Bear With Me

September 20th, 2016
web-sized-4

Look deep into my eyes…

So why am I so drawn to – not quite obsessed by but neverthe-less strongly attracted to – bears? When I think about it, there is an ursine thread running through my life.

Of course: teddy bear. I had the cutest little brown one with a music box in its guts when I was little. It played a tinkly tinny lullaby. I must have played it a lot because I remember my brothers trying to eviscerate it. But I’m over it now. I swear!

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The Story Behind the Painting

December 30th, 2015

So my New Year’s resolution is to tell the story behind my paintings more often — since almost every one has one! The Winter Solstice seemed like an auspicious day to start, so here goes…

Embracing the Strange(r) by Rosemary G. Conroy, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36"

Embracing the Strange(r) by Rosemary G. Conroy Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36″ © 2016

This painting is inspired by a real live polar bear I met way up north in Manitoba in 2013. On a windswept tundra, I spent an afternoon observing this majestic, awe-inspiring wild animal.

I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to see him and be able to drink in his beauty, power, and mystery. I’m not ashamed to tell you I cried. It was that awesome.

AND the next day I got up early and there he was again — just on the other side of the fence that protected our lodge. I sat alone with him for almost twenty minutes — it was such a moving, powerful episode in my life. Eye to eye, face to face, heart to heart with an 800-lb wild creature — holy moley. He could have left at any moment, but he stayed. For whatever reason, he stayed. I felt blessed.
I’ve always longed to be able to communicate with animals in a meaningful way. But until that happens, I paint them over and over, trying to immortalize them in my art as one way of knowing them better.

I’ve come to realize that my paintings are like prayers: sincere offerings of thanks for the inspiration and joy these wild creatures give me; my humble invocation of their beauty and power; and perhaps, most of all, an ardent plea that they continue to exist in this world.

(If you look closely, you can see my prayers for the polar bear literally inscribed on the painting.)

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.

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?

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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Conversations with myself

May 30th, 2014

What was I thinking? Three back to back shows in 2014??? Am I crazy?

I know, right?! And you wanted to paint all new paintings on top of that! Plus for the biggest show, you decided to “challenge” yourself by painting all white animals… No wonder you’re starting to lose it!

You can do it! One show down, two to go. The first one was a big hit, the other two will be as well. Believe it can be done!

OK — nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Deadlines are motivating, right? No pain, no gain, right?!?!?!

 

What’s Inspiring…

October 13th, 2011
Thank you to all the inspiring birds who have graced my life.

Birds inspire me over and over again

Inspiration starts at home: Last weekend I had a chance to go kayaking in a local marsh which drains into a big lake near my home. The lake is pretty but lined with houses and often filled with loud speedboats. Since we thrive on peace and quiet more than speed and noise, my husband and I chose the marsh. It was meandering, empty of people, and surrounded by forests of trees in just-about-peak foliage. In other words, deeply soul-soothing.

This place where I live is inspiring. Most of my work, in one way or another, is an effort to celebrate it and preserve it. Nature feeds my spirit.

People inspire me too. I also spent part of last weekend visiting other artists who were part of the Monadnock Artists Open House Tour. I love seeing what other artists are doing and their unique spaces. I made a point of visiting Luann Udell — a very talented woman who lives in Keene, NH. Luann not only makes amazingly beautiful, animal-inspired jewelry and wall-hangings, she writes a great blog too. I have learned so much from her and am so appreciative of her sunny nature and positive outlook. AND she gave me one of the best hugs I have had in a while — so thank you Luann! You rock.

And of course wildlife. Obsessions can be unhealthy but I think it can also be the fuel that keeps your engines firing too. I find animals — both the wild and the mild ones — so incredibly fascinating. I can’t imagine living on this planet without them. This year I have been painting birds and wow — the shapes, the colors, the variety! Simply mesmerizing. Thank you great creator for birds and the many ways they have blessed my life.

 

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