Today we’d like to introduce you to Nellie Conboy.
Hi Nellie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
“Yes!” has always been the backbone of my practice, I think that’s why my style is so amorphous. I get really amped on commissions–reflecting someone’s inner vision back to them is one of my greatest joys. It’s also what makes my practice of “yes” so solid. I appreciate the challenge of slowly cultivating a mutual understanding of what a finished product looks like.
I’ve been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember. I have a memory of being in preschool, tasked with drawing rollerblades. I remember finishing the drawing and thinking, “those look like rollerblades! I’m an artist.” I feel most of my experience has come from that sense of “yes,” “yes” to the “can you paint this?” or “yes” to “can you draw that?” but I’m lucky to also have formal training in my art. Most recently, I spent last year in the south of France at the Marchutz School, which is one of the last living legacies of the Impressionists. My work has gravitated towards central tenants of impressionism over the course of my life–a strong devotion to natural light, nature, and moments of humanity expressed in portraiture, still lives, and landscapes.
I was brought to Scottsdale on commission to paint the sunset (which blew my mind!!) and I’ve been working on unlocking the character of the desert since. The desert has such a funny sense of humor! love portraying the way life holds water and light down here. The relationship between species is also fascinating to me–like how birds are able to sit on a needle of a saguaro! There’s a real harmony here that I can’t get enough of.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Oh, man. What a question! Currently, my struggle is finding the right gallery for my work.
The relationship between portraitist and gallery is still pretty unclear to me since commissions usually aren’t sourced in a gallery setting. I’d like to find a home for my skills–since I have such a broad range of styles, I’d like to find a gallery that will help me sell work that adds depth to my practice. That and saying “no thanks” to the never-ending temptation of side hustles!
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am an emerging artist who specializes in drawing and painting oil, acrylic, and watercolor. I am most often commissioned for my portraits of dogs and kids. My work aside from commissions largely revolves around patterns in the universe–like the way clouds and waves can resemble each other, or when the orthography of a species is reflected in the built environment. Little moments of connection.
I have a devotion to my practice in the landscape. If I could make it work, I’d like all of my work to be drawn *from life* for life, as I feel my studio practice is less life-giving than my work directly on/with the motif. I donate a percentage of my sales to either preservation of national parks or art education. One fun recent addition to my life has been my 2007 Ford Econoline that I live in. It’s a studio on wheels, and waking up in nature has been a tremendous gift!
What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I asked every gallerist I met at Art Basel 2022, “Do you know of a single painting in a five-mile radius painted outside?” I was astonished that only one person could answer “yes”. My deepest hope is that the contemporary art world acknowledges the life-giving power of working in nature.
The life of the mind is saturated with images–we live in a time of unprecedented unregulated visual consumption, and I think that has an effect on the subconscious. I think art education will make a comeback in tandem with our practices of well-being. Art and nature are meant to be in harmony–they both form the soul of the world.
- Instagram: @nellieconboy