Artist Spotlight: Nancy Seamons Crookston

Nancy Seamons Crookston’s colorist paintings overbrim with joy. Working primarily in oils from her plein air studies and reference photos, she captures uplifting moments from the world all around her: children frolicking along the shoreline; horses and riders pausing for refreshment along a Rocky Mountain riverbank; and the Golden Gate Bridge rising through the fog not far from her home on Alameda Island in San Francisco Bay. To all her creations, she brings a keen eye, abundant optimism, and a talent so attuned to beauty that the resulting artworks irresistibly communicate delight.

Feels Like Summer | Oil on Linen Panel | 18 x 24 inches | 2022

Such enthusiasm for making beautiful things has driven her since her 1950s childhood in the idyllic mountain town of Hyde Park, Utah. “Before we had a lawn, mama would bring a pitcher of water out into our clay dirt front yard and let me build pots,” she recalls. “I was covered in mud.” A box of crayons seemed “the most beautiful thing ever, and every one of them had possibility.” She loved to draw — and ride — horses, and along with art classes in school, she also expressed herself through music and dance, as well as being an avid reader.

Crookston went on to raise a family of five children with her husband Garr, a doctor of audiology, and together they moved to the Bay Area in 2006. While always devoting herself to helping her two daughters and three sons fulfill their particular talents, she never neglected her own. “I set up a studio in the basement, and at the beginning, a nail on the wall was my easel,” she says. “And even if I could only get an hour or two a day, I worked and worked at my painting.”

Prelude to Joy | Oil on Untempered Masonite | 30 x 40 inches | 2023

Though she’d been a longtime admirer of the Spanish master Joaquin Sorolla and the Russian-American painter Nicolai Fechin, her mentor was the Ukrainian-born American colorist Sergei Bongart, who died in 1985 shortly before his 67th birthday. For five summers in the late 1970s, while Crookston’s husband taught at Idaho State, she took one- or two-week painting workshops from Bongart. “He knew how to teach color, and he was really scary. But I would be brave and leave my ego behind,” she says, her voice hushed at the memory. “And he would put the best paintings of the week in a pile, and if your work would ever get in it, that was like a gift from heaven.”

Around the mid-1980s, Crookston’s work began winning awards in regional shows, and galleries came calling. Over the past two-plus decades, she’s been recognized with bronze, silver, and gold medals in regional and national exhibitions of the Oil Painters of America, in which she’s attained Master Signature Membership. Yet, her passion remains that of the girl who first fashioned clay pots or opened a box of crayons and marveled at the possibilities they offered. Making and sharing her art, she says, “is just a never-ending thrill and hunger that is just so exciting for me that it’s hard to calm down.”

I Will Show You How It’s Done | Oil on Untempered Masonite | 30 x 16 inches | 2022

Crookston’s work is represented by New Masters Gallery in Carmel, California; Illume Gallery West in Phillipsburg, Montana; and Reinert Fine Art in Charleston, South Carolina, where her work will appear and she will give a painting demonstration during the Oil Painters of America’s 2023 Exhibition & Convention, March 31 to April 30.

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