For Rohnert Park artist Nancy Woods, there is no better pay than when someone compliments their oil paintings.
Although she graduated in 1989 from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, she has spent her career in vineyard management and wine sales. She never imagined that she would one day exhibit her landscapes and pet portraits all over Sonoma County.
Woods, 57, has put his works on the back burner for more than 20 years. She had worked in graphic design for a few years, but the demanding work caused her wrist pain so severe that she often sought relief by placing her wrists on ice packs.
âI was like, ‘This is not what I want in my life,’ she said.
She had worked in a Sonoma winery while in school, enjoyed the wine industry, and believed it could provide a steady income. Even though she designed brochures and advertisements for the wineries, it wasn’t exactly a creative outlet.
Woods only started painting after a rotating art exhibition at the Balletto Vineyards in Santa Rosa, where she worked.
âI was able to look at the beautiful works of art all day long while I worked in the cellar,â she said. “I thought, ‘God, I wish I could do that.’ I didn’t think I could. â
She met one of the star artists, Petaluma oil painter Samantha Buller, whose works “seemed so easy,” Woods said. They hit it off (and found out they had attended the same art school) and Buller encouraged Woods to continue painting.
âShe had the talent and the skills. Most people just need a little push, someone in their corner is cheering them on and I’m happy to do it for Nancy, âBuller said in an email. âI’m so proud of her for having the self-discipline to pick up a brush. It is a very difficult task to start something like this after the time has passed.
‘I do it for me’
Woods initially worked in acrylics, releasing a set of 20-year-old “gloopy” paintings that were “old and crass.” She quickly switched to oils, her job immediately being “10 times better,” she said.
She’s been working there ever since, taking the time to paint whenever she can. Her works have been featured in several exhibitions and she posts photos of her paintings on Instagram and Facebook, where she has many fans who offer her support and encouragement.
âIf it weren’t for Facebook and Samantha, I wouldn’t be painting today,â Woods said. âI get excited when people like my job. It makes me want to continue. “
She has been painting in oils for about nine years. Her skills and style are still evolving, she says, but she is encouraged with every compliment and improvement she makes to her job.
âIt is not my goal to be in an art gallery or to make money out of it,â she said. “I do it for myself, really.”
Things came full circle for her in 2013, when she had her first solo art exhibition – at Balletto Vineyards, where she was inspired by painting. The exhibition included around 10 of his paintings.
âIt was great. It was my first (show) where I got to hang everything,â she said.
Since then his works – often bucolic scenes of countryside, vineyards, barns, fruit still lifes, dogs of many breeds, cats of all colors, cows and grazing sheep – have been exhibited in several wineries and at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Healdsburg Center for the Arts and Riverfront Gallery in Petaluma.
Connect with other artists
Although she initially painted from photographs, using a spare bedroom as a studio, Woods has recently started painting outdoors, taking her easel and oils outside.
âI’m very social,â she says. âThat’s why I don’t like to paint in my studio. I’m bored.”
She joined the Marin & Sonoma Plein Air group on Facebook and enjoys painting where âpeople stop to talk to youâ.
Woods began painting outdoors more frequently during the coronavirus pandemic. She quit her job at a Sonoma County winery in early March 2020, just before the pandemic, to start an overseas wine business from her home. The business was successful early on, with several wine customers and âpeople who were at home and answering their phonesâ. The work also allowed him greater freedom for painting.
She ordered supplies for the outdoor painting, which arrived because she was diagnosed a year ago with macular degeneration, an eye disease that can lead to visual impairment. His right eye is affected, with problematic low-light conditions.
âI have a hard time seeing in the shade,â said Woods.
The state did not prevent her from painting. She returned earlier this month from a three-day painting workshop at Murphys in the Sierra Nevada foothills, one of two multi-day courses she took with professional artists.