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Dan Nelson Fine Art: Premier Live Event Painter

By Marina I. Jokic

Dan Nelson devotes his time to both illustrations and fine art. His portfolio includes many different types of work including airbrush realism, cartoons, architectural renderings, and street paintings. The twist is creating these elaborate works in front of a live audience which is an unnerving prospect for many artists.

Nelson is different, however. For him, the thrill of capturing various subjects and stories as they unfold is a thrilling challenge. His services are often booked months in advance for events such as weddings, fairs, festivals, and many others. He also offers art lessons.

Nelson is a prolific artist, working meticulously yet quickly with mediums such as acrylic, oil, watercolor, and chalk. Other mediums Nelson works with include pastel, sand sculpting, and airbrushing. His portraits can take on a realistic or humorous form depending on what his client envisions. When asked how best to encapsulate his work in a word or two, Nelson retorts with another question: "Which artwork?"

He works in a variety of styles and mediums, and admits that instead of focusing on one art medium, he dabbled in almost all of them. Eventually, Nelson mastered many techniques and materials, which expanded the scope of his work.

"In my formative years, I thought that all artists worked in every kind of medium, [but] when I got to college, I discovered that was not the case," he said. His willingness to take on many different art projects and learn new techniques paid off in the end.

Being a freelance illustrator, Nelson expanded his skill set not only because he wanted the extra work, but also because of his wide-ranging interests.

"I needed the work, so the answer was always 'yes'; I would then do some research, practice quickly, and produce the piece the art director wanted," he said. "I think that one of the characteristics of my personality that has led to this wide range of styles is an innate inventiveness and sense of adventure. I'm always trying new things."

Twenty-five years ago, Nelson was primarily known as a cartoonist, while today his detailed pen and ink work attracts the most attention in the U.S. Locally, especially in North Carolina, he is known as an oil painter. His reputation is as varied and fluid as are his skills. To him personally, the best definition for his work is abstract realism, since his pieces are representational, yet the brush strokes, texture, and colors take preeminence over the subject matter. The constantly evolving relationship between subject and medium is salient in all of Nelson's work.

There are five custom-built easels that Nelson uses at his painting events, including one that weighs 1,000 pounds, has theatrical lighting, a sound system, and a roof. His oil painting technique is likewise distinct, using both hands simultaneously.

"The word inspiration doesn't hold much weight for me," Nelson said. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, he plunges into his work and is stirred in the midst of painting.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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