A Painterly Perspective

Loving companion prompts a personal movement for artist Nelly Spiro involving shelter pups.


Nelly Spiro sees her painting as a calling and often turns to animals as her muse.

Photo by Megan Small


Nelly Spiro is a multitalented artist whose works have been displayed at the Alameda Art Gallery at South Shore Center. Painting represents a venture into new territory for her, one in which she is transferring her puppy love to the canvas.


Tell me about your artistic journey.

Being a painter felt like a calling to me, so I decided to go back to school about eight years ago to study art and follow my passion. I was still raising my family at the time but felt like something was missing in my life. I craved an artistic outlet and discovered that painting is something I want to do for the rest of my life. I experimented with many mediums and loved them all but wanted to define my own style and original personality. I always loved the work of van Gogh and Post-Impressionistic artists and found the heavy brushstroke to be a natural style for me with my favorite medium being oil. Painting has given my life new meaning and invigorated me like nothing ever has. My work has slowly evolved into my own voice on canvas. It took time, but I feel excited at how far I have come, and where I can still go as an artist.


What are you working on now?

After losing my dog, Sue, a 15-year-old white Lab who was very precious to me, I decided to paint a portrait of her to keep her memory alive in my home. The process of painting Sue felt so natural and right to me that I have started painting dogs for other people. Through the loss of my dog, I found an emotional creativity that has been a very personal and fulfilling discovery. I love being able to capture other dogs’ personalities and reflect who they really are. This new avenue has also inspired me to help people adopt dogs through local Bay Area animal shelters. My plan is to paint a dog from a shelter, once a month, to give to the family that adopts the dog. I’m still working out the details for this idea, but those of us who love dogs can appreciate the joy it is to have a special photograph or painting of our beloved pets.


Tell me about the nonprofit Alameda Art Association and the Alameda Art Gallery.

The Alameda Art Gallery is a treasure in Alameda. The nonprofit association has been in existence since 1944. All of the contributors have some connection to Alameda or are currently residents. Each member of the association pays a minimal monthly registration fee and is also asked to volunteer six hours a month at the gallery. Once a month, an artist of the month is featured, and the artist is present at the special exhibit to answer questions and talk about their art. This opportunity to have a personal connection with the artist is well received and makes for a successful and fun evening for all involved. The gallery truly prides itself on celebrating art and local talent. Times and dates for these special receptions can be found on the gallery website.


How long have you been a part of the art gallery?

I joined six years ago after accidentally discovering it while walking by it at the South Shore shopping center. I immediately could appreciate the hometown effort and spirit and wanted to be a part of the local energy to support the art world. One of the things I love is that the association offers a wide range of talent in a spacious space allowing for a pleasant visual experience. There is so much offered in the way of varied forms of art and opportunities for commissioning art. Jewelry and fused glass art are sold in addition to photography pieces, as well as the oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings available. My wish is that more people support our local artists. The artists not only are first and foremost quite talented, but they also are very dedicated to our city, and in many cases, they will share their source of inspiration and the stories behind their paintings. I recommend people get on the gallery’s mailing list and see what’s happening in our hometown. If you frequent the gallery regularly, you might just find the perfect art for your home or office.


Sounds like you’ve found your niche.

I really have. I am very excited about the direction my art has taken. I paint with conviction. My spiritual beliefs affect my painting style and sometimes even the choosing of the color palettes for my paintings. I find that my true inspiration is from nature. While I’m excited about my new venture with dog portraits, I still love to paint children, landscapes, and seascapes, and I remain truly obsessed with the sunset, sunrise, the moon, and trees. I usually start with an under painting from a photo I have taken, and then the painting starts to take on a life of its own, and the result is always surprising to me. It feels great to know what I was meant to do.

To see Nelly Spiro’s work, visit her website, www.NellySpiro.com.

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