Beginnings of Nellenby Inspiration

In the attic studio

When I was younger, post art college, no career figured out, I found myself in an old house with quite a few roommates in Newton, Mass. In the attic there was a space behind a door, under the eaves, with a small desk and a window. My roommates agreed to let me use it as a studio.

It was my first real studio and I loved it with a passion.  There was enough room to do something small so I got together some watercolors, paper, and pen and ink.

Giselle dreams at the window in NellenbySomething magical happened and I became inspired in a way I never found in college. The little attic space was a shelter for my inner voice. I didn’t know any of this then, but looking back now I can see it more clearly.

Having grown up in a raucous family with 5 kids, and then living with roommates, I had never had much chance to get away, to be with my own thoughts in a quiet space. Something creative was sparked in the solitude and I started to sketch and paint. 

College years

I remembered in college when everyone was creating giant abstract paintings I felt very out of place unless I was drawing from the model in black and white, or doodling in the margins of my notebooks. A professor saw that I was floundering and not finding a style that fit in with my peers. He saw my doodles of a hairy rabbit with glasses and asked what they were.

I was embarrassed and said it was nothing important. He being wiser said “Do more of that.” I didn’t take that advice seriously at the time because the doodles seemed the opposite of ‘real’ art.

I finally graduated after changing my major multiple times, trying to find something that made sense. My mother was a technical illustrator so I followed her lead and got a job in a publishing company. I now could pay the rent but felt I was leaving my ‘real’ art dreams behind. Not that I could define that anyway!

The appearance of Rabbit

Returning to sketching and staring at the blank page I turned back to doodling as I waited for 'important' inspiration. The rabbit reappeared. I must have connected with memories of classic children's books and cartoons from my childhood because Mr Rabbit as I called him began to attract friends. A lion ‘appeared’. With Mr Rabbit and Mr Lion on the same page, scenes began to take place.

The scenes had little stories behind them which I could not have put into words. I became immersed in their world which was such a wonderful place to be. I invented a fictional world for them to live in "Nellenby".

Time stood still and many hours would go by without a sense of time passing. I created about 12 finished paintings of these scenes in watercolor with pen and ink. My roommates thought they were great and suggested I try to exhibit at the local library. I ended up with a solo show and it was very successful with sales and commissions.

My next step in life led to marriage and motherhood. I put the watercolors away for a while.

Thank you for reading.


1 comment

  • Barb Veresh: July 10, 2020

    Nancy, Your story, your art and this website are so inspiring! Congratulations on creating something special in your quarantine time. And Mostly I’m so happy your old friends in Nellenby waited patiently for your return. Best wishes, Barb V.

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