When Nathalie Van was a little girl, she watched her grandmother paint furniture using a Swiss folk art technique known as Bauernmahlerei. As her curiosity grew, Nathalie’s grandmother took the time to teach her various brush strokes and how to properly care for her paintbrushes.
Nathalie eventually opted to attend college and obtain a degree in electrical engineering, but found the career to be too constraining and limiting, so she returned to her true love—art.
Alyice: How does creating art make you feel?
Nathalie Van: It relaxes me. It makes me feel calm and happy. I love looking with a blank canvas and envisioning what it could be. Sometimes I have too many ideas so I just write them all down on scraps of paper. Otherwise, I can’t sleep with all those ideas floating in my mind.
Alyice: Why did you choose acrylic as your medium?
Nathalie Van: I chose acrylic paint because I learned with oil paints and I hated the smell of the oil paints and the thinner. I also hated how long it took for the paintings to dry.
I love how I can paint many different layers of acrylic in one day because it dries so quickly and that it gives me enough time to blend the colors. I use a very thick paint that I can add water to if I want the painting not to have texture, or use it thick for my textured abstracts. I also like that these paints are less toxic. Since I work with paint almost every day, I want to do my best to limit my exposure to toxic fumes.
Alyice: What is the most challenging part about working with acrylics?
Nathalie Van: It can be a challenge if I am working on several different sections of a painting and one part is nearly dry and one part is still wet. I’ve had drops of the wet section go onto the nearly dry section nearly ruining the painting. It is also difficult to repair a mistake when it is nearly dry.
Alyice: What is the best part about working with acrylics?
Nathalie Van: The best part is the quick drying time. I love being able to continue working on a few paintings at the same time. When I am finished with one part of a painting, the other painting is dry enough to continue working on it. I also love the way it holds its texture and pigmentation once it dries. If it becomes slightly dull from drying a coat of varnish brings all the bright colors back.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about acrylics before you got started?
Nathalie Van: I wish I knew that there were textured versions. When I first started using acrylics I thought they were all mostly liquid. Working with texture is so fun and rewarding. I love building layers of texture.
Alyice: Do you do anything in particular to seal your art?
Nathalie Van: I use a clear glossy varnish to finish every one of my paintings. Sometimes I use a satin finish if requested by a customer. This process brings out the colors so they are as vibrant as they were when I first put the paint onto the canvas and the varnish protects the painting from UV light and dust. And it allows a customer to gently wipe dust off a painting with a lightly moist cloth, if needed. (I like microfiber ones.)
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Nathalie Van: I rarely make a sketch of a painting before I start. I love to just paint a background and then visualize different layouts for trees, bamboo or flowers, then paint what I want to paint.
For custom paintings, I bring an image of my previously sold painting up on my laptop and then use it as a guide to paint another version of that painting.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Nathalie Van: When I first started painting I created very geometric/retro martini paintings. I used to paint martini tiles and they were my most popular ones so I tried them on canvas.
Now, I love working with Asian inspired themes. My amazing husband is Chinese and I love everything Asian: cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, trees, Koi fish and, of course, textured abstracts. The many hours I spend every day painting has given me confidence and speed when I work. I love seeing a painting come together as I work, fulfilling the vision I had before I started.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Nathalie Van: Complementary colors. I also try to have a geometric balance in the painting. I always look at a painting before I add my signature and if I think it is out of balance I keep working until I am satisfied.
Alyice: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your acrylic pieces?
Nathalie Van: When I first started selling my artwork I just broke even. I didn’t really account for my own time. I started on eBay and priced my paintings at the break-even point and let people bid it up to wherever the painting sold. Now, I sell on etsy and love being able to set my own prices.
Currently I have been pricing my artwork based on demand. I was so busy in the past couple of years that I put the prices up a bit to slow down the amount of purchases so that I could keep up with my orders without always being behind and severely stressed.
I re-evaluate prices at least once a year and really base it on the demand and my available time to create to meet that demand.