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This Tucson woman is a teacher, pastel artist, muralist and photographer
Meet Your Makers

This Tucson woman is a teacher, pastel artist, muralist and photographer

“I want to inspire people to be creative themselves,” says Nancy Wilkinson

Art completely surrounds Nancy Wilkinson’s life.

She’s an art teacher, a pastel artist, a muralist and a photographer. She even posts two-minute art lessons on YouTube.

“Each medium is a way of expressing the world around me in a different way,” she says.

Growing up, Wilkinson was always creative.

“As a little kid, I always liked to draw and paint. And then in high school, my teacher told my dad that I should go on with art and that was really an affirmation that I still remember all these years later,” she says. “I think that’s what people need the most — an affirmation.”

Wilkinson went on to study theater and English in college, eventually getting her master’s degree in art education. She taught art to high schoolers in Washington, in addition to elementary and middle-schoolers in the Tucson area, and adults in New Zealand and Costa Rica.

She currently teaches art journaling classes at Canyon Ranch.

Despite being able to teach the craft, Wilkinson has taken many classes at Tucson’s Drawing Studio.

“I’m always trying to teach and learn at the same time,” she says.

Beyond teaching, Wilkinson dabbles in several mediums, including pastel work when she illustrated two children’s books — “Tucson Charlie: Lost in the Desert” and “Tucson Charlie: Lost in the Zoo.”

“With pastels, you can smear, smudge and blend so quickly,” she says. “I had to do so many pages — each book required over 20 illustrations — and I just enjoy the medium so much because of the quickness of it and the versatility of adding different colors on top of each other.

“I worked with so many of those drawings in the books that now I gravitate toward (pastel),” she says, adding that she’s trying to move into other mediums such as acrylic and watercolor.

Wilkinson has also done a handful of murals — a few on a ramada at Booth-Fickett Magnet School, a couple more at the St. Francis in the Foothills church and one in Peru, which she did during a mission trip.

“In the case of the mural at Booth-Fickett, the ramada was just blah. There was nothing there,” she says. “I thought, ‘Oh, we need to do something different.’ I got help from the kids — they went out there and we painted.”

Wilkinson also dabbles in photography — her photos were even on display at the Tucson International Airport for six months.

“I have a lot of photos from (Sabino Canyon) at different times of the day — from dawn until dusk,” she says. “Of course, I love saguaros. Any nature and landscapes is what I enjoy photographing most.”

Her interest in photography piqued on a visit to India. “There was so much to take pictures of — everything from the Taj Mahal to the Ganges River and the people and the architecture,” she says.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first started, Wilkinson started posting two-minute art lessons on YouTube.

“I had been teaching before, so I had all these lessons prepared,” she says. “I thought why not share them in a short version with my friends? So it became a weekly event and little did I know, it’s now turned into 30 of them.”

“I want to inspire people to be creative themselves,” she says. “It’s not about me — it’s about the invitation to pick up a brush or pick up a pastel.”

Contact reporter Gloria Knott at gknott@tucson.com or 573-4235. On Twitter: @gloriaeknott


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