Tuesday, April 19, 2022

14. Dynamic Lives- 2016

DYNAMIC LIVES is a special project that I have come to love. Inspired by the Matriarchs of the Three Rivers Woman's Club, it is a collection of transcribed oral histories of our village residents. The stories are recorded by volunteers for an organization, Aging in Community. It began in 2016, and, when I heard about it, I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to be allowed to paint their portraits.

FOR SOME REASON, no one wants to be painted. I rarely get portrait commissions. I love doing them, and you can't get better if you don't do it often. So I approached those in charge and offered, at no charge to them, to paint all the storytellers. My one stipulation was that only I get to do the portraits. They agreed.

I HAVE PAINTED 26 to date. I have lived in this town for 50 years and did not know well most of these men and women. Until I photographed them. I take around 300 photos for each portrait, holding my camera in my lap so it is not so obvious. They tell me about their lives while I take photos. One gentleman talked for an hour, and when I said "OK! We're done," replied "You took photos already?"

TWO BOOKS have been printed to date, each containing the life narratives of about 15 residents, along with my portraits, and 2 of my daughter Renny's watercolors. Everyone has a special story. I'm delighted to be able to add to them with a paintbrush.

13. Facebook- 2013


WHEN MY PARENTS died, I inherited some money. I wasn't sure what to do with it, maybe put a down payment on a house. My art was selling, but every year it seemed I needed to refigure my marketing strategy. I knew I needed to become internet-savvy. So I made the decision to "invest in myself." Yes, I actually said those words. Six months later I was so embarrassed. I remember thinking I will NEVER tell a soul I said those words. Money went out each month to living expenses, and still nothing selling online. 

THEN, ON AUGUST 13, 2013, I set up a Facebook business page called Dog Art by Nadi Spencer. And 3 days later I was living a different life. It was crazy. My dog portraits were too low priced for the world market, and I started getting photos from people- so many that at 10pm I had to go home, I was so exhausted. I raised my prices 4 times by the end of that year. I was in a daze.

SINCE THAT TIME, I have painted 2,060 dog portraits, well over 100 breeds, often 1 a day for months. It's non-stop all year. I love it. Now I take Sundays off- to paint anything I want. 

I'VE ALWAYS BEEN dog crazy. In grade school they called me Dog Girl. Not nice back then. But now I make a living painting these furry friends. Facebook has made life so much easier, and SO much fun.

Monday, April 18, 2022

8.5 Jostens Yearbook Co 1972 and 1992

JOSTENS YEARBOOK CO holds a special place in my heart. It became my place in the world both times I needed a hand with life.

IT'S 1971, I'm 19, married, living in a Visalia, CA apartment with my new husband, no job, no car. I apply for a job within walking distance at a jean manufacturing plant. I am told I am over-qualified and would probably quit before I got started. The work was hard. you were paid piece rate. I returned the next day to ask how long I would need to work for it to be worthwhile for them to hire me. I was told 1 year,  I agreed, and got a job. 

ONE YEAR TO THE DAY, I quit that sweat job, and now I owned a car. Jostens hired me as a table-top artist. I was home. However, I only worked for 2 years. We moved to Three Rivers. 

IT'S NOW 20 YEARS later, I'm divorced with 4 daughters, starting over. Hello Jostens, I'm back. I stayed this time, working only 4 to 6 months out of the year, for 20 years. I was the last of the table-top artists to work there. I did not want to be a graphic artist, and so it was time to go. My light table sits in my three Rivers Studio. But what I learned there (Photoshop, juggling family and work, how to be a team member) and the friends I made, are with me to this day.


8. Letters From Little Creek

 I LOVED my Nadi Co. business, but wanted to work less hours and try painting in watercolor. What I did was create more work hours, since I could only paint when the wood orders were completed. I came up with a calendar idea called Letters From Little Creek, monthly designs of a family of rabbits. I sold some of the paintings, and all of my characters became wood art. 

I DREAMED of selling a calendar. One day, I told a friend, Vickie, that I often visualize being way up high in a New York office, talking to someone on the phone about my calendar. We laughed, and she said I had better be calling her.

SO, I ACQUIRED an agent. As a reference, she gave me the phone number of Boris Valejo. You know- the king of fantasy art, the guy whose calendar hung on our kitchen wall each year! Oh my, I can't call Boris Valejo! What would I say? But I researched his art and read a book about him, and when I finally worked up the nerve to call, he said, "You must be very talented. She only represents the best." Yowza. I was on Cloud 9 for months.

