Lisa Fulmer

Career changes can’t stop the artist within

Career changes can’t stop the artist within
John Nakanishi created “Fragile Drift” as a recent art class assignment to use the compositional element of horizontal strata with a design contrast that shows opacity vs. transparency. This painting is for sale at

Lisa FulmerCONCORD, CA—As a child in the upper Midwest, John Nakanishi enjoyed the usual creative pursuits of fingerpainting and coloring.

“My parents always encouraged me,” he recalls. “My mom used to draw cute character sketches, and my dad is still active as an oil painter.”

The family moved to Connecticut when he was a teen. He went on to an arts college there to study filmmaking and ceramics. One summer, he enrolled in a welding apprentice program to learn how to create metal sculpture.

“At the end of the program, I ended up leaving art school and spent 10 years as a welder, which eventually brought me to California to work in the shipyards,” he says.

After getting married, he was able to go back to college. But instead of returning to art, he got a degree in chemical engineering.

A winding path

“For the next 27 years, I was an engineer and research scientist for the chemical and semiconductor manufacturing industries. But even after changing my career path twice and taking time to raise children, I never completely stopped creating art.”

Nakanishi’s paintings are mostly impressionistic but often lean toward the abstract.

“Recently, I’ve been most inspired by imagery that relates to my Japanese heritage and also by nature,” he notes. “I’m an avid runner, so whenever I go for a long run on a familiar trail, I relax into a comfortable zone where I become lost in my own thoughts, surrounded by natural beauty. I often find myself in a similar state when I’m painting. We all know how endorphins provide a runner’s high, but that same chemical is also produced when creating art.”

Acrylics and inks are some of Nakanishi’s favorite mediums, and he enjoys experimenting with different techniques.

“I hope people enjoy the colors I choose and find my compositions pleasing to look at. Hopefully, they can get some of that same endorphin rush by observing my art as I got while creating it,” he says. “Ultimately, though, the main reason I make art is simply because I’m addicted to the process. I crave the act of creating art.

Artistic evolution

“Each step I take is a small glimpse into the final outcome. At a certain point, the piece magically comes alive and I watch it evolve and metamorphose into what I had originally envisioned – or at least, into something I like.”

Nakanishi and his family have lived in Pleasant Hill since 1994. This month, he joined the Concord Art Association’s board of directors.

“Last year, I joined several art associations in the Bay Area,” he says. “I thought CAA was unique with its intentional efforts to give back to the community. I’ve been a youth soccer coach for many years, so I especially appreciate how CAA gets involved in sharing art with children. CAA also provides many opportunities for artists to improve their skills and gain more exposure.”

Learn more about his work at

Lisa Fulmer is a marketing consultant, published author and a community arts advocate.