Collaborative creative pursuits strengthen couple's bond

09:59 AM, Jan 12, 2014

Noma and Jim Bliss both both grew up in the Rochester area and moved to the New York City area after marrying in 1999. They now live in Auburn. (Donna De Palma)/


Written By Donna De Palma

For information

Noma BlissÂ’ website is at nomablissart.com.

Many married couples work side by side, perhaps even on the same volunteer project or helping each other.

But Noma and Jim Bliss’ union has created a different kind of collaboration years in the making.

Noma will draw a figure on a paper. Jim will mount it.

Then, it goes back and forth,” Noma says. “Eighty-five percent of the work is mine. If Jim draws something, I may throw paint over it, then he tries to draw over that.”

Says Jim: “I respect great artists for their skill. She’s the only one that influences me now. If I render a face, she’ll do something outrageous to it like throwing paint on it, then she gives it back. I absorb what she’s doing and make it part of what I’m doing. Our styles are very different. That’s what makes it interesting.”

Noma appreciates that their one-of-a-kind collaboration allows her to spend more time with Jim, who is a cancer survivor and has had other health issues.

It wasn’t until five years ago that we were able to work on the same painting and appreciate the differences in our working styles,” Noma says. “Now we can work on a painting without one of us storming off.”

The two grew up in the Rochester area, both part of artistic families, and moved to industrial loft space just outside New York City after marrying in 1999. About three years ago, they moved to Auburn so they could live more simply.

Creating art keeps them moving forward, she says.

I work fast,” Noma says. “I’m all over the place when I’m painting. I can paint 10 paintings a day. Jim is very organized.

When we work on something together you can see both of us in it.”

To Noma, being a working artist means working in her studio, then finding innovative ways to bring that work to clients who appreciate her art, no matter where they live. Her art has taken her from Vancouver to Marrakesh.

This weekend, she was to lead a family program at Auburn Public Playhouse showing people how to tap into their creativity.

We live in a time that it is so fast-paced that people have to set aside time for one another,” she says.

Being creative is one of the best ways to unite people. Art keeps people connected.”

The road to now

Noma and Jim married in 1999 and share a common early introduction to drawing and painting.

Noma’s passion for art came from watching and then painting with her father, Stefano Mustaca, who with his mother had emmigrated from Italy and settled in Webster.

I wandered into my father’s studio one day when I was 8 years old and announced to him that I was going to be an artist,” says Noma. Mustaca, who made a living designing and making furniture out of his garage, tried to convince his daughter to seek the security of a teaching career instead.

Now, she says, she appreciates that her father recognized that she’d be a good teacher, because that essentially is what she does with her clients and groups she works with.

Jim Bliss comes from a Pittsford family of artists and illustrators — his father is artist Harry Bliss; his cousin, also Harry, has work in The New Yorker and a syndicated comic. Most of his family has gone into the business.

My father started instructing me in drawing when I was 2 years old. He’d invent exercises that were fun for my brothers and I,” Jim says.

Their work now

After childhood years of painting animals and flowers, Noma’s professional career began with figurative work.

Figures are what she focuses on today, because, she says, “I find people fascinating.” She tries to portray an idealized view of the world.

Inspiration, she says, comes from within. “I’m inspired by the air, by breath.”

In order to make a living as a working artist, Noma feels a need to create both fine art and decorative work.

Many artists are afraid to do purely decorative work, worried that they may not be taken seriously,” she says. “I think that there is a place for both in a working artist’s life, and it’s easy to make the distinction.”

When not working with Noma, Jim likes to draw insects and is fascinated by both science and art.

I’m interested in science, very interested in art — it’s about combining the two things. An insect is like a machine. Insects are so diverse in terms of their anatomy. It just fascinates me,” says Jim, who works in colored pencil and airbrush, and doesn’t consider his drawing skills perfected.

I’m always striving to improve.”

Noma, whose work is in the Memorial Art Gallery store, has completed commissioned work for clients both internationally and across the country.

I have a client in Vancouver who called me recently and described the color scheme of each of seven rooms in her new house. She wanted a painting for each room.”

Noma visited Marrakesh in 2005 upon the urging of a client there. She financed her trip by selling 160 4 inch-by-4 inch paintings at $60 apiece. She used some of the money to bring art supplies to children in Marrakesh, as a volunteer for Operation Smile.

I want to bring art to people, to communities, to anyone who can benefit from it,” she says.