MY AGENT DELIGHTED me with news that she had sold my art, but as a book first, then a calendar. Could I come to New York to discuss it. I did, landing on the 15th floor on 5th Ave, where I promptly called Vickie to yell into the phone, "I'm in New York!"

WORKMAN PUBLISHING worked on the project for 8 years, and finally let it go. The writers they hired didn't work out, and it never came together. I made some money, learned a WHOLE LOT, but, Oh Man, Boris Valejo said I must be very talented.

9.5 My First Mural 1997


I NEEDED $800 to pay for a flight to Scotland. I had purchased the ticket but had not payed for it yet. My flight left on June1st, the trip would be for a month. I had no money, and a little more than a month to find it. I had just finished reading Outlander, by Diane Gabaldon, and the Celtic music was calling me. Ah, the life of an artist.

THAT'S WHY I accepted my first mural job. I didn't know how to paint a mural. They're so BIG. It was actually Colleen Mitchel-Veyna, a local muralist and friend, who gave me the nudge I needed. I was commissioned to do the next Exeter mural. I was given 10 photos, not at all related to each other in time or subject matter, and told to come up with a cattle mural. Well, I don't work that way. I told the committee that I would design a mural my way; if they weren't happy, they didn't have to pay me. They agreed.

THE GILL FAMILY came to my rescue. I knew the Gills and thought painting Adolph on his horse, leading a herd over Rocky Hill, was just the thing. Son Fred took me on Rocky Hill and showed me a normal path route and corrected any misguided ideas I had about where the cowboys would be located around the herd. Daughter Linda helped me photograph authentic saddle, rope and bridle, using her father's gear. And, finally, before I was finished, wife Clorie brought me a list of all the changes I needed to make on his face (I believe there were 13).   

 I ASKED a lot of questions. There was a lot to learn – what kind of horses did Adolph's crew ride in the 50's? – what kind of cows did they run back then? I LOVE researching a mural! I was ready.

6. Violin 1980

 IT IS 1981. I am now married with three daughters, the delights of my life. I love being a wife and mother, owning a home filled with cats and dogs, and my garden, and, maybe, I can ignore the urge to paint. Maybe not.

IT HAS BEEN several years since I painted, not wanting to upset my husband. Crazy that I married someone who did not want me to be an artist, especially since we met as artists in Yosemite. And I was still young and didn't know you can't just deny who you are.  So I signed up for a woodshop class at the local junior college. Surely making a bookshelf could not be threatening.

TO FAMILIARIZE myself with electric tools, I started with a simple footstool design, cutting a shape like a violin for the top. I had a pattern. I liked the jigsaw, and it was not too scary. In fact, it was really fun. Soon others in class were asking me to cut out their names, which I was happy to do, using a wood-burning pen to add detail. I never made my bookshelf.

BY THE END of the class, I had created Nadi Co. My husband enjoyed cutting out the pieces and so he joined me in this new endeavor. Over the next 15 years, we would supply 300 stores nationwide with cutout wood art.

Monday, January 31, 2022


 I'M GOING TO SHARE something with you. I've always been shy. Oh, STOP laughing! I mean it. Stop. Take my word for it. It's true. I just decided, as a child, not to let it determine my life. I read all the books through the years, and gradually learned to feel the fear, and do it anyway. As a young artist (I was 19 when I started my career), I would envision tucking Fear under my arm, my constant companion on adventures. I thought he would eventually go away but, no, he's been tagging along for 50 years now.

I MADE RULES. I promised to follow them.

1) NEVER WAIT A TABLE. I wanted no jobs to fall back on when art didn't sell. It almost happened once, but a friend stopped me. Thanks Trish.

2) THE ANSWER TO ANY SPEAKING INVITATION IS ALWAYS YES. When asked to teach a 1-hour class to 25 1st-graders, I stressed for 2 weeks. When my 9-year old daughter said, "Mom, they are only 6 years old. What could happen?", my response was "I could die!" When being filmed once while working on a mural for foster kids, I got flustered and swallowed my words. Upon viewing the film, I was so relieved to see that it looked like I was choked up because I cared so much for the children.

3) ALWAYS LOOK LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. When asked if I could paint a landscape mural of Sequoia Park, I said, of course- right up my alley. After signing the contract I called Ron Stivers, took him to lunch, and asked him how to paint a landscape. It would be my first.

I TURNED 70 this month, and I can say I have kept all 3 promises all these years. What a journey it's been, and what fun. Scary, stressful, challenging...EVERY SINGLE DAY (for a wuss). But what fun.