Wednesday, June 20, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 15

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 12th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 19

Nancy Yaki's vibrant landscapes celebrate love of Alaska, Central Coast


When Nancy Yaki was in the eighth grade, people finally stopped asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up.

"It never changed," she said. "Whenever they would ask me what I wanted to be, I would always say, 'I'm going to be an artist.'"

Growing up in the Berkshires in Connecticut with a family of seven, Yaki led a life focused on nature and outdoor activities. She always found herself with her siblings, exploring, fishing, ice-skating, or riding boats on the lake they lived by.

Nancy Yaki, whose work is on display at Flying Goat Cellars in Lompoc through July, gets inspiration for her landscape painting from scenic drives and more. “It’s about a journey, with me and the viewer,” she said.

"My mom used to cut us loose," Yaki said. "We always had plenty to do. I was very hands-on with nature from that point on. I always had this affinity for water and nature."

Yaki attended college for art in New England, but as she grew restless she ventured west, eventually landing in Seattle. She stumbled upon a boat heading up north to Alaska. With little more than $240 to her name, she bought a one-way ticket and ended up in Homer.

"It was serendipitous," she said. "I had a connection to the raw land. I really resonated with the wild lifestyle. It was similar to my own childhood, growing up with things like a wood stove and living a simple and clean life. Everything about it spoke to me as a landscape painter."

Yaki spent nearly three decades in Homer, which she described as an artsy hamlet. At that time it was more of a fishing village than the tourist attraction it's become now. She and her husband (who went to school in Carpinteria) decided to make the move to the Central Coast when their daughter was 10. At first, the thought of moving to California was daunting to her.

"My first thought was, 'LA, oh no, I could not live in that,'" she said. "We landed in Santa Barbara, and when we drove over the pass, I thought, 'This is really charming.' It's not the rugged austere look of Alaska."

Ten years later and Yaki has absorbed much of what makes the Central Coast unique as a subject for landscapes, which shows in her paintings. A lot of her inspiration comes from driving, soaking in scenery, and ignoring distractions like cell phones.

See Nancy’s show
Catch Nancy Yaki’s retrospective exhibit, Ten Years in the Making, at Flying Goat Cellars, 1520 E. Chestnut Court, Lompoc. The exhibit runs through July. More info: 736-9032.

"I'm looking at the light all the time and the contours of the land," she explained. "Sometimes I'll turn and just look at the land. When I'm painting, I don't want to duplicate what I'm seeing. I want to infuse my emotional state."

Currently, the landscape artist known for her large canvases is working on thumbnail paintings, watercolors that are about 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches in size. She said the intimacy of the scope allows her to quickly generate an image from inspiration and analyze later for a potentially larger piece.

"As an artist, when I travel, if I see a spot I really like, I can just get it right there and then," she said. "I carry my watercolors and my papers with me in my car. ... The ones that work out really well, you can expand those to something larger."

Yaki's work can be seen at a variety of exhibits coming up, including a solo exhibition May through July 2018 at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant in Los Olivos and an exhibit at the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art in Solvang in 2018. An exhibit titled Ten Years in the Making is currently on display through July at Flying Goat Cellars in Lompoc.

Additionally, Yaki was recently invited to show a piece at the 44th Rocky Mountain Water Media Show in Evergreen, Colo., a show that the visual artist is looking forward to traveling to.

"There's so much beautiful scenery here," she said. "That's what I'll be concentrating on. Why mail a painting when you could drive it?"

Rebecca Rose is trying to picture a flying goat right now. Contact her at

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