By Diana Colson
Nadja was born on the coast of Massachusetts in a quaint fishing village just south of Boston. Her South African mother’s work allowed the family to travel for three months at a time while her father homeschooled Nadja and her younger sister. Their family always chose the “road less traveled” which made for interesting stories and extraordinary journeys. One can quickly detect the influence of these childhood expeditions which are brought to life in her vibrant paintings.
Together, the family explored wonders of the world such as the Great Barrier Reef, Victoria Falls and the Mayan ruins. They visited African wild game parks and drove a caravan across the islands of New Zealand. It was a time of splendid adventure, one that established a pattern of living that Nadja would continue as an adult.
One of her earliest artistic mentors was her grandfather, a brilliant photographer and writer whose pictures can be seen today at www.photoimagesgallery.com. Nadja’s mother also provided her with creative inspiration. This remarkable woman has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as a lecturer, author, radio/TV host, screenwriter, and film producer/director. She is currently working on a feature film, which can be previewed at www.MindTheGapFilm.com.
Nadja’s family moved to Florida during her second year of high school, around the time she began painting. “I was a difficult teenager so my mom tried to take me to meditations with her. When that didn’t help, she took me to art class and encouraged me to paint what I was feeling. I immediately loved the texture of the paint, and I loved the freedom of dragging colors across a canvas.”
Nadja enrolled in the rigorous IB program at Riverview High School, and graduated with a full year of college credit. She entertained the idea of entering the film program at FSU, but the field of painting was calling her. Her art career was well underway by the time she was accepted into the highly competitive BFA program at Florida State University.
Looking back, Nadja says, “Even though I was working on technical skill, I still didn’t know what to paint. I was overwhelmed with the big question of, what to communicate?!” She tried emulating old masters and painting still-lives … but something was missing: “My own voice!” “One day my professor looked me in the eyes and said, ‘The world is not waiting for the next Monet or Picasso, the world is waiting for the next Nadja.’ That’s when I realized that I count. And that’s when everything really started to change.”
Nadja supported herself through college by face and body painting for BJ’s Party House, a children’s entertainment company. Her fine arts degree really helped hone that skill. Today—when she’s not working on a new oil painting— she’s competing and working internationally in the Face & Body Art industry. She has won awards both in Fine Art as well as Body Art.
After graduating from FSU Summa Cum Laude, Nadja concentrated on painting for a year before embarking on a 3-year painting odyssey through Israel and Southern Africa.
She arrived in Jerusalem in 2012 with no preconceived idea as to subject matter, but was greatly moved by the mysticism she discovered in that historic land. She experimented with mixed media – watercolor, ink, oil pastel, chalk pastel, acrylic, gouache, and gold leaf.
In 2013, she spent three months traveling in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Her paintings from this period reflect the passionate yet grounded rhythm of her experience. In Africa, she became a quick-moving artist who learned to paint on the go, using only three wooden frames, one roll of canvas, a staple gun, and as much paint as she could carry.
By 2014, she had painted over 70 new works. These were available at exhibitions in Israel, including one at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“I’m often re-discovering what art is. For me, it’s the way that I get to see aspects of my soul and learn what my relationship is with this world. Visions flow into my mind, and I try to record them exactly as I see them without my own barriers and ego. When people tell me they like my work, I usually say, ‘Thanks, I do too’ because I feel like they are gifts given to me. Sometimes I experience a rush of visuals and I have to quickly get to my studio before I lose them. If someone stops me on the way, I’m thinking, ‘I can’t speak now, these paintings are about to be born!’ Maybe I’m a midwife bringing hope and light into the world expressed through color.’” Nadja now paints part of the year in Israel and part of the year in Sarasota, teaching and inspiring others to paint. “I encourage people to communicate their inner language. I try to teach them how to unclog their vessel and experience their real selves. Sometimes we need a reminder that there’s still pureness left in this world, and that it exists in every one of us! Lately I’ve been really drawn to painting portraits because, I love exploring the depth behind the wrinkles in one’s smile and the wisdom in their eyes. I see people as warriors because deep down, they’re defending something so pure.”
Nadja’s exhibition will be on Sunday June 21, between the hours of 2-8 PM at 1623 Birchwood, Sarasota, FL 34231. Please note change in venue. Updated details below. For an updated schedule of all the featured events that will be going on during the day, as well as all Nadja’s inspired paintings, please visit www.NadjaMarks-Shafton.com . Treat yourself to a wonderful day, celebrating the spirit of art, music & film.
Nadja has decided to offer to paint 7 original oil on canvas portraits at the discounted rate of $1,000 to Sarasota residents. A percentage will go toward the crowd funding campaign for her mom’s feature film. If you are interested, or have questions concerning the art exhibit, contact Nadja at 781-266-8483
Spirit of Art
Why: Celebrate inspiration, leave inspired
What: Paintings, wine & cheese, talks, live music,
Who: Paintings by Nadja Marks-Shafton, talk by Legendary Educator James Minor, live music by Juan de la Sierra
When: Sunday, June 21, 2015 from 2:00 PM until 8:00 PM
Where: Check day-of for updates at NadjaMarks-Shafton.com
1623 Birchwood, Sarasota, FL 34231