Nelvia McGrath’s artistic path begins with pastels.

As a child I was musical and crafty:  I sewed, played piano, French horn, violin, and classical guitar, but not much actual drawing or painting.

While I couldn’t draw from imagination, I could reproduce almost everything I could see, but that wasn’t being a real artist!  I was simply a technician. So like many others who have told their stories here, I left art aside and pursued a 35 year career in the corporate world.

Budding Geisha
Budding Geisha

In the early 90’s, while living in Florida and North Carolina, I discovered PBS stations featuring Bob Ross and Jerry Yarnell programs. Intrigued by their techniques, I bought a box of pastels and haven’t looked back since. That was quite the accomplishment for someone who didn’t stick long with things.  Dry media was my preference at the time, and a brush was a hinderance until my hubby’s comment that pastel really wasn’t painting ….

Rediscovering art in retirement.

However, it wasn’t really until I retired, having time and energy collide, that I really took art seriously. In 2019, I finally let my right brain loose.  Even being self-taught, I was fortunate to have marvellous teachers via books, worldwide art museums, magazines, and internet. My favorite museums are the National Art Gallery and the American Portrait museum - all the greats are represented in those places.

I started pursuing that elusive next level: to make complex stories and compositions.  I felt the need for some formal instruction and that’s when fortuitously, I came upon Let’s Face It 2019. 

An online portrait class, Let's Face it blew my entire art journey wide open. As a result, the last couple of years have been focused on portraits and figures.

Working in a series.

I read about the benefits of working in a series but only tried it once before, several years ago. Quite by accident, I began to develop a theme of Geishas.

Cherry Blossom by Nelvia McGrath, guest artist at Louise's ARTiculations
Cherry Blossom


First, I painted Cherry Blossom and received positive feedback, so decided I had more to say on this theme. What stories these geishas can tell with their serene expressions, wigs, unique makeup, and colorful kimonos with intricate patterns!

My original goal was to complete several smaller pictures and end up with a large grand finale, something in the  20”x20” range that might even have embellishments adhered.


Nelvia McGrath's Geisha series takes shape.

Quickly I found free reference photos of both Oriental/Japanese geishas and traditional items we think of as Japanese. Next, I brainstormed to flesh out some pictures and begin to develop the story behind the painting.  I wanted to incorporate some abstract backgrounds (a personal nemesis) using both paint and gelli prints and paint those gorgeous kimonos. There were just so many possibilities! I thank the many nights of insomnia which is when I developed some of my best ideas.

Fortunately, I was able to visit Japan several times. Naturally, I incorporated objects I had seen along with Japanese symbols in my Geisha portraits.

Researching Japanese folklore and symbolic meanings of words or images has been stimulating for creativity. It then became a composition challenge to build a unified picture/story out of seemingly random elements.

Currently there are ten paintings in the series and several drawings, but I am thinking about creating the next phase of paintings that have formed in my mind.

Recently I felt called to try some writing putting together articles on topics that I wished I knew earlier in my art journey. I think we all follow the same path and we just arrive at the landmarks at different timeframes.

Articles for artists.

So much is written for beginners that I wanted to write on topics an intermediate to advanced artist might be interested in.  If you decide to check out my Hubpages articles, please let me know what you think, whether or not you agree, and any topics you think intermediate artists would be interested in.

Follow me on these social media sites:

Instagram:  @nelviamcgrath

Facebook:  Nelvia’s Fine Art

Hubpages articles

To view other artists who have been featured on my website in the last 3 years, please visit the Guest Artist page.

I am grateful for all the talented, productive artists and creatives from all over the world (photographer, author...) who have appeared on Louise's ARTiculations.

If you are a creative and would like to be featured in this space, please contact me. This feature will continue this year as my goal is to share the wonderful work of all types of creatives.

I do not charge a fee to showcase your creative work!

Many featured guests remain in my circle of friends on social media sites, and some, I have even met in person.





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