Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — They had a heart-to-heart talk, way back when Pam and Scott were just college kids in love. He wanted to be a Major League ballplayer. She had plans of her own, which didn't include merely being a prop.
She wanted him to play baseball, but also wanted her own turn at bat, so to speak. She wanted a self — which isn't always easy when you're married to a professional athlete.
"He said, 'Pammy, I'm so fine with that. Whatever you want to do,' " she said, this week.
So it was settled. They would both use their talents.
Fast forward through three decades and four kids and they're still fine with the agreement. Scott Nielsen is a retired Major League Baseball and former BYU pitcher who was taken in the sixth round of the 1983 MLB draft. Pam is now going by Pamela in her business life, and she's an artist in every sense of the word: recording artist, TV and print spokeswoman and avant-garde painter. Her pieces are now in places from Hong Kong to Las Vegas to Deer Valley to San Francisco, not to mention the home of TV advice expert Dr. Phil McGraw.
Scott is the CFO of Stampin' Up!, a company that makes decorative rubber stamp sets and accessories for scrapbooking and craft projects. She sells her paintings — vivid, rich, emotion-filled splashes on stainless steel, wood, acrylic and sheet metal — for $25 to more than $25,000.
That's what happens when career plans collide, then cooperate.
It's true Scott's four-year career in the big leagues garnered considerable attention, plus good money for his work. Meanwhile, she recently sold 11 pieces to the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. Twenty-three years after he last played for George Steinbrenner's New York Yankees, Scott might not be as recognizable at a party as his wife.
Much of this came about because of Pam and her colors. There's no avoiding them. Her pieces are neither Dutch masters dark, nor Thomas Kinkade light. Instead, they're bright strokes, smears and folds. Some pieces she completed by using just a single swipe of her palette knife. But those came after days or even weeks of preparation, blending colors and texture, picking materials, making practice runs.
The paintings come off in sunny interpretations. For instance, "Truth," an aqua, red, black, green and yellow piece that hangs in her gallery at 3030 S. Main in the BallroomUtah studios. Then there's "Godliness," a white, silver and purple piece done with acrylic paints on stainless steel.
None of this was in her mind in 1983 when they left BYU. He was a young right-hander trying to work his way up through the minor league system. In his first MLB game he walked a batter to load the bases. Glancing up toward the owner's loge, he saw the silhouette of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner raising his hands to his head and dropping them in dismay.
Still, Nielsen won nine games pitching for baseball's most famous team, as well as the Chicago White Sox. But it came at a price. They moved 36 times in nine years.
During offseasons, and increasingly after Scott retired, she began working on her projects, making commercials for both TV and print and releasing an inspirational CD called "I Am Free!"
She sang the national anthem at Utah Jazz games and performed with the Joe Muscolino Band, a Utah-based wedding and event group. The same year she released her CD (2003), she also felt inspired to paint, so she impulsively bought brushes, palette knives and acrylics, despite having "never picked up a paintbrush in my life."
Soon she was experimenting with wood, metal, porcelain and acrylics. A lighting expert who designed settings for business and luxury homes saw her work and told her, "This is amazing. You can sell these." He placed some of them in his office and soon clients began asking.
Her first sale was a half-dozen pieces to a woman in Arizona.
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