October 3, 2014

By Lisa O’Donnell Winston-Salem Journal
February 21, 2019

Artist Trena McNabb stands in front of a mural that will hang in the Palo Alto Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California.

Experimentation drove artist to develop distinctive style of overlapping images

Trena McNabb has a knack for creating beautiful things, through her art and gardening.
A longtime resident of Winston-Salem, McNabb created a meadow of wildflowers along a city sewer line near her Bethania home, filling the field with daylilies and coneflowers. As an artist, McNabb has created works for commercial clients as well as on her own, in a distinctive style that Journal art critic Tom Patterson has described as “a multilayered montage of brightly lighted, realistically rendered, thematically related scenes and images.”
McNabb formerly worked as commercial-design artist, taking up painting in her 20s.

Q: How would you describe your art?
Answer: Each painting tells a story that reveals its deeper meaning through a connected series of smaller paintings, details or small scenes. Sometimes exaggerated, transparent images overlap in a kaleidoscope of colors depicting the flora, fauna and landscapes that comprise our precious earth. Images are out of proportion with the other images and real life. They could be described as collage-like transparent painted images. I use a combination of realism and imagination to reflect my interest in nature and the environment. As one image overlaps another, the spaces beside and between, become “windows.” Filling those areas adds another layer of complexity to the story, which becomes deeper the longer one studies the work. I like to blend science, realism and fantasy and contrast it with a stark white background. I want my work to be more intriguing than a single glance can satisfy.

Q: How have you evolved as an artist?

Answer: I grew up in Thomasville with a passion for reading and art. As long as I can remember I loved to draw. As I grew up I became aware that it was possible to make a living as an artist. I began using my artistic talents to earn a living as a commercial art director. Leaving that world to paint full-time in 1995, I began to include my other love, nature, in my work. I am now creating large unusual landscapes utilizing the overlapping and transparent style I have developed. Experimentation has been the secret to everything I have accomplished. If I didn’t like something, I would try something else. The overlapping images developed as I was trying to correct something. I liked the effect and continued to develop it.

Q: Who has influenced your art?

Answer: There have been many people in the past who have encouraged me. I have a saying that an artist can go for years with just a pat on the back and a compliment. And I did go for years with minimal rewards. It was just something I had to do.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Answer: Even after hours in the studio, I hate to quit if there is even a bit of wet paint on the palette. Sometimes you just have to stop and eat! The other thing I like to avoid is marketing.

Q: What does art do for you?

Answer: My art is everything to me. It gives me surprises, delight, entertainment, purpose and the opportunity to meet people I would not have otherwise. I am never bored. They say art is therapy, well, I do art therapy all day, so I must be well-balanced, for an artist. Grin! It is so exciting to see images appear under my paintbrush.

Q: Any advice for other artists?

Answer: Don’t take criticism too much to heart. They are just expressing their own opinion, and everyone has an opinion when it comes to art. “I know what I like, etc.” Even when you do not have the spark of a “fantastic” idea, keep working. Only through the work can you find that “zone” that you are looking for. Ultimately the person who needs to like the work is you. Look at other artists’ work, but create your own. The goal of art is to be original.


Published: October 21, 2019
Reprinted from the Winston-Salem Journal
© Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.


©2024 Trena McNabb