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 being, 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 retiring as a registered nurse at Children's Hospital in 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.

Curious art lovers aiming to acclimate themselves to Robinson's painting style have several venues to view her work. Robinson is one of the artists featured at an abstract painting exhibit at the Boundary Oak Golf Course Clubhouse in Walnut Creek through Dec. 13.

Her abstracts and figure paintings are also being shown through the end of the year at Land and Home Mortgage Company, 533 Main St. in Martinez. A reception for Robinson will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 15.

Robinson and fellow East Bay Artists Guild members are displaying art through January at the John Muir Medical Center Aspen Surgery Center, 1601 Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek. Her paintings will also be featured at the Art Cottage's Nude Show in January 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.

Carroll said she enjoys the challenges of painting her own signature style of abstracts -- taking a well-known symbol or logo then deconstructing it.

"I guess Nancy must enjoy the same challenges in her paintings as well," said Carroll, an Orinda resident. "From doing figures, we really learn how to observe the subject 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."

Nancy Robinson, 'Abstract Artists Show'
WHEN: Through Dec. 13; Artists reception, 5:30-9 p.m. Nov. 30
WHERE: Boundary Oak Golf Course Clubhouse, 3800 Valley Vista Road, Walnut Creek