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Week Eleven


74% Moon Setting over Lake Michigan.jpg

An on-line drawing exhibition

April through July

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Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to present PSG on PAPER, an exhibition about drawing. Each week, the gallery presents the work of one artist. 

All of the work can be purchased on the website's Store (above in menu). We will porch deliver anywhere in the MIlwaukee area free of charge. 

Artists include: Emily Belknap, Melissa Cooke, Steve Burnham, Skully Gustafson (Week One), Pat Hidson (Week Three), Nykoli Koslow (Week Two), Ashley Lusietto (Week Five), David Niec, Rosemary Ollison (Week Seven), Amy O'Neill (Week Eight), Mark Ottens, Nirmal Raja, Rafael Francisco Salas (Week Six), Della Wells, M Winston (Week Four), Christopher T. Wood. 

74% Moon Setting over Lake Michigan," 2019-20. Ink on paper, 12 x 9 inches. From the night of 8/9/19. $800

Dear friends,

Welcome to Week Twelve of PSG on PAPER, Portrait Society's on-line drawing exhibition. 
We are so pleased to present a new body of work this week by Nirmal Raja! 

"From the Earth" utilizes ground pigments suspended in egg yolk as a binder. Called 'egg tempera,' this was the common method used in Medieval painting before the invention of oil paint. When looking at the powdered pigments, you can directly see the transformation of mineral-derived colors into painted forms.  It is as if these are not invented compositions but rearranged geologies.  


Known primarily as a painter, David Niec has always also made sketches while outdoors. His drawings are made with micron ink pens and ink washes. Approaching the paper almost like an etching plate, he creates layers of small marks. It feels as if he is not simply rendering or recording but trying to imprint the very notion of night onto the page. The drawings hold immense depth and subtly of shadow and nuance. He says that to the eye, the night sky is full of visual activity and texture. He captures this sense of richness in the drawings. 

David Niec earned his BFA in painting and drawing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1988. He has had solo exhibitions at Dean Jensen Gallery, The Alice Wilds, Grace Chosy (Madison), The Land Gallery (New Mexico). He was an artist in residence at Gallery 224, Port Washington, WI. and at The Land/An Art Site in New Mexico. His work is in the collections of David Nash, North Wales; Concordia University Art Gallery; Mark Iwinski, Durham, NC.


In a lunar month, the moon goes through a repertoire of phases, from new moon when it is in shadow to full moon when it appears as a bright white circle back to new moon at which point the cycle begins anew. Its appearance as well as its pull on us is constantly shifting. At the same time it returns to familiar points.

Nature is constantly in flux. Any attempt to study, represent or understand it makes one very aware of this. It is fascinating yet elusive. It moves too fast to make sense of it. Nature is also cyclic. This problem can be approached with a strategy.

I am routinely placing myself in environments at specific times to observe and interact with the moon. Over the years, my knowledge and understanding of it accumulate and the experience somehow deepens. The moon however always remains beyond my grasp. 

There is a way that I work that involves a transaction between nature and art. An experience in nature informs the creative process. The creative process in turn informs the interaction with nature, gets me to look closer. I repeatedly go out to get more information and deepen the experience as the work that I'm making calls for that. A good way to approach my work is to go out and view what I'm looking at, the night sky, and then go back and forth between the image and the subject. That back and forth transaction has a lot to do with how the drawings are made.

david niec, studio.jpg

Each week we ask other artists in the show and sometimes special guests to comment about the featured artist's work.

Nirmal Raja
People rave about the golden hours of dawn and dusk but there is something soulful and solitary about a moonlit night. Maybe because the rest of the world sleeps, one feels like it's an extra special and magical experience. Maybe because the sounds of traffic, lawn mowers or chatter are missing and the wind over the water and the crickets are audible. For me David's work enters into a realm where I am able to experience the work not only visually but also can smell the night flowers and hear the sounds of crickets or faraway thunder as well. I can imagine the cool night breeze on my skin and breathing in the freshness of moist air. David's work reminds of moonlit nights from summers ago when I spent a few days by the lake with my young family. A couple of those nights, the moon light was so bright that I actually woke up because of it. Only to find myself again in a dream like surreal landscape - everything clothed in a particular light that only the moon can cast. I am grateful to be able to revisit that time in memory through this work. 

Christopher T. Wood
I very much appreciate David’s dedication to his practice, and attention to natural cycles of light over long periods of time. He goes to great lengths to make observations of moon cycles across the seasons from remote locations year after year. I like to imagine him chasing the moon through some remote marsh of the Northwoods of Wisconsin at four in the morning with his easel and paints. The resulting images give me a sense that there is still a great deal of mystery in his subject matter.

Ashley Lusietto
To the eye accustomed to light, the outdoors at night is darkness thick enough to cover all that lies within it. The longer you stay in the darkness, the more transparent it becomes. In his drawings, David Niec describes the landscape at night with an eye that is well adjusted to the dark. A soft wooly texture, created by delicate and energetic line-work that lies beneath washes of grey, echoes the blurred vision of a gaze taking in a night scene. Niec’s moons glow with an intensity that makes me forget that I am peering not at the celestial, but at a moment where the white paper has been left unmarked. There is a satisfying sense of the unresolved-- that ever changing living, growing, and never-ending wisdom of nature that Niec approaches with humility and openness. 

Tony Nickalls (PSG gallery assistant)
These drawings remind me of the photographs of Dawoud Bey in the exhibition, "Night Coming Tenderly, Black" at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018. The drawings capture how our vision shifts so much in low light levels. The wooded scene particularly brought out the way we perceive less distinctly and so we interpret the low light as the inability to see things well. But in reality as our eyes adjust we only need to understand that we see many details but they are different from daylight.

Many of us are surrounded by city light and rarely experience this low level of light when we walk at night. Yet for much of humanity, this has been the normal night experience. These are refreshing reminders of night time reality.

David Niec's Stuido 
Winter Moon Set at 20percent.jpg
"Winter Moon Set at 20%," 2018. Oil on panel, 36 x 40 inches. 
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