Thistledown Studio : Nan Wilson : Rochester, NY


About Nan Wilson

Also, see: artist's statement

I grew up in in the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York. My interest in Nature was there at the start—a preschooler sneaking out the back door to catch grasshoppers, worms, snakes, bees—and making safe havens for all of us.

"Art" for me meant crayoning when I couldn't be out.

Fast-forwarding past art school (illustration and abstract painting), my Nature and Art sides came together at our camp in the Adirondacks. Over many summers, using color pencil (so I could put down a pencil, pick up a child; and vice-versa) I did a series of 26 larger-than-life paintings of fantastic wildflowers that grew outside our door.

In our area, the series was exhibitied in four solo, month-long exhibitions at Saratoga's Open Space Gallery, Paul Smith's Visual Interpretive Center, The Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, and the Arts Center/Old Forge. Reproductions were sold at the New York State Museum and shown more widely, for example, at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

I am really pleased that recently, the originals have been accepted into the collection of the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. I retain the right to sell reproductions and they are on sale at the Museum's gift shop as "An Adirondack Acre."

In the midst of painting my wildflower series, my work was interrupted when my husband was called away on a 2-year assignment in Paris. You would think that might be good for an artist, but Paris is definitely about human nature more than Nature.  And raising two teen-age daughters there was a 24/7 job!

But one of my husband's assignments was assisting the Louvre in digitizing their collection, and from that we got a jump on the digital revolution--both in photographing and printing. From that time on I have done my own high-quality, archival printing right in my studio.

In many days of studying uncultivated plants through a hand lens, I began re-focusing on certain distractions: the dragonflies buzzing overhead (perhaps eyeing a mosquito eyeing me); or the mantis peering back through the lens as inquisitively as I was peering at it. So, what followed was a string of  'critter' paintings: dragonflies, butterflies, moths, spiders, lacewings, mantises, and amphibians.

Watercolor became my primary medium and in 1999 I was awarded the Watercolor Award in the Cooperstown Art Association's national competition.

Around Y2K my husband retired and we were able to  create

He maintians the website, one of his many duties as an A.S.S. - Artistic Support Specialist. He complains the pay is not great, but he works for the prestige of the titile.

His retirement freed us up to travel, so I was able to expand my research outside the upstate NY area to virtually everywhere in North America.

9/11 was grounds for a third series of paintings. Shaken, I retreated to the Adirondacks. I found regeneration while scuffling through fallen leaves. A series of watercolors called Renewal features individual leaves, each shown with the seed, acorn, nut or cone that will eventually germinate into a next generation.

Always fascinated by life cycles, I began to see butterflies as much more than pretty little creatures fluttering by. These adults live short lives, mainly for procreation. It is the full cycle from eggs through caterpillars, chrysalises to adults that is the compelling story. I started with a four-painting series on the individual stages of the Monarch's metamorphosis. From there I began a series of life cycle works, each stage of a butterfly set within in its native environment featuring its specific host plants. This became my signature art form--The Butterfly Lifecycle Painting. I have painted 35 of them and continue on. And I now have over 25 larger-than life dragonfly portraits and counting.

The Rio Grande Valley being the best spot in the country for butterflies and the Ladybird Johnson Wildfower Center for wildfowers we have been migrating there every year, but not when most (Winter Texans) do.

Over time, I continued my art education at the Rochester Institute of Technology, as well as at Atelier XVII and the Parsons School, the latter both in Paris. We relocated twice, once from my hometown of Rochester, NY to our camp in the Adirondacks, and once again from there to our current home bordering on the Albany Pine Bush Preserve--A National Natural Landmark.

No sooner settled in when cancer struck a daughter and a granddaughter. Both now recovered, I am back happily focused on my two favorite flies--butter and dragon!

Also, see: artist's statement

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Upstate, New York


Adirondack Mountains