After a long career in broadcast journalism, Tiki Island artist paints again
“My art is like a rebirth,” said artist and Tiki Island resident Margaret O’Brien-Nelson, who recently began painting and drawing again after a long hiatus.
O’Brien-Nelson always was interested in art when she was young, and even studied art at the University of Houston. But a three-year stint in the U.S. Army delayed her education, she said.
When O’Brien-Nelson got out of the Army, she returned to the University of Houston and earned a degree in broadcast journalism, working in that industry for 40 years until she retired in 2017.
“In 2019, I started taking lessons at the Glassell School of Art in Houston and rediscovered my love of art,” she said. “There’s a song by The 13th Floor Elevators called ‘Postures’ that tells the listener to keep climbing and that is what I’ve been doing.”
Judging by the paintings O’Brien-Nelson has been churning out, she has been doing just that. Working mainly in oils, the majority of her canvases feature vibrant colors, vertical and horizontal lines and coastal images. She also has a passion for restoring and painting vintage furniture.
In April, she entered “Texas City Overpass” in the Texas City Art Festival and won first prize in the Not Under Glass Hanging category. Another painting, “Texas City Crossroads,” is on exhibit at the Lawndale Art Center in Houston.
“Most of my influence comes largely from our home in Tiki,” she said. “I do paint in our Houston home as well, but I am mostly inspired by the things near Tiki, like Virginia Point, Bayou Vista, Moses Lake and West Bay. It’s important to me to be outdoors and observe the little things, like grass growing up through cracks in the road, which is reflected in ‘Bayou Vista Overpass.’”
A pastel, “Galveston Bridge View from Virginia Point,” is a particular favorite of O’Brien-Nelson’s that sold at auction with proceeds going to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Yet, she has other Virginia Point images she has painted, such as “Virginia Point Turnaround” and “Palm Stand,” featuring a clump of palm trees blowing in the wind.
“One of my recent pieces is a duck camp on the intracoastal waterway,” she said. “My husband, Don Nelson, and I were coming back from West Bay, and I was captivated by the lighting, ripples in the water and sky. All those colors were there in some variation, but in my head they became different. I call it ‘Slip Inside,’ another Elevators song.”
O’Brien-Nelson calls herself a slow painter, and her canvases reflect the intricate details that take time and are important to her. For instance, “Skyline Boulevard,” is a sparse scene of broken concrete and storage tankers. “Crawfish Boil,” with striking vibrant blues and bright yellows is another.
“I have a lot of lines in my work, and when it comes to color, it’s a matter of how much I can push those colors without them being harsh,” she said.
Another painting she recently completed is the view from her studio, titled “Zeus on Deck,” which is the name of the turtle, sculpted by her brother, prominently featured on the outside deck. The metal bird in the upper right corner used to hang on her mother’s fence.
With more than 20 paintings under her belt now, including a self-portrait, an abstract titled “Free Fall,” and many others, she also draws in her sketch books daily. New ideas constantly swim around in her brain, so the sky is the limit as to what will make its way onto a new canvas, she said.
“I want to go out in my kayak to Swan Lake in Texas City because there are some areas where there used to be an old warehouse,” she said. “It’s just a pile of bricks now, but I want to paint it. And, of course, Virginia Point will continue to show up in my work. I am totally intrigued by that place.”