’till the cows come home...
espite detours and distractions M.C. Churchill-Nash
has continued to create and develop her visual
vocabulary by incorporating all those diversions into
her current style. From an early age she was surrounded
by creative people and a variety of art forms — paintings,
mobiles, music and books — gave her a well-rounded taste
of the arts. Her paternal grandfather was a draftsman, movie
theater designer, and self-taught painter.
free time in class. Her father, a general contractor (hobby
photographer and painter), taught her basics of drawing,
perspective, and oil painting. During her public school years
classes in pastel at the Knoxville YWCA and night painting
classes at nearby Maryville College filled out her early
instruction. At age 14 a trip to NYC included a visit to the
Met where a large exhibit of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks impressed her so much she began to consider art as
a career… well that and a horrible experience with Algebra
II that steered her away from a parallel interest in the natural
sciences (geology or biology).
As an only child there was plenty of alone time… time spent
making things (drawing, mud pies…), playing with pets, riding any horse anyone would let her on, reading, gardening,
collecting rocks. During family trips to stay with her grandparents in Kentucky, Churchill-Nash took riding lessons, and
visited the big horse farms around Lexington. Horses were
among her first drawing subjects, and at various times both
a distraction and a detour. The first ‘horse’ was a donkey for
Christmas at age five. The life-long love for horses became
cemented with the first real horse at age eight. Unable to give
up either passion — “While too many competing interests have
jockeyed for position, often distracting me when I should be
creating, they have also enhanced my love of art, and taught
me to see the beauty and design in everything.”
While in high school she ran into her first detour. His name
was Casperone and he could jump large fences in a single
bound. After taking her first jumping lessons on Casper,
Churchill-Nash fell in love with the four year old Thoroughbred/Standardbred cross. Luckily he came up for sale that
summer and a life-long partnership ensued. Art took a back
burner until it was time to apply for college. With luck the
perfect school was found.
Sullins College in Bristol, Virginia, had both a wonderful fine
art curriculum AND a two-year horsemanship program. The
small campus (the art department was in the attic floor of
her dorm) was ideal to purse both interests without neglecting one over the other. A two year women’s college, Sullins
In grade school Churchill-Nash doodled horses on her notebooks, loved ‘art’ time, and would choose to draw during
had good basics in both studio courses (drawing, painting,
sculpture, and fabric design) and art history, which were
further reinforced with a sophomore year interim study trip
to Europe where Churchill-Nash was able to see so many
major works in person…. Rijksmuseum, Louvre, Prado… The
work of Goya in the Prado and Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride in
the Rijksmuseum made a big impact and led to research on
old master painting methods and materials.
“While too many competing interests
have jockeyed for position, often
distracting me when I should be
creating, they have also enhanced
my love of art, and taught me to see
the beauty and design in everything.”
Finances being a consideration, transfer to hometown University of Tennessee was the only choice to complete her BFA.
There Churchill-Nash continued to dip into various mediums
not previously available (watercolor and stone lithography),
plus many specialized art history courses. After taking her
first watercolor classes she changed her concentration from
oil painting to a combo of oil and watercolor. Watercolor
instructor, Carl Sublet, taught various techniques using mixed
media with watercolor that greatly influenced all her work on
paper. Experience with layout and paste-up in high school
journalism got her a student job in the graphic arts department at UT. After pasting up senior standing sheets day after
Farrier Day (transparent watercolor and white gouache)
day…she swore she’d never work in commercial art (“Never
say never.”) Art majors were required to take electives outside
their specialty, and, of course, Light Horse Management in
the ag school was one such elective, Casper still being a
large part of her life, even though he wasn’t ridden much
during college years.
After graduation the family construction business needed an
office person. Churchill-Nash needed studio space. The combination worked out for plenty of creative time, plus hands
on learning about running a business, taxes, and (back to
the math phobia!) learning to estimate painting and concrete
for jobs. Doing some drafting and drawing elevations for
remodel projects led to a brief fascination with architecture…
until she realized the vast majority of architects designed
warehouses, not FLW’s Falling Water House.
The Lounger (watercolor on Yupo)
the Mexican crafts. There she met some riders from Florida
that increased her interest in competitive dressage — minor
detour to concentrate more on riding skills and traveling to
During this period there were two critical events that helped
shape the course of Churchill-Nash’s subject matter. The
Harness Tracks of America started an art competition and
auction to promote fine art depicting Standardbreds and harness racing. In the inaugural show Churchill-Nash won 3rd
place in the drawing category for her pen & ink “The Red Mile”
and sold pieces in that and several other HTA auctions. Around
the same time she was invited to do live dog portraits for a
joint Humane Society and Purina program to ID tattoo dogs
for a national data base to find lost pets. Drawing squirming
dogs at the animal shelter honed her animal portraiture skills.
