Savanna Nelson’s (@savannanels) love for art stems from her thirst for knowledge. A recent graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Nelson majored in painting and art history, two fields of study that have fueled her creative process. Her paintings and illustrations are colorful forays into portraiture. In the coming year, she’ll rejoin her alma mater as an employee, serving as assistant to the
MassArt Art Museum’s chief preparator. The Globe chatted with Nelson about her creative process.
Q. A lot of your art manifests as portraiture, whether it’s of yourself or somebody else. What initially drew you to this style of painting and illustration?
A. I’ve always been interested in the idea of portraiture, and how something so familiar to everybody can be interpreted so differently. All of us are humans, we’re surrounded by humans. But so many artists throughout time have been able to convey this image and depict humans so uniquely. I can’t ever imagine my life without the ability to interpret the world through art. I’m always going to be drawing, I’m always going to be painting, always going to be searching for color and subjects and relaying that back into my life and practice.
Q. Your use of bright color is a large part of your work. Is it just a matter of preference, or are you trying to convey something with them?
A. To an extent, what I’m personally drawn to always manifests in my work. For example, I’ve always been interested in really bright and fluorescent pigments and that definitely comes through in my work. It’s really what gets me excited about art.
Q. Some of your ink-based paintings are more abstract than your illustrations. Would you say you’ve found a set style that you’re comfortable with, or are you still experimenting with your art?
A. I think I fit into both categories. As artists, I think we’re always developing our style. If we find something that works for us, we’ll ride it out. But that usually eventually comes to an end, and we learn from that period of creation. There are things in my work that have always been present — like my color use, but I do think that I have developed that aspect of my art consistently, so it’s constantly changing.
Q. Did your studies in art history influence the way you create or think about your art?
A. I think it’s part of my creative process. I’ve always been really interested in modern art, early 20th century up to the ’80s. That time period has always influenced me. The colors, the shapes, things you’d find in a period like German Expressionism. All those things have shaped me as an artist tremendously, and not to be a nerd, but I’ve always loved learning. I just can’t imagine being an artist without learning about its history.Chris Triunfo can be reached at [email protected].