Nancy Staub Laughlin’s “Still Life” Art is Botanical Beauty
Nancy Staub Laughlin is an admired, New Jersey-based artist who achieved artistic significance. In 1976, Nancy received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in from Moore College of Art and Design (in Philadelphia, PA). She’s a member of the Manhattan Arts International online art gallery. Her artwork gives the viewers a botanical exploration by her layering the juxtaposing elements: nature vs. glitter. Her passion for art allows her to create projects that can make you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?,” then remember that she’s a professional artist.
In Nancy’s newest work (which she calls assemblages), she created a new concept to what “still life” is, by incorporating pastels on paper and photography. All of her work is carefully detailed, leaving limitless room for the viewers imaginative view of the pieces. Regardless of how much she grows in the art industry, her signature style is highly noticeable in an aesthetic form of organic excellence.
To name some of her accomplishments, she exhibited in the Newhouse Gallery, Carter Burden Gallery and Noho Gallery in New York City. Also, she exhibited her prominent artwork at the New Jersey State Museum and Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters in New Brunswick, the Prudential Corporate Gallery in NJ, and Bristol/Myers Squibb. The Secretary of State, Nina Mitchell Wells (under Governor Jon Corzine) honored her, where she humbly exhibited at the State House of New Jersey. Only 3 years ago, (back in 2018) she received the Miriam Shorr Memorial Award. I’m fortunate to be interviewing Nancy Staub Laughlin today (who has quite the résumé).
You’ve attended “California College of the Arts” and “Moore College of Art and Design. How much would you say art school benefited you at becoming a successful artist?
Art school was essential to learning the mediums used to create and finding your niche in the art world. I was what you may have called a “rebel” where I didn’t always do what was expected. For example, in painting class in oils, everyone else’s paintings looked muddy and over mixed. Mine were colorful because I saw color in everything, shadows, etc. My one teacher said I was ahead of my time…..
You created a new concept to still life. When viewers see your artwork, they notice it’s created with pastel on paper and mounted photographs. The elements used in the work are nature versus glitter. How did this all begin? When did the light bulb arrive in your head to create artwork, which is now your signature style?
I have always stayed true to my work. Instead of trying lots of styles, trying to figure out where I fit, I have evolved in every stage of my artistic career. Because it is an evolution, all the years are connected. One can always tell, no matter what, that I have done the creation. I am fascinated with reflection, glow, sparkle, shadow and basically see it in every day life, hence the juxtaposition of nature vs. glitter. I am an outdoor person, gardener, hiker, swimmer so I see these phenomenas all the time in nature.
Adding the photograph was a big step. One of my mentors, Ingrid Fox, who was the curator for Pfizers art collection for over 30 years and a friend, called me and suggested adding the photographs. What was uncanny, I had been toying with the idea, but had not decided yet. She was my deciding factor!
Flowering, Froth and Flurries, 28 x 36, pastel on paper, mounted photographs © 2020 All Rights Reserved.
As an accomplished artist, do you ever reflect back on your past artwork to compete with yourself or are you competing with other artists? Do you feel like you have competition?
I admire so many artists, but never have I competed with them. I am a strong person and it would almost be a weakness to feel like I needed to compete. It would mean I have something to prove to them, where I really don’t give it a thought. I think this is how I have persevered for so many years…having the confidence and thick skin to pave my way.
The Sparkling Drops of Rain, 24 x 39, pastel on paper, mounted photographs © 2019 All Rights Reserved.
Are there any art projects hiding in your closet that you’re not totally satisfied with? Have you ever tried redoing the projects by drawing over them or using different photographs? Did you get rid of them?
Funny you should ask this….I have never not completed a drawing. This is not to say, I haven’t struggled with a few, but I am so deliberate when I start one, I know I have to find what the drawing needs in order to be successful. I may have to with gears a bit to get there, but I will never give up on a drawing.
In your piece titled “Golden Sprinkle”, you added depth in another way. You used shadows as well as overlapping frames. If you varnish your works, how do you decide on where the photographs go, without taking away from too much oil pastel work?
My works are all soft pastel and no varnish. The photographs are very deliberate from the onset. When I do the drawing, I put a size and position photograph so I can see how to work it with the pastels. When the drawing is complete, I take off the working photo and replace with the mounted one using double sided tape and glue. (all archival)
Golden Sprinkle, 27 x 32, pastel on paper, mounted photographs © 2019 All Rights Reserved.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to talk about?
