Once a month, we feature local small business owners and artists who are using their creativity to make the homes and businesses of Roanoke beautiful.
This month, our spotlight is on artist Jamie Nervo. Jamie’s abstract artwork features bright colors and lots of texture.
Changing Style, Unchanging Passion: Jamie’s Story
Jamie Nervo is familiar with change. Her father was in the military, so she and her family moved a lot during her childhood. She recalls that she always loved art and that it was her favorite subject in school.
Unsure of how her artistic abilities would fit into her career, Jamie pursued several different paths. She studied interior design for awhile, then after deciding that wasn’t for her, she studied advertising at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. For several years after that, she worked as a photo stylist, building sets and gathering props for catalog advertisements.
Throughout her changing locations, studies, and work, one thing that didn’t change was the pull she felt toward art, and in particular, painting. So she returned to school again in 1989, this time for her Fine Arts degree from Old Dominion University. Even since then, it has been a long road for her to become a full-time artist. “I worked in advertising and dabbled in real estate to make ends meet,” Jamie said. “It’s taken me many years to get to where I am now.”
She’s grateful to be finally be able to pursue her passion full-time. “Painting is just in my system,” Jamie said. “I love painting every day, it’s just what I do.”
Jamie’s oil paintings used to depict a lot of people and animals, all painted in a whimsical, abstract style. However, in the last year, as Jamie has faced a relationship related change, her style has shifted, and she is now focusing on abstract paintings.
“I’ve been bogged down with a relationship, and it’s caused me to head in a different direction,” she said. “So the abstract style is what is coming out of me at this moment.”
The painting on the left represents Jamie’s whimsical style and the one on the right is an example of her abstract style.
With her change in style has also come a broadening of the media she’s using. She used to paint almost exclusively in oil, but has also been working in mixed media, including pencil, acrylic, pastel, cold wax, and oil for her abstract pieces.
“I’m really enjoying the abstract I’m doing now,” she said. “It’s exciting to apply the paint. I layer it and scrape it off and reapply. At first it can be discouraging because it doesn’t look like much, but I just keep applying mediums from acrylic to pencil to whatever else, and it’s interesting to me how it comes alive.”
She has found that her abstract paintings can really be a process. “Abstract is different. It’s design you’re creating,” Jamie said. “I’m trained as an artist to know color and pattern, and I just keep applying it until it becomes what I want it to be. Sometimes I step back from a piece for a day or two and leave it. Then I’ll come back and add some more until it’s done.”
Although Jamie’s style has changed, her use of bright colors has not. In fact, her cheerful color palette with lots of textures is her signature style. “I tend to put a lot of paint on the canvas right now, mostly bright colors and lots of patterns,” she said. “I layer the paint and then scratch into it, and the texture makes it unique.”
No matter the type of painting she is creating, Jamie gets her inspiration from people and everyday life. It’s not that the hard things aren’t there, but rather, with her bright colors and patterns, that she chooses to portray these day-to-day events in a positive way.
“In life we are bombarded with negative imagery, so I try to put a positive spin on my work,” she said. “I don’t paint things that are negative, instead I focus on eliciting more positive type feelings.”
Her positive outlook is also influenced by her love of her surroundings. After having lived in many different places, Jamie settled in the Roanoke area about 25 years ago after her parents relocated to the area to found Wilderness Adventures. Jamie paints almost every day in her south facing home on Bent Mountain, where she has a view of 12 mountain ranges.
“I love Roanoke. I wouldn’t want to move anywhere else,” she said. “There’s good food, a lot to of outdoor things to do, and a friendly community. I am an outdoors person, and I love the mountains. When I leave the mountains I miss them.”
Jamie is currently getting ready for the upcoming Open Studios Tour of Roanoke, which she has participated in for about 10 years. It’s one of her favorite and most successful events during the year for selling her work. This event is coming up on April 28 and 29, and Jamie will be set up at the studio of Barry Wolfe, along with two other artists.
Jamie also shows her work around town in Roanoke at The Market Gallery, Lindor Gallery, Present Thyme, Black Dog Salvage, Sweet Donkey Coffee, and Bent Mountain Bistro. She also occasionally does commissions.
When Jamie is not painting, she enjoys being outdoors vegetable gardening, mountain biking, sailing, and spending time with her two dogs and two cats. She also loves to cook and entertain friends at her home on Bent Mountain.
One of her favorite things about being an artist is getting to hear people’s reactions to her work. “People tend to say my paintings are bright and cheerful, but sometimes people will look at my work and say it looks dark even though that’s not my intention,” Jamie said. “That’s what is neat about art, people see different things.”