Adirondack Art

About Nan Wilson

Nan WilsonI 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—you name it.

Fast-forwarding past art school (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 completed a series of 25 larger-than-life paintings of fantastic wildflowers that grew outside our door.

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.


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 my current series of life cycle works, each stage of a butterfly set within in its native environment featuring its specific host plants. My enthusiasms for the subject continue and are the subject of my Newsletter.

Along the way, 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. In my work I am encouraged and supported by my two daughters and husband. One daughter is a professional fine artist in her own right, the other and her husband ( both consultants) whose critical eyes have often proved invaluable. As for my husband, he has fallen into the role of my 'Artistic Support Specialist' — working for the prestige of the title, but a tad sheepish about its acronym.

Artist's Statement

It has been said of my work that it has a surreal quality. To me that means opening up new dimensions. I'm portraying natural history in a representational style, but looking to offer new perspectives.

Work doesn't begin on a piece until all the elements for fine art have been addressed. The actual process takes often seasons and years before the research has matured, and the photographing and study of a particular subject are complete. Then I begin to imagine the concept and layout – always begun 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. In each work, 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.

I appreciate the insightful things people have said about my work. 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 standing in the presence of such extraordinary plants, creatures and scenes.

A nature writer said "It's not just nature art…it's art!" I like that.