Nikki Basch-Davis is one of the most prolific and beloved plein air artists in Benicia, but what interests her more than being admired for her painting skills is being able to connect with her viewers in a deeper way. “I try to create a mood, or tell a story through my work, something that engages the viewer’s own imagination, she says. “It goes beyond how well I paint the water, it’s how the water makes them feel.”

Basch-Davis grew up in the city of Haifa, Israel, where she began her passion for drawing at the age of seven.  She eventually studied graphic arts at the Bezalel Art Institute in Jerusalem, then later discovered her penchant for painting at London’s Royal College of Art. In the 1970s she moved to California, where she settled with her three daughters in Lafayette. As a single mom she ran a boutique interior design business for nearly 30 years, while she remained a “closet painter,” stealing moments to practice.

Long before she moved to Benicia in 2003, Basch-Davis was a member of Arts Benicia, and some 27 years ago was part of the artist movement to save Eucalyptus Hill behind Safeway. Today she’s an active member of Gallery 621 in its new space downtown, and shares a vision for innovative exhibitions that draw new audiences to Benicia as an arts destination. Above all, she says her greatest accomplishments are her three daughters and nine grandchildren. “My best work of art has been raising my girls,” she says.

What tickles her now?  A growing passion for creating sculptures of women and children—and teaching. “When I’m teaching, I’m not promising a wonderful painting, but I’m promising a wonderful time, she says. “Making art is such a healing process. You lose your worries and get a rest from the outside world. What better gift can you give somebody?”