Painting inspiration - Nancy Boren -
“Fairy Dust on the Breeze” by Nancy Boren

Contemporary painter Nancy Boren shares her inspiration and process for painting “Fairy Dust on the Breeze.”

Painting “Fairy Dust on the Breeze”
By Nancy Boren (

My life feels like a visual treasure hunt. I try to notice things that are interesting and see if I can take the essence of those things and put them in my paintings. One such item is tintypes. They are fascinating when the edges are organic and show the drips and blobs of the light-sensitive emulsion that was poured on, so I wanted to recreate the feeling of those edges if I could. I used a brayer (a small roller used in printmaking) to apply paint around the edges. You have to play around with the runniness of the paint to get the look you want.

I also wanted to do another painting with motion in it and something happy and colorful, so a girl running seemed to fit the bill. There is a well-stocked resale shop near me where I have found many useful items, including this dress. It is good to go shopping with an open mind; I didn’t have any color ideas when I went but loved this mint green with the pink flowers when I saw it. It looked like it would fit the model I had in mind and the fabric was a little translucent when held up to the light so I could imagine it being backlit, one of my favorite kinds of light. There was also a longer hem in back, perfect! I wouldn’t have thought of that myself.

Creative art projects - dress for painting inspiration

Compositions are always more dynamic if there are some diagonal lines as opposed to all vertical and horizontal, so I thought of a little hill in the neighborhood that the model could run up and down instead of on flat ground.

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Photo of a hillside

Since I wanted the organic edges and a slightly vintage feel, I started with a light sepia stain on the whole painting. I liked the combination of that and the mint green dress. I added some dark green trees that were present at the location, so then I had plenty to work with: lights and darks, warm and cool.

Having something trailing along behind her appealed to me, and I could use that design element to repeat the dress color, hence the streamers. I used crepe paper streamers and some made of iridescent tissue paper. Hint: if you want a long streamer but only have a rectangular piece of paper cut it in a spiral and you end up with an interesting twisty long strip. The 18 x 24-inch rectangle in the photo created a streamer 19 feet long.

Creative art projects - streamers

Creative art projects - fabric

Creative art projects for painting

Creative art projects for painting

“Fairy Dust on the Breeze” was done on oil-primed linen, which is my surface of choice, and I used my regular bristle brushes — mostly flats — with a few very soft brushes for blending edges.

This article was originally published in 2019

Learn more about painting Light, Motion, and Drama in this new art video workshop:

About Nancy Boren:
Nancy is a second-generation painter, following her famous artist father, James Boren. From an early age Nancy was immersed in the world of art making and oil painting. Nancy’s first painting, a watercolor, was done at age 12 while she sat next to her father as he painted at the Grand Canyon. She received a bachelor of fine arts from Abilene Christian Academy in Texas, and she cites the influence of notable traditional painters such as Sargent, Sorolla, and Fechin.

Her paintings have received major awards and recognition throughout the U.S. She is a Signature Member of the American Impressionist Society (Best of Show 2018), Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America (Bronze Medal 2016), Signature Member of the Outdoor Painters Society, Master Signature Member of American Women Artists (Gold Medal 2015, 2014), and a member of the Portrait Society of America. She recently released the art video workshop “Light, Motion, and Drama with Nancy Boren” through Liliedahl Video Productions.

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