Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nature Speaks I: Landscapes (or: Feeling Small in the Big World)

This entry will be the first in a three-part series that introduces my body of work and gives you a little peek into my creative process, by sharing how emotions drawn from the natural world inspire my artwork. I categorize my paintings into three distinct series of works: Landscapes, Nature Abstracts, and Natural History Illustrations. I enjoy the freedom of working with different media and exploring different styles and subjects. Today, let's start with Landscapes.

"Lake Under the Morning Moon" - Acrylic on Canvas - © Anna Bronwyn Foley, 2012

The painting above was inspired by a walk in my neighborhood one morning this spring, when it happened that a gibbous moon was out overhead. There is no lake in my neighborhood, nor mountains, and although there are occasionally geese, they are rarely as picturesque (or quiet) as the ones I created here. The moon and the color of the sky put me in a mood that allowed this image to form in my mind's eye. When painting landscapes, I work from imagination and memory, rather than photographic reference. That gives me a sense of freedom: rather than having to focus on capturing minute details in my landscapes, I give my imagination license to take over.

My imagination was in a spookier, more mysterious place when I hatched the idea for this piece:

"Young Tree in an Old Forest" - Acrylic on Canvas - © Anna Bronwyn Foley, 2012

Again, the painting is rendered as a fantasy interpretation, not an illustration of any place I've seen in real life. But nothing sets my imagination going like a foggy morning. Fog is something like the dark of night that way; it hides the real world from sight, so the mind can conjure up all sorts of things that might never have been thought of in clear daylight. As a child, that meant I had a dreadful fear of the dark. Now, the same phenomenon makes fog and darkness wonderful playgrounds for my mind, allowing me to invent places I've never seen... Though, if I'm being honest, I am still a little scared of the dark...
Speaking of scary:

"Stormy Sea" - Acrylic on Canvas - © Anna Bronwyn Foley, 2012

Nature's power to crush us like squishy little bugs is awe-inspiring - not to mention frightening - and I think the sea exhibits that power as no place on dry land can. The image of an environment being in wild motion in every direction makes me shiver, but there's something exhilarating about that feeling (especially for those of us fortunate enough to have a safe, dry vantage point).
Landscapes and seascapes have the unique ability to make us feel a sense of our place in the world, while also taking us out of it, and making us spectators to nature. And although I'm always aware that I'm not really inside the world I'm painting - be it tranquil, mysterious, or violent - I love the sense of connecting on an emotional level with a piece of art, and using that work to communicate a feeling that I could never quite describe in words (this blog effort notwithstanding). A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words, and sometimes, a whole lot more.

Next time: Abstracts

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