Rosemary G. Conroy Fine Art

Spirit Animals

July 7th, 2015

spiritanimalspromo-smSo I have been working feverishly on my latest show which is now hanging in the Kimball Jenkins Estate in Concord for the summer. The opening is Thursday, July 16th from 5 to 7 pm — if you are nearby, please come. I think this show has some of the best work I have ever done in it! Here’s my artist statement for the show.

Rosemary G. Conroy / Artist Statement for “Spirit Animals” Exhibit

The title of this show, “Spirit Animals” is a play on the concept of inspiration and dedication. It dawned on me recently that my artwork is a form of a prayer for the creatures that I paint: a sincere offering of thanks for the inspiration and joy they give me; a humble invocation of their beauty and wildness; and perhaps, most of all, an ardent plea that they continue to exist in this world.

This sounds vaguely religious, yet I don’t really adhere to any particular faith. This probably disappointed my parents, especially after they sent me to twelve years of Catholic school! But I am a deeply spiritual person. It’s just that my most sacred moments happen in the fields and forests and the birds, insects and mammals I find there are the most divine thing in my life.

Coincidentally (or is it?), I also spent twelve years working in the environmental field before becoming a full-time artist. It was another kind of religious upbringing: There was a strong community — I loved being part of a group of devoted people. We had dogma: ours was dedicated to making the world a better place. It felt righteous — how could it not — we were working to save the planet! And it required a kind of faith to believe that we could. But there were also dark nights of the soul. Often it seemed we were losing more ground than we were gaining (still does, I must admit.) These realizations lead to despair. The antidote? To go out and be in the natural world and get lost in it’s beauty and immersed in its wonder. (Of course.)

Now I am a monk it seems, having retreated to my studio where I devote myself to nature — but in a new way. I’m twelve years into being a professional artist and this is what my work is: A fervent prayer to anyone who might listen to consider, in every sense of the word, the wild ones.

Many of the pieces in this show are literally embedded with my incantations, my prayers, my wishes (which may sometimes look like scrawls but really are words), for these blessed creatures to survive — and thrive — alongside us.

Best Two Weeks of the Year

May 4th, 2015
One of the sweetest sounds of spring are the toads trilling at night.

One of the sweetest sounds of spring are the toads trilling at night.

I admit it, I have been distracted.

I consider myself not only an artist, but a naturalist as well. And for people like me, who pay attention to birds and plants and bugs and seasons, this has to be the best two weeks of the year. Here in New Hampshire where I live, it’s that sweet spot when songbirds are arriving and the trees are flowering but not totally leafed out and there are wildflowers and frogs and new things popping up every minute! AND the black flies aren’t quite biting yet.

This morning, just sitting in my house I could hear three new spring warblers announcing that they were back — which fills me with intense joy. They are like old friends who you haven’t seen in a long time and didn’t realize how much you missed until they are right in front of you.

Nature is my touchstone when life brings you bad news or things aren’t going well in the studio or you have just those everyday moments of doubt. There’s such comfort in the reliability of each season coming and going. A tom turkey gobbling in the lower field reminds me that life goes on and this too shall pass. And that green of new leaves and fresh grass — so new, so full of life and promise — refreshes my soul once again.

My cup runneth over with spring.

Further Why(s)

March 22nd, 2015
Virginia McKenna playing Joy Adams with a lioness in the movie "Born Free."

Virginia McKenna playing Joy Adams with a lioness in the movie “Born Free.”

Continuing on with why I am so obsessed with animals and capturing their spirit in my work — I started to think about the steady diet of nature films that I was fed as a child. “Born Free” occupies a big space in my mind, although I was just three-years old when it came out in 1966 and this was, of course, the pre-DVD era. I doubt my parents took me to see it in when it first came out but it was also turned into a TV series. According to Wikipedia, “In 1974, a thirteen-episode American television series was broadcast by NBC, entitled Born Free, starring Diana Muldaur and Gary Collins as Joy and George Adamson.”

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My brain is in a deep freeze

February 16th, 2015
We have at least three feet of snow on the ground and haven't seen a daytime temperature over 15 degrees F in weeks. Two more storms predicted for this week...

We have at least three feet of snow on the ground and haven’t seen a daytime temperature over 15 degrees F in weeks. Two more storms predicted for this week. We got another foot after this photo was taken…

It just keeps snowing and when it isn’t snowing, it’s wicked cold. And the sun only shows up for a day at a time and then it’s gray again. Sigh. I am trying to stay focused on painting (polar bears seem appropriate) and while I promised I would blog every week, I got nothing.

OK here’s a poem by Mary Oliver that I really like that sums up really well why I paint.

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every Day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these—
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

Who’s a Good Boy?!?!

February 2nd, 2015
happythedog.jpg

Such a sweet boy and such an impact he had on me

I was thinking about the “why” of what I do — painting animals over and over — and I suddenly had this memory pop into my head.

I was about 19 years old and sitting in a restaurant with my boyfriend of the time. I had just found out that my dog “Happy” had died that day.

The memory I flashed back on was of me sitting in that restaurant and BAWLING my eyes out over the demise of Happy. And I didn’t just cry — I sobbed hysterically, with tears pouring out of my face and I’m sure snot coming out my nose. I was completely overcome with grief. I remember being so embarrassed later by how wildly emotional I had been in public — the other diners in the restaurant must have been pretty horrified too. Yikes.

When I had that memory resurface out of the blue yesterday I also had the thought — “Wow Happy’s death marked the end of my childhood, really.”

