New Work

Mrs. Willoughby, Texas
by Nina Gates
36 x 48 Oil on Linen

My client is the adored mother of a large Texas family. She is ultra-feminine and possesses an energetic, fun, slightly swashbuckling charisma that captivates everyone who knows her. She loves growing flowers and is an expert on birds. The tree in the painting is an ancient Osage Orange tree on the property and is the beloved site of special family events. The family calls it the “Wedding Tree,” and its sprawling, welcoming branches are festooned with glowing lanterns at night during parties, and it is especially romantic during engagements and weddings. To that end, I included something old, new, borrowed and blue in the painting. In fact, the painting is filled with references to a happy family life and Mrs. Willoughby’s hobbies and interests, including flowers for the children and grandchildren, and bluebonnets in the field.

Mr. Arze, Virginia
by Nina Gates
Photograph by Andy Tran
36 x 48 Oil on Linen

Chef, outdoorsman, business owner, dog trainer and legendary connector of people–There is a fascinating article about Mr. Arze in the Washington Post, here.

What I love most about this portrait is that in telling the story of the relationship between Mr. Arze and his working dogs Blitz and Kuno, it says so much about who he is as a person. A gifted trainer, to see him work with these dogs and the way they respond to him is remarkable. As I painted the dogs, I came to understand so much about them. Blitz, the black and white dog (on the left as you look at the portrait) has won many awards and has a reputation for being the steady-Eddy. Solid and reliable. Blitz is a gentleman’s Pointer, and a true gentleman Pointer. Stalwart and brave, he’s the finest example of a working dog, and is entirely devoted to Mr. Arze. Kuno, the roan and white dog (on the right of the portrait) is younger and is a bit of a wild man. He’s energetic, still learning, and is more likely to make us laugh. I had planned to capture the dogs’ breeding and beauty, but I was also struck by how much character and emotion is communicated in their eyes and body language. Blitz’s face is Zen-calm. Everything about him—the way he sits, the noble way he holds his head, the look in his eyes—speaks of his confidence, experience and laser focus. Kuno’s posture and that little bit of worry on his face gives him away–despite his antics, his deep devotion to Mr. Arze is obvious and one can see how seriously he actually takes his duties. Both have a look of determination and readiness to work and I love the energy of the portrait.

Blitz and Kuno

“I remember …looking down at the dogs and just feeling happy with them and content with the day.”

Mr. Arze told me that the day was breezy, overcast and beautiful. He said “I remember standing in the field looking down at the dogs and just feeling happy with them, and content with the day.” I’m thrilled with how that comes through in the painting. Many thanks goes to the brilliant and breathtakingly talented photographer Andy Tran of Muddy Shutter Media. The best photographers and media production marketing company in the world today. One look and you’ll understand why I say this. If you have not yet experienced their powerful, flawless work, hold on to your hat–you can find them here.

Mrs. Schwalm, Texas
by Nina Gates
36 x 48 Oil on Linen

Mrs. R. Schwalm

Oil on linen

36” x 48”

Mrs. R. Schwalm, Detail- Leo
Wrapped and ready for crating.

By late afternoon we had captured some good photos in various outfits and poses and everyone was happy, relaxed and ready to celebrate with a glass of champagne. As I set up my tablet to browse the images, Mrs. Schwalm settled by the fire and kicked off her shoes. Leo and Charlie climbed into her lap, nudged and noodled until she made room and then promptly fell asleep. ( If you have a small dog you may be able to relate to be pushed to the far side of a chair.) A few minutes later Mr. Schwalm caught my attention, and glancing up, the sight took my breath away. Amber flames and the aureate cast of the fading sun bathed the room in gold. A diaphanous puddle of watercolor chiffon swirled around bare feet while sequins sparkled. The pearls seemed lit from within and even the sleeping dogs glowed in the firelight.

And so that’s the portrait I painted. “To see it in person,” someone said recently, “it just stops you in your tracks. You almost can’t pull your eyes away. It’s hard to walk away from the painting so everyone just stands and gazes for a long time.”

Mrs. Schwalm rarely sits down. Energetic, busy and kind, her days are spent in a whirlwind of activity usually helping others and she’s almost always smiling or laughing. The poise and repose in her portrait–thoughts turned inward in quiet contentment, the private smile, the contemplative evening light–is an aspect of her character that one senses but that the public rarely gets to see. I believe that’s why the painting feels entrancing and mysterious.

To see it in person…it just stops you in your tracks. It’s hard to walk away from the painting, so everyone just stands and gazes for a long time.

You may wonder how to choose an outfit or pose for your portrait. Perhaps you can’t decide if you want a formal portrait, a casual portrait or a painting that’s somewhere in between. I listen to your ideas, and we sort through ideas in a way that’s easy and fun. In any case, rest assured that your painting will be timeless.

A great portrait is so much more than a likeness of you; a timeless portrait helps tell the story of your life. Like your life, it’s filled with harmonies and contrasts. The nuanced way these details commingle is how I’ll capture your humor, elegance and character in this wonderful medium known to last hundreds of years. When family and friends see your painting tomorrow, and when people look at your painting 200 years from now, they should get a sense of your spirit. We’ll choose the details of your portrait based on these considerations, and if you like, or if need be, we can take photographs in a variety of outfits and poses.

Learn more in “Commissioning a Portrait,” here.



“So many happy thoughts and memories are captured in this painting. It marks a milestone in my life as well as the beginning of a new adventure. I love it, my family loves it, and I’m delighted it will be here for generations to come.”

Mrs. R. Schwalm