Elaine Nunnally - Virginia

 I have been doing art in some form or another for all of my life.   It was as natural to me as breathing, and, although there were no other artists in my immediate family, my parents were very supportive and encouraged me.  My father thought that I inherited my great grandfather’s art talent.  He was an artist from Germany who immigrated to the United States in the 1880’s.  Frederick Wehle was a  well known painter and lithographer and painted many religious paintings and altarpieces for the Lutheran Church.  My father’s mother was also an artist, who painted beautiful china pieces around the turn of the century.  Between the two, I may have inherited  some ability….who knows?  I just know that I’ve always been doing art!

I grew up in Falls Church, VA,  a suburb of Washington D.C.   I had an ordinary, uneventful childhood and went to college to major in art.  Although I never wanted to teach, I sort of fell into it and ended up teaching high school art for 40 years!  I found that I had a passion for teaching young people (and adults) painting.  I taught beginning adult oil and acrylic painting at night in those days….and loved it.  In 1985 I took a watercolor class through JMU.   I was hooked!  When I was in college, watercolor wasn’t even offered as a class.  I guess it wasn’t considered a fine art!  Whatever the reason, I fell in love with watercolor and have been painting almost exclusively with the medium for over 30 years.  It is, to me, the most exciting and versatile painting medium available today.   The transparency and luminosity that is unique to watercolor is one of its beauties.  One can paint transparently or paint with heavy layers and create an opaque look, which is what I do with many of my paintings in my latest series. I know I will never “master” the medium, but I will keep trying for as long as I can hold a brush! 

Although I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in art education, I gained my knowledge of watercolor from the many workshop instructors I have worked with over the years, including Linda Baker, Skip Lawrence, Mark Mahaffey, Judi Betts, and Pat Dews, to name a few.  If you want to learn, then learn from the best!

I retired from teaching over 5 years ago and have finally been able to pursue my passion for painting.  I have been honored to have my work juried into some of the most prestigious national and international watercolor exhibits in the country, including the American Watercolor Society, the Northwest Watercolor Society, the San Diego Watercolor Society, and the Missouri Watercolor Society, to name a few.  I am a signature member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society, the Illinois Watercolor Society, the San Diego Watercolor Society, the Virginia Watercolor Society, the Missouri Watercolor Society, and the Potomac Valley Watercolor Society.


For the past few years,  I have been working on a series which I call the Highway Series, or Interstate Series.    It came about while traveling on the interstate and finding the scenery so much like an abstract painting.  The elements of design are right there:  the landscape, the sky, the curve of the highway, the geometric signs, the overpasses, and the colorful cars that speed by.  We spend an enormous amount of time behind the wheel of a car, so this is a common experience to all Americans.  I often call my paintings “tributes to Eisenhower”, since it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who started the interstate system in the U.S. back in the 1950’s.    I use heavy applications of watercolor paint, sometimes directly from the tube.  The blending of bright color is done with a stiff brush (thank you Skip Lawrence) and the results are always a surprise, since I never know exactly how a painting will come out.  It’s great fun and I hope when people see my work that they will think, “Wow, I never thought about highways like that!”