“I’m really trying to paint the essence of the Cape,” says Ginny Nickerson. “I have a love of wild nature, the oceans and beaches.” It’s no wonder that the love of the wild beauty of the Cape is deeply in her blood, as her ancestor William Nickerson settled in its wildness and founded Chatham in the 1600s. In her paintings, Nickerson says she wants to express “… the softness of the light on the water, sand and dunes. To be able to capture this beauty… I can think of nothing more wonderful.”
The colors of the Cape are very special to Nickerson. “Our sand is a rarity,” she says. “The purple in the sand is from quahog shells. I love to blend the purples and grays and taupe colors. I want to create a mood so the viewer can feel they are walking into the painting.”
Though watercolor was her medium for many years, her passion now is for pastels. “With pastels you’re painting with sticks of pure pigment. You have to choose the right color, not mix it on the palette like you do oil paint,” Nickerson explains. “That takes us back to the paintings by the cavemen, so we know that, treated properly, they can last a long time.”
She works on gatorboard, which is stiff and impervious to water. She adds a gel pumice mixture with a three-inch brush randomly, which gives it the tooth to make it painterly, and when it dries it becomes archival. Then the fun of layering beautiful colors begins. Nickerson’s paintings begin with thoughtful pre-planning for visits to her favorite places to hit the light and the tides when they are just right for taking photos. Back in her studio, she prints the photos from her computer, some in black and white and some in color. From these photos she’ll start two or three paintings and then decide which one she wants to continue to work on.
Nickerson’s artwork brings her closer to nature, and she is so grateful to be able to experience its beauty. She says, “If I can look out at the water shimmering like diamonds under a rising sun and capture that and bring it to life for others to appreciate, I’ve done something for someone.”
Nickerson recently created a series about clamdiggers to honor the men and women who provide food for us, and she is now focused on painting trees. “It saddens me that our ancestors had to chop down so many trees, and we continue to see the habitat for wildlife disappearing,” she says. “Hopefully we’ll realize that the wildness adds to the Cape’s beauty and we’ll be able to protect it.”
Nickerson counts five family connections to the Mayflower Pilgrims. As chair of the board of the Chatham Historical Society, she is looking forward to next year’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ first landing on the Cape, and the many ways we will be reminded of how life was back then. Undoubtedly her art will transport her audience in yet another new and intriguing way.