From pet portraits to mixed media
A look into a local full-time artist’s life
By Rachel Sankey
Classics like Monet and Van Gogh were enough for Paige Nordstrom to get hooked on art at a young age.
“I love Monet because of his nature paintings,” Nordstrom said. “It’s all about nature. And he worked with large (canvases), so I was blown away by that.”
Nordstrom said her high school art teacher, Jon Taft, was a great influence on her.
Growing up, she said she typically stuck to sketching and drawing. But, once she attended the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) for a degree in fine arts and a minor in design, Nordstrom said she was able to try out ceramics, printmaking and painting, and said her professors, Carol Emmons and Kristy Deetz, were also great influences during her college career.
UWGB is where Nordstrom said her career really started.
She said after posting a painting of her cat, Henry, on Facebook, people kept asking her to do portraits of their own pets, and as it’s often said, the rest was history.
“It was unexpected,” Nordstrom said. “I just thought it was a cool painting, and I posted it, and there you go. I still do portraits today. It’s my main market.”
Alongside her love of doing pet portrait commissions, Nordstrom said she also loves mixed media work, and enjoys balancing the two.
Unlike working with typical cotton canvases, Nordstrom said she makes her own canvases out of pine wood, which she first covers with a sealant to protect it.
As for the paints she works with, Nordstrom said she does buy some from craft stores, but mainly buys large buckets of acrylic wall paint so they last longer.
As a mixed media artist, Nordstrom said the process of creating a piece is different from painting on the canvas from start to finish.
She said she typically starts out with a neutral color and works with more vibrant colors from there.
Nordstrom said she will then add layers of tissue paper for texture for a mountainy effect, and then continue to layer with other art tools, such as pencils and India ink.
“I kind of have a scrapbook approach,” Nordstrom said. “My mixed media supplies are all cut up, and I scrapbook things together. That’s how my overlay looks. And, if I’m happy with it, then I move stuff around. Then it kind of goes from there and builds and builds and builds.”
Since mixed media art can be made up of so many different components, she said it can be hard to decide when the piece is finished. For Nordstrom, she said a piece is complete once it speaks to her, and feels balanced.
She said she hopes that when people view or purchase her work, it’s a positive experience.
“I want people to walk away with a smile, and I want people to feel good when they look at it,” Nordstrom said. “I am not a political artist. I have no intention to be.”
Local art scene
Nordstrom said to be an artist in a community where art is not recognized a lot can be challenging – despite the progress made for the arts community recently.
“As artists, it’s our job to make sure (art) is being shown in the light and right way as possible to keep us going,” she said. “I think it’s really important to bridge the gaps, because there are a lot of voids in the Green Bay community when it comes to the art scenes. It’s important to buy local. It’s important to support local in any way you can. All we want to do is have art involved in the community to connect us. Art shouldn’t be a lost form.”
Nordstrom also said she has joined a lot of art events and groups in De Pere, since she said they all do a great job at promoting artists and value the art scene in the community.
“Everyone needs to work together on the ship,” she said. “We are all on the same ship. This is where we live. And we all have very different viewpoints. Whether you’re an artist or performing artist or musician, it doesn’t matter. That kind of field can be very difficult if you don’t have community support.”
As for the future of her art career, Nordstrom said her main concern is her mental health.
“I just want to be happy,” she said. “That’s all that anybody wants, right? That’s why I went into art. It’s always been a part of me, and it makes my soul happy. I will probably never retire, because this is always going to be a part of my life. I take things day by day.
Everything’s always in constant flux. I could be painting something completely different in the next three years. Who knows?”
The artist also said she would not be where she is today without the support and love from her mother.
Nordstrom will be participating in the following art events and shows:
De Pere Art Walk on Friday, June 3, in Downtown De Pere
Enchanted, Nordstrom’s solo show, starting June 16 at Artless Bastard, De Pere
Art in the Park on Sunday, June 26 at Voyageur Park, De Pere
Art at the Park on July 23-24 at City Park, Appleton
Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected].