Nicola Wheston has divided her time between British Columbia and sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico area for last 10 years. She used to live an hours hike out in the jungle from Yelapa which itself is a good hours bumpy panga boat ride from Puerto Vallarta.
From her beautiful jungle palapa outdoors studio, she created these plain air jungle scenes, a real study in the use of greens.
Nicola has shown at the Ian Tan Gallery in Vancouver for over ten years, showing both figurative and the landscapes and the gallery has played a big role in her career. She’s painted BC landscapes, especially coastal BC for over 20 years and these paintings have played a far greater role in her art life then the Mexican ones. It was painting coastal temperate rain forest that got her interested in tropical rain forest and it was her hobby, bird watching, that brought her to Yelapa and lead to her painting in her jungle studio. Her 2008 exhibition “Temperate to Tropical” at Ian Tan’s featured paintings from both places.
She’s been showing her works in Puerto Vallarta with The Loft Galeria for 8 years and John Strawn, the owner always used to look forward to what she would hike out with next, carried as rolled canvas on her shoulder. She always paints oil on canvas and always paints from life, not from photographs.
This winter she’s rented a little studio apartment in Art Vallarta where she does some teaching and works in a nice room, currently used for the wonderful Fearless Fridas exhibition. Here she is with her painted chair of Diego Rivera peeking over her shoulder and a large Frida (by another artist) from the fearless Fridas exhibition.
Graduating from Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, UK in 1975, the art world seemed to hold figurative art in great disdain but she continued to work painting from life in spite of it, encouraged and supported by other artists. She worked as a professional printmaker up till 1987, based in Nova Scotia, Canada, printing her own works and printing for other artists. The 1985 Young Romantics exhibition curated by Diane Farris in Vancouver marked a shift in the acceptance of figurative art in the Canadian and Vancouver art scene and she found more doors opening for exhibiting her own figurative paintings.
In 2000, her All Our Daughters show travelled from Salt Spring Island to several other locations. Forty 30 x 60 inches paintings painted from life, documented the rite of adolescence as it manifests itself in the bodies of young girls between 13 and 19 years of age. She worked with school councellors, local police, parents and Indian Band councils to find good subjects to pose live, many of which she’s kept in touch with over the passing years.
She often stays 4-6 months down in sunny Mexico and spends summers in British Columbia painting and teaching. Her works include landscapes and still lives but the human figure takes a prominent place in her body of work.
Because she always works plain air, in real time painting from life, her current work has a stage set feeling to it as she must set the scene which she then paints over a period of several weeks. Even when painting her self portraits, she works from life with several mirrors instead of from photographs, quite a physical challenge! Gee, I’d need a chiropractor!!
Her current body of work is about STUFF, the stuff we collect and surround ourselves with.
What a delight it was to meet Nicola in person after having her on our site since 2010. I’ll look forward to visiting her in BC and back in Puerto Vallarta next winter and of course watching her progress in the online world.