Nowak was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Walter John and Linda Nowak. Walter John, a screen printer and sign painter by trade, introduced Letty to the basics of line, form, composition and color at an early age.
She spent the predominant part of her childhood on the shores of Gull Lake in Richland, MI but in the summers she would head out to the western coast of Michigan. She went on to receive a Bachelors degree in Fine Art from Michigan State University and upon graduation chose Key West, Florida as the place she would nurture her career in painting.
Nowak became a fixture in the local Key West art scene and eventually owned her own gallery, which allowed her to make the connections necessary to get her work proliferated throughout other galleries in the U.S. Pivotal to her success outside of Key West was her series entitled, “Faces of Key West” which was comprised of 100 different portraits. While the portraits captured the likenesses of a wide variety of local people, they began to define the uniqueness in approach, style and composition that would become unmistakably Nowak’s.
Nowak is known for unusually large portraits (5’ x 6’), which are always frontal, and always colorful. At times her style seems to verge on realism. Her images are both bold and striking, and the eyes of her subjects are unique in the way they seem behold the onlooker with a certain acceptance and benevolence.
Ask Nowak about what she is trying to accomplish with her portraits and a representation of the person is not what she is after. She is not out to capture their spirit, essence or character. Instead, her portraits are vehicles for abstract painting as well as representational.
“I want my paintings to speak as loud as the people I paint. I see my paintings as abstract pieces, blocks of color, which come together to create the recognizable image of a face. I work to make each piece more and more about the actual painting, through my marks and color, even more than the subject I am portraying.”
“The Faces of Surfing” is Nowak’s current body of work, which will eventually represent 100 portraits of the likenesses of some of the more influential, innovative, and unique people in the surfing community. From surfing legends like Skip Frye, Rob Machado and Peter Townend to industry tycoons such as Bob Hurley of Hurley Industries and Bob McKnight of Quiksilver, Nowak’s “Faces of Surfing” seeks to represent “all” of the faces of surfing.
Most importantly, many of her subjects that she has painted have not only appreciated the artistic portrayals she has done of them, but they have taken a keen interest in helping Nowak identify other characters, industry and philanthropic leaders from all over the world. Musician/ surfer Jack Johnson, surf legends Titus Kinimaka and Mark Richards, female 4x world-champion Frieda Zamba and many more are all going to be coming across Nowak’s canvas in the coming months.
“Faces of Surfing” is an amalgam of Nowak’s passions that prompted a move to La Jolla, California in 2011 where she paints from her ocean view studio. “With the West Coast move and the response and support from both the fine art world and the surf industry, this body of work seems to be on a path of endless possibilities.”
Due to popular demand Nowak recently re-opened her previous gallery in Key West, Florida, The Lemonade Stand Gallery. The gallery is located just down the street from its original location at 318 Petronia Street in the heart of Key West’s eclectic Bahama Village. The Lemonade Stand is open to the public Monday-Saturday from 10am - 4pm.