Artist of the Month: Know the Rules Before You Break Them

Delys Nast smiles in her studio with an in-progress painting. (Photo by LaVerne Kyriss)

Delys Nast smiles in her studio with an in-progress painting. (Photo by LaVerne Kyriss)

LaVerne Kyriss

Delys Nast says she’s always done art. Her mother was an illustrator, commercial artist, and art teacher. “My mom always encouraged us four kids to explore creative outlets. We could use any of the supplies she had around,” she remembered, “except for the time I used pastel crayons for a sidewalk drawing. Those were off limits for a while after that.”

Delys, pronounced like the French fleur-de-lys, still likes pastels—mostly for portraits of kids and animals.  She also paints in oils. She’s tried acrylics—they dry too fast—and watercolor—not forgiving enough is her assessment. “I love to capture movement. My subjects are alive—kids, birds, horses. My mom taught me that it’s important to have light in their eyes. That’s what brings the image to life,” Nast said. “I’ve got about 20 nieces and nephews and have painted or drawn all of them—often with one of their pets. I’ve discovered over the years that I like painting them best when they’re between two and eight. That’s when I can capture their personalities. I work from photos sent to me by their parents, often combining elements from different views. The final portrait is never from just one photo.”

Nast spent her professional life working as a graphic designer. “I started out taking classes at the Minnesota College of Art and Design and working as a fashion illustrator for newspapers. I mostly worked for the marketing department of big companies where I had lots of resources and for small start-ups where the resources were limited.”

Meanwhile she continued to paint, make jewelry, create wood sculptures and even dabbled in making neon sculptures at one point. “It’s too much fun to learn new stuff so I’ve never settled down to doing just one thing,” she explained, noting that she recently got some beautiful red clay from the Sedona area and can’t wait until things open up so she can explore the ceramics and pottery club offerings.

Nast says painting is exhilarating to her—not relaxing like some other endeavors. “I paint pretty fast and generally have more than one project—be it painting, jewelry or wood sculpture—in progress at any point. Something will need to rest or dry so I move to another piece. I learn from experience about what works and what doesn’t. I think you shouldn’t worry about making mistakes—they will happen. Just let it happen and learn from it. I’m also not afraid to paint over something if it simply isn’t working,” she laughed.

“When I was in college, my instructor asked for three pieces from me for the end of term student show,” she said. “I told him I could only submit the last one because I painted over the previous ones, explaining that I was a poor student and had a limited budget for canvases.”

Nast advises those new to art to get out there and try something. “Find out what inspires you. Don’t copy, but explore the styles you like. Buy materials and take classes. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You’ll figure out pretty quickly what you like and what you don’t. Along the way, you’ll learn the foundations. After all, you need to know the rules before you break them.”