Q&A: Questions & Artists – Tom Nachreiner

“Black Iron & Roses” by Tom Nachreiner.

I have known Tom Nachreiner for at least four years and have admired his paintings for at least six years. In the interview I did with him more than two years ago [this interview can be found online at], I talked about his incredible ability to capture a subject. Recently he added a color to his palette and maybe added more intense brushstrokes in his current work. The result is truly a visual delight.

I recently watched him do a demonstration at Edgewood Orchard Galleries in Fish Creek and saw him translate a complicated image into a wonderful simplified fresh work. He continues to teach throughout the United States and enter competitions, as you will read in the following two-part interview.

To view Nachreiner’s work visit

Randy Rasmussen (RR): Tom, was last year perhaps your most successful in national competitions?

Tom Nachreiner (TN): I’ve been extremely lucky in the last two years! Yes, in 2014 I was accepted into the same national exhibitions as last year, the difference being, in 2013 I won the big award at the Oil Painters of America (OPA) National Exhibition, the Dorothy Driehaus Mellin Fellowship for Midwestern Artists, a $20,000 award. Again, this year I was accepted into the 23rd Oil Painters of America National Exhibition in Bennington, Ver. (for the fourth time in five years), and then the OPA Eastern Regional Exhibition in Cincinnati (for six times in all), going on right now. Also the American Impressionist Society (AIS) Exhibition in Denver is coming up soon (the second time accepted in two years of entering). Last year was the first time I entered AIS and I have been entering OPA since 2009. I’m still relatively new to oil painting, since 2003, with still so much to learn.

RR: How many competitions do you enter each year?

TN: I concentrate on the three national competitions I’ve listed above, and then I participate in three plein air competitions in Wisconsin. I try to only focus on just the highest quality competitions and exhibitions, so the awards mean more. I will carefully try to add to this list as time goes on, but there are so many competitions and I want to pick the right ones for my painting style and for my lifestyle.

RR: I directed readers to your wonderful website where they can see examples of your work. Are you doing more figurative paintings?

TN: Yes, thank you. has worked well for me. I have always been a figurative painter and illustrator (nationally known as a figurative illustrator and sought after locally for my figurative work in advertising). Some fine art galleries in the past told me “people don’t sell,” so for a while, in my fine art, I did concentrate more on cityscapes, landscapes and still-lifes. But, in the last three years I have been focusing more on figures in national competitions and in my Edgewood Orchard Galleries featured shows, and I have received many favorable responses, and some awards. So I am excited to continue to work and to grow as a figurative painter. Richard Schmid said years ago, something to the effect, “Good figure painting separates those special artists from the rest.” I plan on working from life more in 2015.

“Ice Cream After Dark” by Tom Nachreiner.

RR: I was fortunate to attend your opening several weeks ago at Edgewood Orchard Galleries in Fish Creek. How long will readers be able to see your new paintings?

TN: The best gallery in the Midwest, in my opinion, will have my new works hung from Aug. 30 – Sept. 25. Please hurry to get in there. After the first night, eight were sold. After Sept. 25th, what’s left will be split up and continue to be on exhibit in other group shows. But, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask to see my 2014 paintings, and someone there will help you. I am so privileged to be a featured artist in my fourth featured show.

RR: Has your palette changed over the last two years?

TN: In the past, I worked with a full palette. In the last couple of years, I have been working with a new, more limited, palette of the primary colors – yellow, red and blue – plus white and, just this year, black. I mix my own secondary colors from those. Added to that are grays and browns, mixed from all of the leftover colors on my palette after each painting session. My goal is always to strive for more color harmony through the continual mixing of those primary colors. Yellow and red to warm a color; blue, white and black to cool a color; and red as the modifier to temper all the colors. I have also gone totally solvent free and do more wiping of the brushes in between color changes, and try to use one brush for lights and one for darks, when I can.

RR: Readers have asked if you paint every day?

TN: Yes, I’m very dedicated, but I don’t paint plein air everyday, and I have been known to take some time off here and there to recharge my batteries. Since 1978 my wife Nancy and I have been self-employed from my art and I have been painting every business day as an artist ever since. Since 2003 I have been a full-time fine artist and still have so much I want to accomplish, so I plan each day and each painting the night before, and I plan my whole winter of studio painting. I don’t always paint all day. During some of the day, after painting, I am working with the entire art process of gathering reference, preparing canvases, framing, managing my website, entering shows, ordering supplies and organizing all work on my computer. I also spend time preparing my yearly promotional calendar, coming up soon, and advertising online and with my newsletter to my artist friends, students and patrons. I do throw time with the grandchildren in there at the end of some days to relax – they are only a mile away.

RR: Do you ever change the color of your under painted wash?

TN: Yes, all the time. I approach every painting differently depending on the subject, the lighting, the mood, and my mood. But I always keep my under painted wash warm and usually light, changing from siennas to yellow ochres to light oranges to sometimes a more neutral warm gray or light gray. I also paint just on white canvases and linen panels without any under wash. I like working on an off-white primed linen too. Most of the time I put an oil wash down just before I start, but not over the entire surface. Other times I prepare a light wash, in oil, ahead of time and let it dry, especially if I have many boards to be stamped for a plein air competition.

“String Harmony” by Tom Nachreiner.

RR: How many plein air events do you plan on painting in in 2015?

TN: Because of my 2015 exhibition commitments, I will probably stick to the same three this coming year, which, with my workshops, fills up my summer: Cedarburg with 160 artists, Door County Invitational with 40, and Shorewood Plein Air with 50-60. I’m not quite ready to be on the road even more, but maybe in the future, as Nancy has suggested that. I don’t want too much time taken from preparing for next year’s show at Edgewood Orchard Galleries. I love to paint in my studio at home, and in my southern studio on the Alabama coast, besides painting in plein air events. I paint all fall, winter and spring in my studio, and get outside in nice weather, all to prepare a body of work I am proud of, for next year’s Edgewood Orchard Galleries show. Plein air competitions are, for now, a summer activity, although I conduct plein air workshops in the spring and fall.

Tom Nachreiner’s work can be seen at Edgewood Orchard Galleries in Fish Creek until the last week in September.