Nina Weiss on her scaffold. (Photo by Jean Cunningham)

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Nina Weiss, a fine arts painter/teacher from Evanston, creates large-scale landscapes on unstretched canvas and smaller Waterways paintings.

Weiss’ “Red Flower Prairie.” (Photo provided)

Weiss lives, works and teaches in an 1,800-square-foot home/studio loft in Evanston’s West End Arts district. The industrial/residential area connects her to Evanston and especially to the art community, and many of her neighbors are artists. The home has 40-foot ceilings, sky lights and bedrooms in the loft.

A custom-constructed work wall allows her to attach stretched canvas directly to the wall and there are large storage racks. Cement floors make the space easy to clean, and she stands on cardboard or a mat when painting. The furniture is on wheels so she can easily reconfigure the space depending on her activity. She has a mobile hanging rack on a guy wire strung across the room for presenting both her and her student’s work. The entire studio is set up to eliminate obstacles to painting.

During COVID-19, Weiss configured a space for Zoom classes, including an ongoing weekly Critique Class. She is excited to return with her students to France this summer for her European Landscape Painting and Drawing Workshop.

Weiss set up a work space that lets her attach stretched canvases to the wall. (Photo provided)

At the start of a new painting, Weiss gathers all the needed materials atop a white table where she can easily access them. The table also gives her a surface to photograph, pack and/or ship the paintings. She uses a glass palette salvaged from a dumpster-found coffee table. The glass makes it is easy to scrape and clean off old paint. She deploys a step ladder to reach the upper portions of her largest canvases

Even though she might work any time, she tends to exercise in the morning and work after. A typical work afternoon/evening is split in 2-5-2 hours of painting between breaks.

Every Weiss painting interprets a natural landscape she has seen. Nature’s creativity makes her feel happy, whole, excited and connected to the earth. Unsurprisingly, each painting starts when she is inspired while outdoors on a walk or a bike ride while watching for potential compositions or, as she notes, “things that give me a jolt.” Recently, she has been inspired and focused on prairie scenes. She takes many photos of a promising landscape and prints just a selected few to crop and develop, revealing a composition for the painting.

Weiss’ studio. (Photo provided)

She preps by cutting a canvas to the scale needed, stretching and gessoing the surface, and then uses a snap line – like in construction – to create the exact size rectangle of the soon-to-be finished work. In this way, the final image will fit on a stretcher frame that might be added after the painting is complete. She then attaches the canvas to the work wall and is ready to paint.

Weiss starts by adding a thin, color ground over the entire canvas, and then draws with paint to create the basic composition. Next, she uses a strong saturated color for the initial underpainting. Then she adds multiple paint layers including glazes, broken brush strokes and lightening strokes until complete.

Weiss says, “I know when it’s good.” She has worked on her current creation for about a week, and it is taking shape.

Her completed works are on unstretched canvases. Each may be sold that way, stretched only, or framed by a gallery.

If Weiss needs a break after creating five or six large landscapes, she will work on her smaller, 12 inch x 12 inch ongoing Waterways painting series. These provide a break for the artist as they are painted using a different method.

While she works on one painting at a time until it is complete, Weiss often builds up an inventory before photographing and marketing. Happily, she has sold so many works recently that not many remain in the studio.

Most of Nina Weiss’ work is sold through J. Petter Galleries in Saugatuck, Mich., but she also sells through other galleries and online websites. She posts on Saatchi as Nina Weiss, on her website and through her teaching website.

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham retired from the business world and is now enjoying the next phase, including writing about local artists to increase awareness of Evanston’s amazing art community.

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