I grew up in Downeast Maine, which some would argue is more “up” than “down” on a map of the U.S., but it is most definitely east. Washington County, where I was born, is nicknamed the Sunrise County, and with good reason: It’s the first place in the country to see the sun each morning. I don’t know if that explains why I’m a morning person, or why I watch sunrises in the same rapt way that some people watch concerts and sporting events, but I do and I have, ever since I was a child.
My old stomping grounds include Maine’s blueberry barrens – swaths of rocky land cleared to favor the wild lowbush blueberries that thrive in the acidic soil there. The fields, like so much of the Northeast, change dramatically with the seasons: stark under blowing drifts of snow in winter, prettily festooned with bell-shaped blossoms in spring, then lush with tasty fruit in summer before they turn fiery red in autumn.
Blueberry fields. Mossy forests. Icy woodland streams. Lakes as smooth as glass in early morning, then hopping with whitecaps in the afternoon… These were some of the landscapes of my youth. They have stayed with me, occupying the place in my mind that offers calm at times of stress and a sense of home in the wilderness. They find their way into my artwork along with seascapes (who could help being thrilled by the power and beauty of the ocean?), and yes, a good many sunrises.
With my husband and three children, I now make my home in central Massachusetts, where the forests have a few less pine needles and more leaves, and where the roads are fringed by apple orchards instead of blueberry fields. The seasonal shifts in form and color, though, are similar – sharp white and grey in winter, delicate yellow-green in spring, frothy emerald in summer, then the brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn. There is no lack of beautiful scenery in our quiet farm-country town, though there may be more famed vistas on the Cape or out in the Berkshires.
Then, there are the small things. Songbirds. Insects. Herbs and garden flowers. Out in the natural world, there are grand majestic views – and tiny perfect miracles. These little things of beauty – a shimmering dragonfly, a nuthatch perching upside-down, a colorful autumn leaf – find their way into my art, as they have found their way into my consciousness, drawing my attention in close to revel in their magnificent details.
It’s good to be able to see the forest for the trees. I’d argue that it’s just as important to see the trees in the forest – and the branches, and the birds, and the butterflies. These small wonders share space with mountains and oceans in that special place in my imagination.
I have not always been an artist by profession. My interest in the living world led me to pursue a degree in Biology, and I have worked in the fascinating (if often challenging and sometimes bitey) fields of animal care and veterinary medicine. The birth of my first child brought on the career change that turned my lifelong love of drawing and painting into a profession. Two more kids later, my home studio does not always have the placid calm of the natural scenes I paint, but it is always lively!
Life is often hectic, but there is always peace to be had. Perhaps you too have a special “happy place” in your mind filled with beautiful natural scenery and little wild miracles. If not, perhaps you’re thinking of creating one. You might be seeking to bring a bit of that natural beauty into the spaces where you live or work. Whatever the case, I hope the artworks shown here will bring you the same peace, clarity, and tranquility they bring me.
Take a breath, relax, and enjoy your visit – here in the natural world.
-Anna Bronwyn Foley