When she sees something that she perceives as beautiful, or senses an energy that seems to dance in rhythm before her eyes, Norma Machado has found the intangibles that inspire her to paint.
This full-time artist, teacher, mother and grandmother does not lack for inspiration. “I am drawn to a variety of subjects,” the Eliot, Maine, resident said. “All of them have been part of my experience.”
She loves the ocean, rivers and lakes, as well as the mountains and skies. She also is interested in cityscapes and groups of people.
“If the spirit moves me, I can paint at 5 in the morning, as well as 11 at night,” she said.
Machado has been drawing and painting for most of her life. “I think it’s been since I learned how to use a pencil,” she said.
Machado was born on Cape Cod, but at the age of three, moved with her parents to Plymouth, Mass., where she was raised.
She still can remember sitting at the kitchen table and drawing with her dad, who never had a lesson, but who could sketch just about anything he could see.
“He was the earliest influence in my life. He also taught me to look for the beauty that is ever present in nature,” Machado said.
Communicating the beauty of nature’s palette gives her much satisfaction, she said. “I hope my strength as an artist is that my paintings will evoke an emotional response in the viewer.”
Machado has had a view of nature from many perspectives, having previously lived in York, Maine; and in Hampton, Wilton, Nashua and Dover. Occasionally, she adds an international perspective. She plans a solo painting trip to Italy this year, after having taken a group of artists there in 2005.
“Because it was a first, it truly was a learning experience. Lots of great things happened there,” she recalled.
They painted as a group in hill towns located around the nucleus of a small city in the Piedmont area, almost untouched by tourism.
As they worked in the small town of Gavi, they attracted curious onlookers, as well as an Italian reporter. Since Machado was the only person in the group that could speak Italian, she was interviewed, and an article, complete with photographs of most of the painters, was published in the city newspaper.
Another day, her cousin, who lives in San Cristoforo, the Italian hill town where her dad was born, invited the artists to paint on her patio deck where they could see the “ghost image” of the Italian Alps more than 100 miles away.
The invitation included pranzo (lunch) for 12. “It was truly memorable,” she recalled.
She said she found inspiration in painting the little nooks and crannies of the hill towns in Italy where her parents lived and played as children. She is considering leading another tour for artists there in 2008.
Machado’s Italian work, among her other creations, can be seen at Kennedy Studios and Fine Arts Gallery on Market Street in Portsmouth, and occasionally at the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery on State Street in Portsmouth. Some of her non-Italian art is on view at the Copley Society on Newbury Street in Boston.
“I do enjoy exhibiting. Each exhibition is a learning experience that is quite different than the one before,” she said.
In her artist’s statement she writes, “I seek to create paintings that will evoke an emotional response in the viewer, emotions that have been prompted by the perception of energy, inspiration and light.”
Elaborating, she added, “I hope the viewer will be moved by recognizing these things in my paintings.”
Rochester, resident Julia Simpson Hackett, also an artist, shares Machado’s avid interest in speaking and practicing the Italian language, which they spoke within their families as children.
She and Machado are both members of an Italian conversation group which meets from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at Geppetto’s in Portsmouth.
Anyone interested in the Italian language is welcome to attend.
“Norma Machado is about as good and true a friend as one would ever want. She is straightforward and helpful to all,” Hackett said. “She is as energetic in her art as she is in cultivating good, honest friendship.”
Hackett praises Machado as an excellent pastel artist. “Her work is as vibrant, interesting and moving as she is.”
Machado explains that pastels are her medium of choice simply because they are immediate and they do not have to be mixed with oil, water or anything else. That makes them easily transportable.
“Also, the hues are more vivid than any other medium, and although they appear fragile, they are a dichotomy because they almost never have to be restored,” she said. “The hues of the pastels that were created in the 16th Century are just as vivid today as they were then.”
She paints with watercolor on occasion and she loves working with collage, but pastels have been her favorites for years.
Machado shares her talents in teaching pastel painting at the Coolidge Center for the Arts in Portsmouth, and at Sanctuary Arts in Eliot, Maine. She also teaches several drawing classes at the Coolidge Center and at the Brush & Palette in North Hampton, which include “Drawing for the Beginner,” “Drawing the Landscape” and “Prelude to Portraiture (how to structure the portrait).”
For the most part, her students are adults, although sometimes high school students are in her classes.
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“I feel that teaching is a privilege, as well as a responsibility,” Machado said, “and I enjoy it simply because I really am a people person and need to be in touch with others.”
She finds teaching especially rewarding when her students go on to further their art education. “In the past, several people who had never had an art lesson enrolled in my beginner class, continued to advanced drawing, then went on to receive an art degree. How terrific is that!”
The most important advice her students can take from her?