Artist of the Month: Nicole McCormick Santiago

Guilt & Innocence (oil, 48×37) by Nicole McCormick Santiago was an Animal/Wildlife finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s 25th Annual Art Competition. McCormick Santiago is our December 2009 Artist of the Month.

Residence: Williamsburg, Virginia


Like most people, I began drawing and painting as a small child; unlike most, I never stopped. In 1999 I earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in studio art from Indiana University Bloomington, and in 2003 received a master’s degree in painting from the University of New Hampshire.

I’m now an assistant professor at the College of William and Mary, where I teach courses in drawing and color. There’s an ever-constant battle between my teaching career and my artistic career. Although teaching and painting often inform each other, maintaining balance between the two is quite a juggling act. I often like to experiment with mediums, but my favorite materials are charcoal and oil paints. As far as genre goes, the domestic narrative is what interests me most.

The dogs were what inspired this painting. The black dog is mine; the white dog belongs to a neighbor artist. We often let the two of them run back and forth between the studios while we work, but this day both dogs decided to settle in my studio. This painting took about 40 hours, which is a standard time frame for a painting of this size for me.

I generally keep a warm and a cool version of each spectrum color on my palette, although the palette changes slightly with each painting. I like to work from life whenever possible, and prefer this method to photo or sketchbook references. But I do use photo references and sketches when that’s not possible.

Painting the dogs was the most difficult and the most enjoyable part of creating the painting. They often moved, changed positions and at times completely left the setup altogether. I eventually took photos of them to get the drawing down, then continued to observe them from life to capture the color transitions.


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