Thistledown Studio : Nan Wilson : Rochester, NY


Artist's Statement

Armed with the tools of my trade: camera, hand lens, binoculars, boots, water...Deet! -- I familiarize myself with the dazzling creatures and plants that will inhabit my paintings.

My process takes often seasons and years before the research has matured, and the photographing and study of a particular subject are complete.

Work doesn't begin on a piece until all the elements for fine art have been addressed. Then I begin with concept and layout -- always in the abstract.

I often create an ambiguous background suggestive of the outdoors and the environment, keeping in mind the objects to be placed within it. A juggling act follows in which the two objectives of "fine art" and "natural history" come together. This is the stage at which some aspects of the images become representational.

It's been said my work has a surreal quality like a dream or trnce. That describes my state of mind when the paint is flowing. I'm in the zone...

A retired professor of philosophy in art and nature asked whether, when I paint, I feel I am in touch with the spirits. Well, not exactly. But I do hope that in my paintings I pass along the awe I feel when in the presence of such extraordinary plants, creatures and scenes.

My work can be thought of as the art of survival in nature. Through it I hope to open people's eyes to the beauty of tiny, fragile, unsung plants and creatures that need protection.

If I paint my subjects in a larger-than-life, representational style it's because I want to invite my viewers to take a second look where their instincts are to overlook or look away. And my art is purchased by entomologists  -- its subjects must be accurate scientifically.

Helping to integrate the often splashy, abstract treatments of my backgrounds with the more representational ones of my subjects are color palettes drawn from Nature. Often the vibrance and irridescence of the plants are unique--each painting's palette differing from all others. It's fascinating to see where each one takes me!

In my two current series, my composition signals the survival situations of my subjects. While the dragonflies, who have survived for hundreds of millions of years, are front and center, the centers of my butterfly paintings are open, the eye being drawn outward to the fragile, circular cycles on which the lives of these vulnerable creatures depend.

I've been in printmaking and metal engraving and loved that look of the rough edge of handmade watercolor paper. It took me awhile to simulate that edge, now a signature unifying effect throughout my series. I've settled on watercolor as a fast-moving medium and large sheets of Arches toothed, cold pressed watercolor paper (18" x 24"). 

I like splashing paint across a large surface and making my subjects loom large!

And finally, I try to create situations that leave you to your own interpretation and discoveries. I hope my paintings fill each viewer with a sense of the Earth, its diversity and need for protection.

One nature writer said about my work "It's not just nature art…it's art!" I like that.

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Upstate, New York


Adirondack Mountains