Peggy Nichols, an artist whose work is inspired by the Feminine icon presenting itself...
Updated: Sep 18
'When I was a young girl of five, my Father used to take me to the Natural History Museum, in Los Angeles. The exhibit that fascinated me the most was the dioramas of the Habitat Hall.
Years later, I developed a fondness of painting outdoors, especially around the city. Late one evening after a social engagement, something quite unexpectedly caught my eye. Across the street, I saw an illuminated scene in the darkness. It was a shop window on Beverly Blvd., that was quite mundane by daylight but exquisite in the darkness. Looking at the illuminated window, across the street, I immediately thought of a quote from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette...'Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night. Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear.'
Not long after that visual experience, I took my easel out on the street and painted on small canvases from the several shop windows. Plein air painting at night is a challenge. I started out at dusk, when I could see clearly and painted a sketch of the image on canvas. I brought a small campers light. I set up and memorized my palette of warm/cool pigments so I knew where everything was placed before it got so dark, I would not be able to see my palette distinctly. In painting at night you cannot have too much light overhead, such as street lights, because the light will distort the colors on your palette. I was careful that I stepped several feet away from a street light so there was not an interference. I made many oil studies from the shop windows. The illuminated mannequin was my model. Eventually the small paintings turned into larger works. For me, I felt the image needed to be more dramatic. An icon should be large in scope.'
'The Korai series, Feather', oil on canvas, 30 x 20 inches.
'The Korai series: 3 Torsos', oil on canvas, 20x30 inches, 'Cherry Blossom II', oil on canvas, 30x20 inches, 'Pirate', oil on canvas, 30x40 inches.
'As artists, we are not always aware of the reason we are compelled to work from a certain subject matter. The mannequin hooked me. There is something remarkable that happened to me though... working out on the street. Los Angeles changes dramatically late at night. I find the atmosphere absolutely magical. And when you work from a subject alone on the street, at that hour, there is an unfamiliar, pleasant silence. All you hear is an occasional car, the clicking of the traffic signal or an errant wind blowing a bundle of leaves along the curb. Your focus is razor sharp and your imagination is heightened. At the time, I was reading 'The Alphabet vs. the Goddess' by Leonard Shlain and the 'Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown. Those two sources enlivened my imagination. For me.. the feminine image, encased in glass, illuminated from above seemed to resemble what I believed to be an image of the desecrated Goddess contained. She an icon of the past long gone, that calls to the viewer in a whisper.
I thought the experience that I felt while working, was similar to the feeling I felt as a child, looking through glass at the figures encased in the dioramas of the Habitat Hall. The feeling I felt was as if I was communicating with an ancient past through the guise of a modern female image icon.'
'The Korai series: Ouranos', oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches.
'The Korai series: 'Artemis', pastel on sanded board,49x38 inches, 'Cherry Blossom', pastel on sanded board, 49x38 inches, 'Aphrodite', pastel on sanded board, 49x38 inches.
'The Korai series: Red Carpet (gold)', oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
'The Korai series: Red Carpet (blue)', oil on canvas, 48x36 inches, 'Spa/Sati', oil on canvas, 30x40 inches, 'Red Carpet (pink)', 48x36 inches.
Peggy Nichols was born and raised in Southern California. She received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute with continuing education at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art and the Klein Academy. She has studied with contemporary figurative masters, Juliette Aristides, Rob Liberace, Steve Huston and Stephen Early. As well as extensive design and color theory with renown Disney illustrator/animator, Bill Perkins. She has taught figurative painting, drawing, portrait painting at Saddleback College Emeritus Institute, in Mission Viejo, California. She has taught painting and drawing at the New Mexico Art League. Nichols is now teaching private classes at her studio, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Her works have been exhibited throughout the United States. She is a recipient of the Ludwig Vogelstein Grant and the Vermont Art Center Residency Program. She has been a member of the California Art Club, the West Coast Pastel Society, Women Painters West and the American Society of Oil Painters, to name a few.
In 2011, Nichols created the Studio C Gallery, located within the historical Santa Fe Art Colony, in downtown Los Angeles. The gallery ran until late 2018, when the property was sold and gentrified, thus destroying a 35 year old art community. The Studio C Gallery Artist Post Blog was launched in May, 2020. The blog features works bi-monthly of artists from all over the world.
'The Korai series: Derby I', oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches.
'The Korai series: Guidance II', oil on canvas, 30x40 inches, 'Derby II', oil on canvas, 48x36 inches, 'Guidance I', oil on canvas, 30x40 inches.
'The Korai series: Odalisque', oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
'The Korai series; Birth of Athena', oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
'I always start with a tonal under-painting, that I will use as a guide to create the value system of the painting. Working from that guideline and starting over the under-painting in color will create great depth and dramatize the light. I often glaze parts of the painting in the final stages, especially for the highlights and reflections of glass. I use crushed leaded glass powder or a paint infused with crushed leaded glass, such as flake white & glass. The top priority is the source of light and how it falls onto the subject matter. It is quite dramatic in a night scene so there is a concentration of careful built up layers before the finishing touches are applied delicately. My influences are Michelangelo Caravaggio, Artemisa Gentileschi, Diego Velazquez, Rembrandt and the Dutch painters such as Vermeer and Jan Brueghel the Elder, 19th century painters, such as George Inness, John Singer Sargent, Vilhelm Hammershoi and hundreds more. Not to mention many contemporary figurative masters and illustrators.'
'The Korai' series, (unfinished) under-painting in oil, 18 x 14 inches.
Peggy Nichols, in her studio.