Virginia Beach based artist nez– that’s zen backwards– is a three-time combat veteran and a cancer survivor.
Art saved her life. After debilitating illness left her bedridden and hopeless, a therapist prescribed that she watch Bob Ross videos. Skeptically, she obliged and found the encouragement and positive affirmations she needed to hear. Using the help of social media and Youtube videos, nez found the art of acrylic pouring enabled her to create art within her limited physical ability. The result was a visual and mental escape from the hardship she was suffering. Now, nez wants to offer her gifts to the community. Her workshops are open to all ages and all abilities– if you can flip a cup, you can create your own unique acrylic pour artwork.
Nez will be the featured artist in Virginia Beach’s Largest Paint Night called The People’s Pour on October 10—the event sold out 100 seats in 2 hours. She is currently one of the featured artists in MOCA’s Satellite Gallery exhibition, In Service, that pays tribute to current and past veterans who also pursue their passion for art. Just like their time in service benefited our freedoms, their time as artists enhances our cultural community. Visit MOCA’s Satellite Gallery located in The Runnymede Corporation at 600 22nd Street in the ViBe Creative District to see samples of nez’s artwork. Nez has also been a featured artist with the Wounded Warriors organization and is proud to represent the military in our Virginia Beach community.
What led you to your current work?
nez: I believe some of us carry this innate quality to somehow connect with people. It’s not something we ask for but it’s a gift we must covet and choose carefully how we use it. I decided at a young age that I wanted to save lives. That’s been my mission. It’s what led me to join the military in time of conflict. And it’s what saved my life in time of despair. I believe the word is selflessness.
I found something that actually worked, that wasn’t a pill, and I had to share!
Explain your process. How does your artistic process / flow?
nez: It’s more of a compulsive process. A need to paint at this point. Art is meditation for me. When I get ready to art, it’s so exciting to me. To get my space ready, set up my camera, gather supplies– it’s all part of the process. It builds this anticipation for the activity. I cleanse my space with sage or palo santo to clear the energy and promote clarity. And then it’s time for the magic to happen!
What about acrylic paint / pouring draws your eye?
nez: Coming from a medical and research background, science is my jam! And learning how much science is actually involved in the acrylic pouring portion of fluid art is fascinating to me. To be able to manipulate the colors according to their specific gravity is super fun!
How does scale impact your work?
nez: Pain and fatigue is the only thing standing in my way of creating.
I usually create depending upon how I feel. Larger pieces are more difficult to manipulate and might require assistance which I don’t have. Also if I do multiple pours, I have to strategically plan for a morning because that’s when I have less pain.
I never plan my paintings based on what I think people will like or what will sell. I just pour.
Where do you find inspiration?
nez: Life. Just being alive inspires me everyday! I seriously look at my hands and think, “you were made for something. I know you feel like you’re on fire (literally) but you’re going to make the world a better place.” This REALLY helps! I talk to my hurting body all the time. Good self-talk!
Knowing that it could always be worse. Remembering what it was like to be bedridden. And remembering all my brothers and sisters that can’t paint with me today. That motivates me to keep helping others find this medium.
What artists do you currently follow or watch?
nez: Tough question. Too many.
What is next for you?
nez: THE PEOPLE’S POUR!!! Virginia Beach’s Largest Paint Night organized by the ViBe Creative District at Virginia MOCA in collaboration with Virginia Beach Arts.
I’m also finally getting my service dog in November and will be moving to Roanoke. I will be coming back to Virginia Beach every other month for workshops. I’m writing a book and I’m looking forward to hosting some collaborative art retreats in the future!
As an artist, how do you to continue to push yourself or set new goals?
nez: I use a map system similar to one I used in the military as a career counselor. It’s been TREMENDOUSLY helpful. Specially for someone like me who suffers from so many chronic illnesses, it’s very difficult to stay on task. We know that everyone works differently. And for me, accountability is fundamental. Whether you can do it yourself with a to-do list or you do a scheduled check in with a mentor, or both! I do both.
I’m actually starting a mentoring pilot program with a handful of artists called Coffee Break. This group holds “under the radar” virtual calls enabling them to partner up with a comparable artistic type to share business tips and explore new ventures. There will only be 10 spots for the pilot program kicking off in February. We currently have three spots available.
To learn more about nez and the progress of acrylic pouring, follow her on Instagram @nezlifestudios or visit: www.nezlifestudios.com