Nancy Baker was raised in Houston, Texas, where she began taking art classes as a young child. At Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, she focused on studio art and art history. At Newcomb College of Tulane University and the University of Texas, her study expanded to include art education. As a guest, she often visited old homes in the hill country of Texas and was moved by the beautiful decorative painting done by the German immigrants who had settled there. She researched their techniques and designs and began to take commissions from private clients, imitating those early craftsmen, in contemporary homes.
In the 1970s she moved to New York City to attend a school modeled on the European guild system, The Isabel O’Neill Studio for the Art of the Painted Finish. She also founded a decorative painting business, working in residential and public settings for interior designers, architects, and private clients.
In the 1980s she relocated to the Washington, D.C., area. As her business grew she hired additional staff to meet the demand for her work. Her company developed a furniture line for an interior design store and accepted numerous commissions for murals, painted finishes, and trompe l’oeil works of art throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
The challenge of interpreting and then realizing the ideas of her clients sharpened her skills in drawing, project presentation, color and design, and execution of large-scale works of art. This work also ignited a desire to apply all that she’d learned to subjects of her own choosing.
In the 1990s she returned to her practice of fine art at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, Maryland. There she was introduced to the challenges of plein air painting, under the guidance of its director, Walt Bartman. She also studied classical drawing at the Corcoran College of Art in Washington, D.C., to further train her eye and hand through figure drawing. In both places, she developed a practice of drawing and painting from direct observation, which she incorporated into the strong design concepts and color harmony she’d gleaned from her prior work.
The resulting immediacy, within formal design elements, has enabled her to transcend the literal and render subjects in a way that is uniquely her own. More than anything else she wants to lead a viewer to see a subject in a new and surprising way, hoping to provoke a strong feeling in response to that new perspective. She continues to study with contemporary realists who excel in creating images that are alive and vibrant yet are anchored in the shapes and strong compositions that suggest abstraction.
Some of her greatest teachers have been the children she has taught. She has been inspired again and again as she has seen them take the principles they’ve been taught and apply them with all the inventiveness and authenticity their teacher strives for.
Nancy lives and works in Thomaston, Maine and exhibits at Mars Hall Gallery in Tenant’s Harbor as well as in local businesses that generously support the arts.