paintings, and how do you create such a powerful resonance through your art?
ND: During a recent show, a visitor to the gallery used the term "emotional weather." He was a therapist and talked about the emotion that plays across the face. I do not capture this, and quite honestly, I don't know how I do. I sit with an image; it's like sitting with the person, even though I primarily paint from photos. But it is as though I am developing a deeper relationship with this person. I can feel them. And somehow, that shows.
RM. The art world has been influenced by technology and digital platforms. How have you navigated this intersection of traditional artistry and modern mediums? What role do you see technology playing in the future of art?
ND: I don't have an answer to this question. Like many human artists who spend years honing a craft, directing the hand to create what the eyes see and the heart feel, I find myself challenged and even a little threatened by AI art. It can create amazing images. I hope that the work of the hand will continue to be valued. Also, like many artists, I use digital imagery to share and sell my art. It is a balance, and I am still determining how it will play out and when it will shift.
RM. What advice would you give a younger or beginner artist that would help them navigate the art process?
ND: Make art. That's it. An artist is someone who makes art. And it is the MAKING that is the most important thing. Creativity is the process, not the product. It is a challenge to believe in a capitalist society; we all need and want to eat and pay our bills. But commit to the making. Commit to the practice as you might to anything you wish to develop and deepen. There are no guarantees. But I often say, I can't promise you will succeed, but I promise that if you quit, you won't.
Thank you, Natalie Daise, for giving us a glimpse into your artistic journey and creative process. Your insights into the world of painting and the emotions it can evoke have been genuinely inspiring. We eagerly anticipate witnessing your continued growth and the beauty you'll bring to the canvas.
Visit the Rice Museum's Prevost Art Gallery to view Natalie's exhibition, "Visions of Freedom." Now on exhibit from September 9 – November 4, 2023. The Rice Museum is open from 11 AM – 4 PM, Tuesday to Saturday.