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Iowa Artist

Nancy Carlson Expressions

7/3/2024

When a friend replaced her old windows with newer, modern windows, she gave the weathered window pane frames to Nancy Carlson. Her friend suggested using the old windows to paint on them, requesting an Iowa State Cyclone theme. The cardinal red and yellow piece was a success, and Carlson felt inspired to paint on glass.

However, Nancy knew that she couldn’t sell logo work without a license, so she began painting other objects on glass. Before long, a new art career was born. Nancy likes how the color pops on the glass. 

“It’s like a stained glass piece, but it doesn’t reflect color,” she explains. 

Vibrant colors is Carlson’s signature look. “I like a lot of color, and I often come up with my own shades,” she says. 

As an avid gardener, many of her paintings are inspired by her home garden. She’s also a bicyclist and has connections with the biking community. She’s painted bicycles on glass, including a RAGBRAI team bus painting. Bike commission pieces are a frequent request. A rolling bicycle scene among cornfields is a favorite.

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Each painting is unique, as no two paintings or frames are the same. Folks who purchase art display it on walls or windows where the color is transparent. Carlson likes how the clear glass surrounding the painting takes on a fresh dimension, depending on the color of the wall where it is hung. 

“I have a pink wall in my house to match the art.”  

“Iowa Ride” by Nancy Carlson

She often uses upcycled materials. She’ll scour thrift stores, secondhand and consignment shops for unique frames. Carlson often discovers a framed art piece and rips out the old art. Frames give her inspiration for her next painting.

“It is the frames that say to me ‘I need to have a bird in me.’ The gold frame needs a goldfinch. Often, I sit on a frame for a long time before inspiration comes,” she reflects. 

She has painted many wine glasses and clear vases. Commissioned work includes numerous bikes and sunflowers, as well as animals for a nursery wall. 

“Somebody wanted one of the last supper,” she recalls. “I don’t do Leonardo. I love the challenge of a commission piece. I never thought I would be do a wedding portrait, but I did.”

“Three of a Kind” by Nancy Carlson

The most difficult part of her craft is selling outside at art shows. 

“It makes me nervous,” she admits. “The wind is unpredictable. Most art shows are outside, and there’s not a lot of opportunity for artists beyond outdoor events,” she explains.

After she retired from her job as a graphic designer, she began painting on glass full-time. The biggest challenge of her craft is a similar sentiment shared by other artists. 

“It’s a challenge getting enough eyeballs on your piece and finding the right audience,” she says. 

Once art lovers discover her work on her Facebook page or by word of mouth, she relishes in the satisfaction. 

“I love it when people look at my artwork. It puts a smile on their face and on mine,” she says. 

Find Nancy Carlson’s work at the Reiman Gardens Art Fair on July 14 or check her Facebook page at Nancy Carlson Expressions.

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Summer Stir - July 2024