Sylvia Nitti with one of her paintings

Sylvia Nitti turned a childhood passion for drawing into a career as an artist. Her work frequently focuses on women and often includes flowing shapes, fabrics and water.

A lifelong artist’s earliest canvas was the walls of her uncle’s home, where she scribbled her first drawings as an infant.

That earliest memory, fuzzy in detail, recalls the first scribblings in her dedication to creativity. Sylvia Nitti, a Tahlequah resident, has been pursuing the application of oil, pastels and watercolors since then.

“A lot of (people) will ask when did I start drawing,” she said. “That is one I get a lot of the time.”

It started on her uncle’s walls, who, despite her graffiti, encouraged her. He would bring her prismacolor pencils when he would visit her in her home town of Larnaca, Cyprus.

Since then, she’s been sketching and painting, turning her passion into profession. Nitti is a professional artist and an art instructor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

 Nitti developed a style unique to her. She uses fabrics in her paintings for the “sheerness of cloth.” Liquids, particularly water, flow throughout her work. Prominently featured throughout her work is the feminine form.

“A lot of the paintings I do are my own thoughts,” she said. “I don’t like to do self-portraits, so I will use subjects with my own thoughts.”

Apart from models, her children and waterscapes are prominent features of her artwork. Her daughter is often the subject of her work. Her son often acts as a muse for her, leaving paper folded into roses.


“I always have a strong plan for the things I like to do,” she said. “I usually use a reference, but sometimes I’ll have to move things around.” 

Remembering ideas can be as challenging as developing one. The trick is to keep track of them. 

“When you do art, you come up with so many ideas; some come to fruition, some stay as ideas,” she said. “I always like to plan things out. However, as you go through the process, you find things that just seem like they are not working, so then you change those things out and make adjustments.” 

Sometimes a flower doesn’t sit right or the brush stroke can’t quite capture how a petal falls. Many of Nitti’s ideas go down in her notebook. Sometimes those ideas are sketches, short scrawlings or sketches annotated with short scrawlings. 

“It depends on what’s going on at the time,” Nitti said. “Sometimes it’s something simple, like a dancer.” 

Nitti, an internationally renowned artist, has been exhibited in places such as New Mexico, New York, California and Cyprus. She has earned numerous awards. Some of the artists who have influenced her are Gustav Klimt, John Singer Sargent and Alphonse Mucha. 

As her passion turned to profession, deciding when a particular piece is complete has changed. 

“In the past, it was more about ‘Oh I don’t see anything else I feel I can do to it,’” Nitti said. “But these days, it is more like ‘oh no, I have this deadline and I just have to call it quits.’” 

She is driven by deadlines for exhibitions. And she drives her students with her own deadlines. 

“Having more work and less time, it pushes me to move on,” she said. 

React to this story:


Recommended for you