PEPPERELL – Nan Quintin and her husband Peter were enjoying a visit to the USS Albacore Museum in Portsmouth, N.H., this past spring when she saw something at the stern of the submarine.
“On the way out of it on the right there’s a whole bank of, what I thought looked like marshmallow men,” Quintin said last week. “To me they looked like people, like dolls or something and I thought, ‘That would make a great painting.’”
And with that came “3-Way Valves, USS Albacore,” the latest watercolor creation Quintin painted.
Her painting recently won Honorable Mention at the Rhode Island Watercolor Society’s National Watercolor Exhibit running from Aug. 10 to Sept. 20. Quintin’s work will also be featured at the North East Watercolor Society’s International Water Color Exhibit this October in Kent, Conn.
“I thought they had character but I don’t think they had any particular character,” Quintin said of her work. “When I painted them, I kind-of made them look like a couple of fans in a stadium or teenage boys who might be up to something. My painting is obviously not an exact replica, it’s my interpretation.”
Quintin said she started working on the painting in late-April and ended up finishing it three separate times before changing it multiple times. She’s also a member of the Rhode Island society and recognized the honor awarded to her painting.
“It’s a big deal to get into these shows and accepted by the jury,” she said. “They’re only accepting 63 in the exhibit so it was a big deal for me to get in there.”
The 65-year-old Pepperell resident, who was born in Ayer and raised in Groton, said she started painting when she was only 12. She specifically cited getting paint-by-the-number art kits as a child for Christmas as a major inspiration for her to start painting.
Over the years, she grew to be skilled in three different styles of painting: watercolor, acrylic and oil. According to Quintin, watercolor paintings often start as drawings so that the artist has a “good plan” of how to make the work come to life.
“You know that watercolor is going to do something weird, so you want to have that weirdness in a certain place,” she said.
Acrylic painting is “very controlled,” as Quintin said, but more controlled by the artist. So much so that Quintin said that an artist can “just paint right over” any mistake made in the process.
“I love acrylics,” she added. “I can do anything in acrylics. I can make them look like oils, pastels, watercolors, anything.”
As for oil painting, Quintin compared it to “frosting” something or “buttering” food for how loose it is.
“You can scrape it off and do it over again or let it dry and paint over it,” she explained.
Quintin’s influences are also a bit loose: old trucks, tractors, tools and other aging objects.
“One of the things that inspires me most are houses that are falling in,” she said. “There’s a Japanese philosophy called Wabi-Sabi that involves the beauty of things as they deteriorate and fall back into nature. I find it very emotional to look at an old house in particular and just feel all the emotions of sadness and loss of hope that people had there. It’s a curiosity thing when I think, ‘Who were these people? What were their dreams? Why did they leave? Why is this place not being fixed up?’”
All of those elements have influenced Quintin’s love of painting and her various works over the years. One of her more prominent pieces can be found at the Lawrence Library: an acrylic mural of important elements of Pepperell’s history. For those looking to make their own artistic statement but might be scared of where to start, Quintin had some simple advice.
“Be bold and just do it,” she said. “Put anything on it, just do it. The more you paint, the better you’re going to get. It’s a matter of putting miles on the brush. I just love to paint, I’d paint all the time if I could.”