MARTINEZ -- Painting figures and abstracts are opposite artistic endeavors but Nancy Ingamells Robinson approaches each medium the same way -- by connecting with the subject using keen observation skills.

Whether the strokes on canvas are depicting an abstract image or a human, each stroke evokes vibrancy and color, said Robinson, whose paintings adorn several walls of her Martinez home.

"I paint for me," said Robinson. "I really don't plan. I just do it."

After raising a household of children in Pleasant Hill and being retired as a registered nurse from Children's Hospital Oakland for several years, Robinson immersed herself into acrylic painting classes and workshops to fine tune her skills.

"I guess that the French Expressionists were my first love," she said.

Other favorite painters include the Bay Area Figurative Artists group -- Nathan Oliviera, David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Brown. She's also admired artists such as Joan Mitchell, Willem de Kooning and Aptos artist Ursula O'Farrell.

Her figure paintings will be part of the group show at the ARt Cottage's "Homage to the Nude in Art" through Jan. 26, at 2238 Mt. Diablo St., in downtown Concord.

Jackie Carroll, Robinson's friend, said she can relate to Robinson's love of abstracts and figures because she paints them both herself. Carroll and Robinson, who met at a Civic Arts Education painting class about a decade ago, still paint figures together at open studio sessions at Lafayette Studio on Thursday afternoons.


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"From doing figures, we really learn how to observe the subject," says Carroll, "and maybe that carries over to creating abstracts."

When Robinson paints abstracts, she explores "fascinating uses of colors and shapes." When she's painting figures, she's not trying to capture their story -- she's interested in the uniqueness of the individual.

"There's nothing more beautiful than the human form," Robinson said. "I don't really get their likeness -- more of an essence. It's important I connect with a model and there are some that are just great."

For Robinson, painting has been a process of letting go and seeing where the artistic journey will take her.

"I just do this for fun," she said. "If it starts to get serious -- forget it."