Nat Connacher - I Believe Everyone Deserves Original Art That Speaks To Their Own Souls – To Thrive (Artist From Canada)

Nat Connacher

Tell us more about your background and journey.

I grew up in the ’70s, living in Toronto, Canada, the oldest of 4 boys. Life was much freer then, our parents would send us out into the neighborhood and ravines that surrounded our house, unsupervised, often for hours on end. It was during these excursions with my brothers and friends that my imagination would come alive – we were always on a great adventure, discovering new worlds. It was during these excursions that I learned how I made sense of the world, felt about the world, and communicated with the world, was through pictures in my mind. Not through words or numbers, I am dyslexic. Not through sounds, I am tone deaf. But through sight, which is ironic since I have been blind in my right eye since birth and my left eye is nearsighted.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

I picked up a pencil around grade 3 or 4 to illustrate stories in remedial reading & writing classes to help organize my thoughts. It was not until middle school that I had my first experience of how picture-making could affect others and myself. On one family vacation, I was drawing an airplane. Someone next to me noticed and asked if they could have it. For the first time, I understood that pictures could make someone, other than myself, happy. I could connect to others through pictures, and I did not need to be alone.

Throughout my school career, from grade school to graduate school, the art room became my safe place. My other academic classes suffered as I tried to overcome my dyslexia. Like all children, adolescents, and young adults, I was motivated by looking to others for artistic direction, techniques, and inspiration. Trying my hand in portrait painting, landscapes, pencil and pen drawings, poster making, and photography gave me a foundation to visually interpret the world.

College (Nova Scotia College of Art & Design) brought new personal insights for me as I naturally separated from my family and looked for my own voice. It was at this time I discovered a lifelong love for typography and an ability to simplify complex ideas in simple and direct visual pictures in the form of corporate branding & information design. During this time, my academic interests merged with my artist ones – combining typography in engravings.

Receiving my MFA in Design at Yale University deepened my passion and joy for typography. Yale also brought the introduction of computers into my professional, creative, and personal life, which allowed me to fulfill what I thought was a personal dream but was a family expectation: starting a business. Little did I understand the consequences of this decision and what I would give up to achieve this version of success.

With the start of this design business, focusing on technology and design, I replaced my growth and interest in art with a fixation on technology. I was obsessed with ease of use and forgot about drawing. I limited my vision to what was on my monitor and not what was inside me. The process became more important than storytelling. And I commoditized my creativity by presenting myself as a technology expert and not a creative expert. 

This process did not happen overnight or follow a straight trajectory, but over many years, as my role as a designer, artist, husband, and father changed, this misalignment of focus caused me to resent clients and colleagues, for their endless demands, I became depressed by my inability to set boundaries and expectations that would better serve me and my creativity. But ironically it was in the downward motion of depression and anxiety, with nothing to lose, that I found my clearest visions and emotional energy. I was able to let go of my ego and simply accept other options and opportunities that I let lay dormant in my mind.

This cycle of repression and fearfulness, punctuated with moments of creative clarity and productivity is how I have unknowingly lived a good part of my life. It caused emotional turmoil within my family, my friends & colleagues, and myself. Historically this familiar and habitual behavior went on for most of my life, until I reached a point, several years ago where my resilience to this cycle was no longer holding up. I needed to create new paths to my creativity, and it required a radical departure from how I approached the creation of art and my life. 

With guidance and encouragement from a wonderful mentor, I was taught I needed to detach from the confines of my design world and physically put my body into creating art. To do this I literally stepped outside, to create art in the outdoors. In doing so I stepped out of my external beliefs of who I should be and moved into myself.

With this action, I learned that my personal expectations of others, my art, and myself were straight jacketing my creativity. By doing the opposite of my historical behavior, I was led to my creativity. Now I had a new process to access creative exploration other than through my historical cycle of emotion and upheaval.

Suddenly creating art for me became a full-body experience. It energized me. No more precious lines. No more second-guessing if I was an artist. No more prolonged depression. I have stopped denying who I am and embraced myself for the first time in my life. Through motion, I have connected to my emotions. The journey continues, I am still a that sensitive, quiet, and creative child, but now I have embraced him – for he is I.

Is it a financially stable career?

Being an artist for me has never been about the financial rewards. It has always been about my emotional health, challenging historical beliefs about myself, by revealing what’s inside my creative self. Financially it has always been my design/branding work that has supported me.

In the past 5 years, as my art has gained more recognition, I have begun the transition from designer to full-time artist. Local art shows have helped with this transition, but the biggest jump for me has been the development of my online gallery and store. It has given me a platform to showcase my work, but it also allows all levels of collectors to purchase my work. I believe everyone deserves original art that speaks to their own souls – to thrive.

Who is your favorite painter/artist and why?

Initially, my favorite artists were the Canadian Group of Seven, because of their raw depiction of the Canadian landscape that I have paddled through in northern Ontario. As my work has become more about my internal journeys, the artists Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Franz Kline spoke to me for their innovative mark-making and Gerhard Richter for his innovative application of paint and its removal in his abstract work. All use their physical body to install physical life into their work.

What is your inspiration for creating art?

Creating art for me is about understanding who I am and the emotional wounds that have affected me all my life. By using spontaneous physical motion to turn hidden emotions into abstract compositions of color and texture, I can better understand how they have influenced my life, often without my knowledge. By making my emotions visible, I can know them, accept them, learn from them, and heal myself and my world. 

The acrylic paint marks are layered onto the surface of the paper with different plaster trawls and pressure. Paint is then washed away in areas, exposing the underlying complexity, wisdom, and creativity we all possess – our authentic self, that others, want us to conceal.

What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring artists?

Do not pay attention to others, and especially your own expectations give yourself the space and imagination to truly discover your own visual voice and what you want to say. Try different techniques, try different mediums, even try different locations to paint. Know that you will have to get very comfortable with failure, but often it is when you fail is when you have succeeded.

You will learn what works for you. All my current work, my “Residue Series” came from a failed art exercise I thought I should do. In frustration, during the exercise, I took a garden hose and washed the paint off the paper I was working on, leaving a wonderful texture. This texture or residue has been my exploration for 8 years.

Which is your favorite book and why?

Biographies have always been my favorite books. I love to understand how people have evolved, overcome hardships, and the lessons they learned. Every human story is different, but the same – we can all learn from each others’ stories.

What is your painting technique?

I am layering acrylic paint with trawls (made and bought) and pressure onto Arches 156 lb. watercolor paper with spontaneous physical motion. Paint is let to dry in areas, then washed away with a garden hose, exposing the underlying complexity of the painting and texture of the paper. The art, once completed, can be hung as sheets of paper on a wall or even on a clothesline. For framing, the art is rewet and stretched over conventional stretcher bars and then varnished.

Interviewed by- Yashika Khanna

Artist Biography

Nat Connacher is a painter, photographer, and designer creating visual expressions of what he sees and feels around him.

Nat’s art has appeared in local groups and solo shows and in several galleries, locally and online. His art is also available as wearable art in t
he form of scarves and custom-painted jeans. He is president and creative director of Connacher Design where he combines his different artistic interests to develop visual dialogues between his clients and their audiences. His areas of expertise are corporate identity, branding, and visual information design for print and the web.

Nat holds a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Yale University and a Bachelor of Design in Communication Design from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

A native of Canada, Nat resides in Stamford, CT with his family.