That plus a local gallery owner that bought paintings outright
and funneled commission work her way were the beginnings
of an animal portrait business that continues today.
Giles and the Girls (watercolor)
Meanwhile she worked to improve her drawing and painting
skills, reading, visiting museums, along with entering local and
national juried shows, and doing local art fairs. ChurchillNash found a niche in miniature work and entered miniature
and small works shows, winning some awards and making
sales. The study of old masters oil painting techniques led
to teaching some classes in beginning and intermediate oil
classes for the Tennessee Artists Association, local arts group.
Casper continued to be a distraction… along with seeing a
handspinning demonstration and developing in interest in
both spinning and fiber arts. While working in construction,
painting, and spinning (charter member of TN Valley Handspinners Guild), she took a riding vacation at a school in San
Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There along riding she got to see
interesting archeological sites, met artists creating beautiful
silver work, and was amazed at the bright color palette of
Calvin (transparent watercolor and white gouache)
The studio in the construction office allowed Churchill-Nash
to work simultaneously in oil, watercolor, and pen & ink. The
pen and ink work, influenced by the gray tones achieved
with stone lithography and the work of M.C. Eicher, often
won awards and accolades from other artists. For the animal
commission work, watercolor was preferable due to the preference for color shorter turn around, so more and more work
was in watercolor or watercolor with some mixed media.
The Red Mile (watercolor and prismacolor pencil)
A chance meeting with a brahma bull on a ranch in Florida
began a series of watercolor paintings of that bull which has
lasted for decades. “I was fascinated by his size, color, and
the multiple neck folds…when he came right up to the fence
to have his face scratched I was in love!” Her first painting
of the bull won a purchase award. Many of the farms where
Casper was stabled also ran cattle so other cows of various
breeds and colors have been added to her body of work.
The Big Detour — marriage and move to Charlotte, NC. Of
course, Casper moved too. Here Churchill-Nash joined the
two local visual arts organizations and began to enter their
juried shows, continued to enter miniature and other out of
town/state shows, and build up her commission business.
Another turn came when the then president of the Guild of
Charlotte Artists saw her pen & ink work at a show, hired
her to illustrate the Duke Endowment’s annual report, and
offered her a full time graphics job. From there staff/contract/
freelance graphic design and illustration took up more time,
but created a steady income. The switch over to computer
graphics happened shortly before her son was born, which
made freelancing from home a welcome option.
Another Brahma Bull (watercolor)
Her husband’s ‘day job’ (by night a musician) offices moved
across the state line to SC at about the same time the family
was looking for a bigger house — with land for horses. A move
15 miles south gave some breathing room both for horses and
for art. A two story detached workshop was remodeled for
both computer/office space and studio space upstairs over
looking the horse pasture.
Still actively participating in shows with the local arts groups,
she began to promote animal paintings at pet expos, horse
shows, and dog shows. In order to hone her human portrait
skills Churchill-Nash took portrait courses at the local community college with Rita Reed, and workshops with fresco
and classical painter, Charles Kapsner.
“I have several pieces of MC's artwork in
my house — pieces that I have bought just
because I loved them, and paintings that
I commissioned specifically for me — my
beloved Golden, Rory; my horses, Jack
and Dolly; mares and foals that brighten
my baby's room. Even after years of having
these pieces, a total of fourteen, I still love
to take a "gallery crawl" and soak them in.
It warms my soul.”
— Sarah H.
Farm Series (watercolor on Yupo)
Churchill-Nash’s recent activity has included several group
shows and a solo gallery show in Charleston, SC; acceptance
to ArtFields, a nine day juried festival open to artists in all
media who live in the twelve Southeastern states; becoming
a Member in Excellence in the South Carolina Watermedia
Society; and juried in to the South Carolina Artisans Center.
Participation in local Arts Council projects has covered
exhibits, teaching workshops, and on-site demonstrations at
AG+ART — an April event that pairs artists and crafts people
with area farms for a multi-county self-guided tour. In order
to break out of her natural hermit habit, she joined a group
of younger area artists, Friday Arts Project, that have two
monthly drawing nights (still life and portrait) as well as
occasional Plein Air get-togethers at local farms and parks.
paint, reworking areas in a very un-traditional method from
traditional watercolor. There is still a back and forth with the
commission work where more realism in color and textures
is often required, but the compositions are becoming similar.
Whether animal or human subjects… the eyes are still the
primary focal point. Discovery of Yupo as a base for pure
watercolor has led to experimentation with fluid/pigment
interactions on the non-absorbent surface and ever more
intense color. n
Lately Churchill-Nash has been developing her watercolor
and mixed media techniques, and while the subject matter
is still primarily animals and people, the compositions are
tighter cropped — breaking things down into basic shapes.
Her color palette has become less realistic and more vibrant.
Working on plate surface paper or board she likes to remove
Rock Hill, South Carolina