Nancy Seamons Crookston Puts Color First

An Alameda oil portraitist picks her palette before her subject.


This portrait of the line chefs at Ole’s by Nancy Seamons Crookston hangs at the restaurant.

Painting by Nancy Seamons Crookston

Oil painter Nancy Seamons Crookston grew up in Utah and moved to Alameda three years ago with her husband, Gar Crookston, also an artist. But she feels like she should have been here all her life.

“It’s like I was in search of this,” she said. “I’m allergic to snow now, and this is where we stay.”

Even though she has exhibited several times in Japan and China, and her work is currently on exhibit at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, she loves supporting her adopted hometown, she said. Patrons of Ole’s Waffle Shop may recall her painting of two line cooks working the grill which hangs there, painted during the Frank Bette Center’s Plein Air Paintout in 2011.

A “master signature” member of the Oil Painters of America, a national nonprofit organization promoting excellence in representational art, Crookston studied painting under the Ukraine-born Sergei Bongart. His “color-first, subject-last” approach rubbed off on her. She paints everything from children frolicking at the beach to a belly dancer balancing a saber on her head, distant snow-capped mountains to a cement plant in Oakland. She is currently working on studies of women in history, including a painting of Mary Phelps Jacob modifying a corset to create the first modern bra.

She shows the influence of impressionist painter Edgar Degas, and dancers figure prominently in Crookston’s work. When she discovered a striking young woman working at the now-defunct Fudgelato, she dressed her and her friends in gowns, put on some music, and had them dance on the deck of the USS Hornet while she photographed them for a stunning series of paintings. She might add a “Klimt punch” with a touch of gold paint or leaf, as in the exquisite portrait of her granddaughter, Lizzy in Gold. Recent fantasy pen and ink drawings emulate Michael Parkes.

Crookston said she has been painting for a long time. “I’d say, ‘all my life,’ but not quite yet,” she said, laughing. “I’m so hungry for it. I can’t get enough. I paint every day,” she added. “Unless I’m being punished for some reason.”

See more of her work at Her studio is open by appointment.

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