Martha Nixon finds the space to be playful in her art
Artist among two Manor Parkers featured in the 2023 New Edinburgh Studio Tour
When Manor Park artist Martha Nixon began to pursue art after retiring over 20 years ago, she found herself quickly drawn into mixed media.
“It seemed to be a licence to play,” she says. “You didn’t have to worry about doing the barn correctly or the horse. You were looking at colour and texture, form and design. It really meant that you move in all sorts of different directions.”
She first attended the Haliburton School of Arts and then took other painting and printmaking courses in Ottawa. She set up a studio in her home and has exhibited with the Ottawa Mixed Media Association (OMMA), Homes for the Holidays, and in the Galerie Old Chelsea.
She has also participated in a weekly art program at May Court Hospice, in some cases working with people who never painted, or were scared off painting as children by unkind comments, and helping them produce art.
One of her favourite forms is encaustic painting. In encaustic art, the paint is melted onto a base of hot beeswax or, in Martha’s case, beeswax mixed with damar resin. She describes the process with relish–melting and binding the paints with a hot gun the size of a power drill, using a frying pan to keep the brushes warm, and a crock pot to keep the beeswax mixture fluid.
Once the textures on the canvas have deepened, she covers it in linseed oil to enhance the lines and then heats it all over again. Sometimes she’ll even add objects like bits of plants from her garden, or once even an odd earring, that will then become embedded in the piece.
Martha describes her artistic process as “pretty loosey goosey.” She starts with a colour that interests her, or a line or texture, and works from there. “I paint into it and see where it goes.”
Sometimes she’ll let a work sit for days in the dining room, for example, before deciding whether to work on another detail.“If somebody buys it, it’s finished,” she says.