This month we’re featuring Nan Raphael for the Capitol Hill Art League’s Mind of the Artist feature. Read their story and check out their beautiful artwork below. Follow Nan Raphael on Instagram at @solopikolo.
I grew up in a musical and artistic family. Mom was a piano performance major and I remember her playing for us after dinner on the Steinway baby grand she inherited from her grandmother. She had my brother, sister and me take at least a year of piano lesson so we could learn the basics of music. I hung on for 3 years. As a kid I didn’t have enough extrinsic motivators to keep me going but I picked up the flute in 4th grade. I wanted to play clarinet but my dad being an orthodontist suggested I choose the flute. I didn’t get really serious about the flute until my freshman year in high school when I started to study privately. The turning point in my life came when I saw my brother march with the Clifton High School Mustang Band in the first football game of the 1967 season. When I saw the band march into the stadium, I wanted to join them. Nothing had excited me up to that point. Finally there were the extrinsic motivators for me to keep practicing. The first was to get into the band, then make solo chair, then Region and Allstate bands. Once I did that, I thought I could make it in music and couldn’t imagine my life without it so I majored in music education and then landed a job here in DC with the US Army Field Band where I stayed for 26 years as solo piccoloist.
So, here’s where the art comes in. I remember doodling and dabbling a lot as a kid making Snoopy comics with a political bent and creating abstract designs with colored pens. My folks were also artistic. Mom became a professional calligrapher once we were all out of the nest and Dad dabbled as I did in a variety of visual art forms. My sister got an associate degree in photography and now makes amazing custom cookies for special events. My brother plays several instruments and has also dabbled in painting, showing natural talent. Once I got busy with music my art took a back seat until after I got settled in the Field Band. Over the years I have dabbled with polymer clay, string art, jewelry and ink blended with photography. Many years before I joined the Capitol Hill Art League, I started creating intricate designs using architect’s templates. I’ve always been drawn to Indian and Middle Eastern art which features lots of intricate geometric designs ranging from mandalas to repeating non representational patterns. I designed the program book and T-shirt for the Mid-Atlantic Flute Fair in 2000 and was part of a group show in the North Hall of Eastern Market back when John Harrod ran the place. While swimming one day back in 2015, the idea popped into my free associating/ meditating brain to use photos as backgrounds for these designs. I love the idea of repurposing things for art…ie architects templates to create designs, scraps used for sculptures and collages etc. My background photos range from clouds to icing on a carrot cake and more recently have been using background offered on Photoshop Express and Snapseed for some of my pieces. I also use these apps to create collages which gives me the option to create so many different works from one or a few pieces in combination.
My process for creating a piece is very “in the moment” which I guess is why I find it to be so meditative. I start out with a very vague idea of what I want to do and just let the piece I’m working on evolve in the moment.
Finally, I want to thank Tara Hamilton for inviting me to do this month’s blog. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Art League gaining new perspectives and making new friends.