Nina Stanley moved to Albany NY from San Francisco in 2002. An accomplished painter and figure drawer with a Classical Realist point of view, Stanley believes artists must first learn to draw before attempting to semi gloss paint, allowing time to develop the mastery of one artistic challenge before moving on to another.
Working as a graphic artist for video games using 2D and 3D software and drawing, Stanley facilitated figure drawing sessions with colleagues in her workplace in San Francisco, which satisfied her urge to teach art to others. But after moving to Albany, where workplace figure drawing with nude models was not accepted, she and several other like-minded artists founded the Upstate Artists Guild in order to conduct art classes and workshops.
Artist Residency with Odd Nerdrum in Norway
In 2003 Stanley’s life, and her art, took on new dimensions when she was accepted for a 6-week artist’s residency at the Atelier of controversial Contemporary Realist painter, Odd Nerdrum, in Norway. Stanley said she was “…inspired by his work ethic. He painted 7 days a week from 10 or 11 am until 9 or 10 pm, taking a break for dinner with his family in the evening.”
A total of eight artists from various countries were at the Atelier with Stanley, “sometimes painting outdoors, sometimes in the students’ studio, sometimes watching the master work.”
The experience of that summer in Norway changed how Stanley thought about teaching. Nerdrum, according to Stanley, “…worked, and occasionally talked about politics, philosophy, and if we were lucky, about his process. As a student you were expected to watch and not disturb him….If you had questions, you were to ask the other students who had been there longer.”
Stanley became aware through this experience “…that in school I rarely saw my professors actually working. Sometimes they would demo something, but to really work on something significant for an extended time was never seen.”
Atelier Method of Classical Art Training
Following this residency, Stanley chose to leave her career as a video game graphic artist to work full time on her painting, drawing and teaching by adopting the atelier method. Influenced by Nerdrum, she created an atelier in the detached garage of her home where she now mentors 6-7 art students allotting time for 2-3 students, at most, to be in the studio at one time.
Since her students are all proficient at drawing, she begins the mentoring process at her Atelier by setting up still life studies in black and white, creating artistic “problems” for the students solve that will develop and refine their painting skills. As students progress in their mastery of the Classical Realist style of painting in oil, color is added to each still life composition to add complexity to the process, and depth to their portfolio.
Importance of Developing an Artist’s Portfolio
With a traditional, classical sensibility, Stanley believes students should develop a portfolio that demonstrates their mastery before moving on to something else. She equates “learning to paint in a traditional way to building a vocabulary and learning a language.” Stanley’s art is either still life or figurative, including portraiture, but while in Norway she began experimenting with landscape painting and can imagine she will develop her next portfolio by “learning the language of landscape.”