Friday, September 20, 2013

Nancy Overton

How did you become an artist?
I never really thought about it. By the time I was seven, I just knew that’s what I was meant to do. I’m 71 now and have rarely given it a second thought.

Did you go to art school?
I am a proud graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA, Class of 1965. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art with a major in painting. It was a wonderfully diverse and intense art education and one that supplied me with the basics of drawing, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, silk-screen, lettering and painting. Over the years, I have used just about everything that I learned there in some form or fashion.

Was there anyone that influenced you in becoming an artist?
My mother and her mother were always taking art classes and always included me in their projects. There were always supplies, places to work, time and support.

Is there one or more artist whose work is an influence?
When I was a painter, I was enamored by the paint quality of Richard Diebenkorn, the subject matter of Wayne Thiebaud (food), the collage techniques of Robert Rauschenberg and the doodle approach to painting of my teacher Roy De Forest. I’m sure they all influence me in one way or another today.

What inspires you?
Nature inspires me…vistas, beaches, trees, plants, animals, flowers and fruit, vegetables. I love to cook and I love to garden. There are too many beautiful subjects and not enough time to consider them thoughtfully in any artistic detail. There is never enough time.

Would you like to share your work process?
In an overview look, when I wake up around 5AM, I spend half an hour to an hour each morning snuggled in bed, reviewing projects, renewing projects, planning projects and thinking about what to fix for dinner.  I check email and then usually work in the studio from 6 to 7 and then I walk or go to the gym for an hour. When I get home, I make breakfast for my husband, read the paper, pick up the house and get back to work by 10. This is studio time or time organizing submissions to potential licensors, galleries and shows. Depending on the season, the work gets interrupted by some weeding or watering and always by a lunch break. I usually work until 3, review mail, study product catalogs, check Pintrest, search Google Images, do research until time to make dinner. I watch TV with my husband while I read magazines or I sketch or make wire bird bodies for my 3-D birds and I’m in bed by 9 or 10.

In the specific, I guess over the past ten years I have become a dedicated paper artist. I collect handwritten letters, recipes, sheet music, stamps, hotel bills from Las Vegas in the 60’s, foreign dictionaries, anything to add interest and texture to my 3-D birds or 2-D posters. I make my papier mache 3-D birds, dogs, cats over wire frames. I make my 2-D posters of purchased and found papers glued to a 12” x 16” watercolor block. I use Elmer’s School Glue for both.

For posters, I draw on tracing paper, size the drawing on my Canon copier, trace it to colored paper and tear it out. I spend hours tearing out paper shapes to add to the basic paper shape and in the end resort to scissors to cut out eyeballs, mouths, or whiskers. I develop the context and background, once the cat is meowing, or the robin is needing a perch and then I finally glue it all down.

Are there links where your art can be seen?

What types of markets do you create art for?
I create one-of-a-kind 3-D birds for 10 California galleries. 
I create collage posters and 3-D birds and animals for licensing in the gift industry, though currently I have only one licensee, Creative Co-Op. In the past I have worked with a licensing agency but found I had little control over the end product, no control over the companies they chose to license to and in the end the compensation was not worth the work.  I like representing myself, but do not spend enough time marketing my designs. 

I recreate my posters into greeting card sizes for bookstores and gift stores and have two reps that sell my cards in California, Washington and Oregon. I’m never sure I want to be wholesaling cards, as it is all about quantity and packaging orders. It’s time consuming and I don’t make much profit.
We participate in Open Studios each year (my husband is a landscape painter) and we fill every room in our home with art for sale. For those two weekends in June, we are appealing to the fine art market.

Do you do other things regarding art like teaching?
I teach bird making and collage greeting card classes in my home. People enjoy learning about my art process and seeing my studio (the family room). I enjoy teaching and the people interaction. It is also another source of income.

Do you pursue other creative interests like writing or music?
I like to sew and venture off into stuffed animals, hot pads and pillows once in awhile. I like working in wood and am making some reproduction toys and some small furniture. I used to write a lot for craft publications and have had several craft how-to books published. I am an expert in creative embroidery, but now only embroider an occasional baby gift.
Though gym time may not be considered creative time, I feel regular physical exercise is essential to keeping the creative mind humming. I have always lifted weights and walked good distances. I may not find inspiration in the gym, but I always find something wonderful on a walk and feel a strong body supports my creative efforts.

Where can your art be seen?
My work can be seen in gift shops and home stores that buy from Creative Co-Op. My original work can be seen in several Bay Area galleries and always in our home.

What do you love best about what you do?
I work for myself on my time, doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. Selfish, selfish, selfish! Lucky, lucky, lucky!
I love that I have always been able to work with my art and my art education to make a living. I have been a painter, an art director, a New Product Development Manager, a technical craft writer, an author, a teacher, a product designer, a collage artist, a licensor of my art.

My artistic work life has taken me to Haiti, China and all around the United States.
I have been so fortunate to have the support of my husband, my family and friends. I have had spaces in which to work, resources enough for supplies and tools, teachers and mentors to reinforce the belief that I came to this life as an artist.


  1. Thanks Patti for interviewing Nancy. She is a great inspiration to me. I always look forward to seeing her new creations at the Bayarea Art Licensing Artists group meetings :) Joan

  2. Nice and attractive animals and birds art dear. I like it. Lizenzen & Was sind Lizenzen