You see, Happy was more than just a pet. My two other siblings were four and eight years older than me and both male. I was forever trying to keep up with them or do what they did and being constantly thwarted by both being so much younger AND a girl. It constantly outraged me and probably explains my competitive nature somewhat. Plus both my brothers were terrible teases and loved to play practical jokes on me. You never knew when a cup of water might be propped up on the door you were about to open or someone was hiding behind the shower curtain ready to pop out and yell Boo! (I learned to be a keen observer thanks to them too, I suppose!)

So Happy was my refuge as only a dog can be. He was good-natured and goofy and very tolerant of being hugged and petted. We got him when I was five and I remember spending what felt like hours pouring out my little girl heart to him. Of course he TOTALLY understood me. He was in complete agreement about how unfair it was that I couldn’t be an altar boy or be in the balsa wood derby or play with my brother’s GI Joes when he was so perfect for Barbie and had a JEEP. That dog was the perfect little brother I never had.

Happy gave me the solace and sweetness of unconditional love. It’s no wonder I cried so hard when he died. Who wouldn’t mourn out loud the end of such a bond? And I suppose it’s no wonder that deep impression lingers to this day in my art.

BTW: The painting above was a warm-up I did for a commission of a my husband’s cousin’s dog who is a totally different breed. (Happy was a mutt — half poodle/half terrier of some sort.) But every time I see it, I think “That’s Happy!”

Look at those big brown eyes — he still totally gets what I am saying!

 

 

 

 

A good reminder at this time of year…

January 27th, 2015
10x10screechowlofjoy

The Kingdom of Joy sounds like the place for me…

 

If you are seeking, seek us with joy

For we live in the kingdom of joy.

Do not give your heart to anything else

But to the love of those who are clear joy,

Do not stray into the neighborhood of despair.

For there are hopes: they are real, they exist -

Do not go in the direction of darkness -

I tell you: suns exist.

— Rumi

How I Paint A Polar Bear (sometimes)

January 20th, 2015

 STEP ONE: UNDERPAINTING

I was really into yellow last year and so decided to start with a lovely yellow background and took some basic payne’s grey to get my basic sketch painted. Before this stage, I do a lot of computer manipulation of my images, playing with cropping, lighting, color, etc.

Work in progress - step one

And so a polar bear painting begins…

 STEP TWO: COMPLEMENTARY UNDER-PAINTING

Step two -- work in progress by Rosemary Conroy

First decision is what will the outcome be? Ha ha — I never stay with this idea ever… but it must be part of the process.

So I originally thought I would make the polar bear a warm yellow which explains the purple tones. (Purple is the opposite of yellow on the color wheel and by using complementary colors this way, you get a nice vibration going if you let a little of the purple under-painting show through the yellow to come.) I may have been thinking orange for the background? Not sure why I picked green other than I like they way it goes with purple. The bear looks a little surprised by this choice too.

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And the Dreams You Dare to Dream Really Do Come True…

January 13th, 2015

Birds have led me onto strange and wonderful new directions in my life...

Birds have led me onto strange and wonderful new directions in my life…

Twenty-five years ago, a bird cast a powerful spell upon me.

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and until the day of my complete and utter enchantment, I didn’t think there was much in the world beyond house sparrows, pigeons, and sea gulls. Not a bad metaphor for my life at the time — which was also often drab, noisy and monotonous. But through some amazing serendipity, I stumbled upon a group of bird-watchers in Prospect Park. Before that fateful day, I had never been there before — and I’m still not sure why I went. But the trip leader saw me looking at their odd little group (I had never seen bird-watchers before either) and asked me if I wanted “to see something really special.”

Now, most New Yorkers (especially young female ones) quickly learn that when a stranger poses such a question, the results are rarely pleasant. But I took a chance. And this “really special thing” turned out to be a rose-breasted grosbeak — a magenta-splashed songbird that simply stunned me with its colorful, delicate presence in such a gritty place. It was like Dorothy arriving in Oz when everything turns from black and white to technicolor. A spell was cast. I would never see the world the same way again.

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Painting of the Week: The Sea Raven Rises (Cormorant)

January 6th, 2015

The Sea Raven Rises (Cormorant)

A yes — another resolution! I really really really want to post more often so I hit upon the idea of just telling the story of a painting and I’ll try to do it once a week! So here goes:

Every summer I try really hard to find a way to spend a week on the ocean — I grew up going to the beach almost every day and I just need that fix to feel sane and right. (A week isn’t really enough but so far no one has offered me free use of their beach home so that’s what we can swing.)

We almost always go to Maine which is one of the most beautiful places in the world as far as I can tell so far! And even though the landscapes are incredibly picturesque, I never paint while I’m there. I mostly veg out and drink gin and tonics and bird-watch. This is why I need a place with a deck over-looking the ocean of course!

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Happy New Year!

December 26th, 2014

Wishing you much warmth and light at this darkest time of year…

Wondrous Beings: Mourning Dove by Rosemary G. Conroy

Do you ne’er think what wondrous beings these? Do you ne’er think who made them, and who taught The dialect they speak, where melodies Alone are the interpreters of thought? Whose household words are songs in many keys, Sweeter than instrument of man e’er caught! HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, Tales of a Wayside Inn

At this darkest time of the year, I want to thank you for all the light you’ve shone upon me

Thank you for all your enthusiasm for my work, your on-going interest and support,

and especially to everyone who purchased a painting — wow — you’ve made this my best year ever!

I hope the coming season brings you and your loved ones much lasting joy and tons of wild beauty.