Still a part of the art world in Selma

Published 10:28 pm Friday, November 7, 2008

Walk into the Selma Art Guild gallery; look up, look down and take a full turn, and the fruit of Joanna Nichols’ hands come washing over.

It’s not just the splashes of choreographed colors on canvas. It’s literally in the ceilings and on the floors.

In the small converted white cottage on Selma Avenue, her handiwork stands as a testament to an arts community that is thriving and continuously growing.

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Once she rediscovered her passion for painting, she really began to blossom as an artist.

“It’s always been in me. I used to draw horses because, of course, most little girls love horses,” Nichols said. “I took it up again after I moved away from home. I was a homemaker. I found it was a wonderful outlet.”

Nichols grew up in Northumberland, England, in a portion of the country that borders Scotland. She met her husband and Selma native, Ken, while in Vancouver, and after a few years they moved to Stamford, Conn.

With no family close by and searching for a way to break up the monotony that often burdens stay-at-home mothers, she got involved in the local arts community. In time she became president of the Stamford Art Association, serving in that capacity for three years.

She held the same position with the Selma Art Guild for four years before stepping down in August.

During her tenure, she oversaw the installation of new lighting and floors in the gallery. She is still active in organizing trips to other galleries and promoting Selma’s arts scene.

“She’s delightful; she has that understated English wit that she always uses to give you her opinion,” said current president Sally Jordan. “She’s a hard worker. She was instrumental in modernizing the inside of the gallery and promoting the artist of the month.”

Each month the guild recognizes one of its members puts his or her work on display.

Nichols is the featured artist for November. Her work with watercolors ranges from a picturesque beach at high tide from her English home to an old car she says she painted “just because I admired it.”

Watercolors, Nichols said, is a medium that takes a lot of patience. The input of several different artists helps.

“It’s a process. You have to be willing to keep with it,” she said. “Go to classes and learn from people who have done it a long time. You learn something new from each different teacher. The secret to watercolors is to keep working at it. Don’t give up too early, and you have to let [the painting] dry between each layer.”

A little inspiration never hurts, either.

“I love to listen to classical music while I paint,” Nichols said, almost sheepishly. “I’m getting much more creative.”