I am having an exhibition at Carter Burden Gallery in NYC in May/June. I am always creating new works so I am ready at all times for the big yes for an exhibition. I try to always be ahead of the game and have an exhibition planned every few years. I am also in the databases of numerous art consultants. During this hard time with Covid and galleries and museums being closed temporarily, it has taken its toll on the arts. Thank goodness for social media! I am hopeful that we will have a big comeback.
The Sparkling Waves and Blossoming Snow, 28 x 35, pastel on paper, mounted photographs © 2019 All Rights Reserved.
What do you feel about other artists using your unique art style of carefully adding pastel on paper to the background of decorated photographs?
Growing up, people always said that people who copy you is a true compliment. I would hope if they did do it..it was their idea…
After taking photographs of various landscapes for your projects, do you use any computer application softwares?
I do take all my photographs…yes with my iPhone..since I always have it with me. I use photoshop to tweak a photo, not to change it dramatically. I may need to accentuate a sparkle; photoshop has a spot lightening tool that I will use to brighten that one spot.
In the Midst of the Flurry, 34 x 45, pastel on paper, mounted photographs © 2019 All Rights Reserved.
Where is it that you’re the most comfortable creating art? You likely go outdoors to capture images to incorporate to your pastel work. Do you have an office? Do you create at home? Do you enjoy working on full projects outdoors, socializing? If you do, anybody can just walk up and see the before and after look of your work. You’re very careful with the details that you add in your art, so would your perfectionist side make you stay away from creating full projects outdoors?
I have a beautiful studio that was 4 garage bays. I closed off one section, put down a wooden floor so I’m not working on concrete. I have a giant piece of plexiglass on one wall that I use to tape my paper. I work standing up with movable cart shelves filled with all my soft pastels. My computer station is also in this space along with a large drafting table for cutting, etc. I also have a printing station where I print all my photographs. Working outdoors would not work for what I do. The other 3 bays, I use as a gallery and have open studios.
Sprinkle of Spring Sparkle, 30 x 42, pastel on paper, mounted photographs © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
The background photographs for your artwork gives the pastels the appearance of having various picture frames, with dimensions of vibrancy. There’s glitter effects as well as selective areas that glow. Elements of artistic creativity overlap the background, giving it a 3-Dimensional appearance. Do you hang any of your artwork up where you live?
Yes…our house is filled with my work. I am in many private and corporate collections, too. Also, a new state of the art hospital was built near where I live where they bought 6 of my drawings. I love that you see the 3D effect. I was a sculpture major in art school, hence the 3D.
Clearly, you focus on composition in your art. Do you focus on the pastel art first, focus on what the photographs will look like, or multitask while creating?
I work with an app on my iPad called Sketchbook pro. I use this app to create my drawing using all my elements that are in my photos, details of glittering moments, landscapes and photoshoots of combinations. I usually start with the landscape and then work on adding the “glowing elements”. I have to have the drawing solved before I begin the actual drawing. There is an enormous amount of thought that goes into each drawing..all deliberate.
Is there anybody who influenced you as an artist? Are you a self-taught artist?
My first artist that I admired was Matisse. I used to copy his style in grade school for fun. I have friends that still have them! I love David Hockney. He is enormously talented. I will say I have no patience for work that doesn’t show some kind of talent.
If you want to contact Nancy Staub Laughlin or keep updated on her latest works, here’s her information:
Laughlin, Nancy Staub. “Nancy Staub Laughlin.” https://www.nancystaublaughlin.com. 2021.
Laughlin, Nancy Staub. Instagram. “nancystaublaughlin.”https://www.instagram.com/nancystaublaughlin/. 2021.
Laughlin, Nancy Staub. Facebook. “Nancy Staub Laughlin, Artist.” https://www.facebook.com/nancystaublaughlin/photos/a.361435410670441/692051684275477/?type=1&theater. 2021.
Laughlin, Nancy Staub. Linkedin. “Nancy Staub Laughlin 3rd.” https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancystaublaughlin/. 2021.
Laughlin, Nancy Staub. View. “Nancy Staub Laughlin: Pastels/Photographs/Assemblages.”
https://www.viewarts.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/nancy-staub-laughlin-pastelsphotographsassemblages/. 27, July, 2019.