Since COVID-19 hit, Ula Nero has been painting pet portraits on commission like mad. Among them are Toby the Dog, Violet the Pig, Amber the Chicken, Daphne the Cat and Joey the Horse.
Nero, 39, who works out of her home studio in Mukilteo, puts more than just a paintbrush to the canvas. She likes to work with acrylics, colored pencils, pastels and mixed-media. In addition to the brushes and pencils, she’ll also manipulate the canvas with sponges, blades, flame or her own hands to get the look she wants.
She draws inspiration from the world around her. Her style is inspired by the Expressionism and Fauvism movements. Her work includes brightly colored abstracts, funky animal portraits and vivid and loose landscapes.
“I am an artist and citizen of the planet attempting to capture the world around me and share my vision through expressionist and fauvist eyes,” Nero said. “If the eyes are the window to the soul, then my hands and canvas are the looking glass.”
A Polish immigrant, Nero earned a diploma in graphics and visual arts from Panstowa Szkola Sztuk Plastyczynch (College of Plastic and Art) in Bialystok, Poland, in 2002. She’s been painting ever since.
“Growing up under the heavy hand of communism, I was no stranger to suppression and silence,” Nero said, “so to combat this, art became my outlet for self-expression.”
Nero’s studio is a spare bedroom in her Mukilteo apartment. But the full-time artist doesn’t need a room to create. Her “studio” is wherever she can take her easel — the farther away from all the boxes and bins in that extra bedroom the better.
“Nature is my most inspirational place,” she said. “When I’m painting outside, I often lose perspective of time and place, transporting myself to whenever and wherever I want to be.”
While a student in Poland, Nero was awarded solo exhibits at the Dom Jansena and Palace Buchholtz galleries. Since moving to the U.S. in 2010, she’s shown her work in a number of exhibits and festivals in New York and Pennsylvania.
Of note, Nero’s painting of a cow titled “Moo” was printed onto a billboard in Hawley, Pennsylvania. She won a contest held by Wayne County Art’s Alliance to put her art on the side of the A.M. Skier Insurance Agency building to celebrate its 99th year in business.
She moved from Damascus, Pennsylvania, to Mukilteo in 2020.
One of her clients, Laura Jeffrey, from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, is a fan of Nero’s bright and whimsical paintings. Jeffrey has purchased about 10 paintings — some to keep for herself, others to give away as gifts. They’ve included commissioned paintings of a cow, the beach and a hot air balloon.
“She can capture an ordinary thing and, through the magic of her way with the colors and the brush, it just draws you right in,” she said.
“She has a great referral base,” Jeffrey added. “If they purchase or receive a piece of her work, they want more.”
In addition to her many pet portraits — social media helps Nero keep in touch with her clients on both coasts — she has been working on a series of mixed-media portraits of icons such as David Bowie, Elvis, Madonna, Bruce Lee and Frida Kahlo.
“I felt the need to fill the canvas with positive icons — those who inspired the world during troubled and uncertain times,” she said.
She’s also working on another yet-to-be titled sequence during the pandemic. Nero was inspired by postcards featuring Red Horse, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph and Geronimo to paint a Native American series similar to her mixed-media icons.
Find more of Ula Nero’s art at www.ulaneroart.com. Email her at email@example.com for commissions.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarabruestle.