This is a page about who I am, what I enjoy, why I choose to paint nature, and some funny stories I would like to share with you.
Since the time I was a toddler, I have loved animals and enjoyed the wonders of nature. I was raised in a loving home with my parents and three older brothers. Being an only daughter, I was given many dolls since girls are supposed to like dolls. I neglectfully discarded them to the toy box after the initial excitement of the newness wore off. I wanted a dog, not a doll, and so started my ceaseless yearning for a dog. My parents, being animal lovers themselves, started looking for a child-friendly dog that would suit our busy household. It proved to be a difficult task and we went through a few dogs before we found a small mongrel that was loved by all, and ruled our home until she died of old age.
When our family went out on camping and fishing excursions, I was the little sister tagging along beside my brothers always eager for adventure. I never wanted to miss out on anything exciting like seeing a snake sunning itself on a rock, or standing in muck catching frogs at the edge of a swamp. These forays with my brothers into the wilderness exposed me to the wonders of nature and wildlife, and I loved every minute of it, craving to learn more about the mysteries of nature.
My brothers and I spent countless hours wandering around my grandmother's farm out in the rural countryside. She raised goats and chickens but unfortunately for me, she never had a pony or horse. When my father introduced me to the wonderful world of horses when I was two years old, I was smitten, and asked for a pony every birthday and Christmas for years. Even with me desperately begging to my parents and the best grandmother in the world, it was an exercise in futility for me and I didn't get a horse until after I was married. Back then, I wanted to ride a pony so badly that my brothers lifted me up onto the back of my grandmother's nanny goat. Of course I'm sure my brothers had selfish motives in mind, for the goat took off bucking like a wild bronco, tossing me into the dirt while they stood by, doubled over and hooting with laughter.
I was employed at our local Humane Society shortly after my husband and I married in 1978. It was both a rewarding job and a very difficult job for an animal lover like me. No creature that came in through those doors deserved to be there, and it was always a happy occasion to see them leaving with new owners for another chance at life. Along with all the domesticated pets that arrived there, we also had a variety of wild animals dropped off. I've fed baby raccoons with an eye dropper, had a Golden Eagle cautiously take a piece of raw chicken from my gloved hand, and felt the hair raise up on my neck when a cougar wrapped her huge forearms around me in play. One evening when I was working alone just before closing, a gentleman brought in a box full of baby skunks. Their mother had been killed on the road and the young skunks weren't quite old enough to survive on their own. When I opened the lid, they were all nestled in a blanket with their cute little black eyes all peering up at me in curiosity. I prepared a cage for them in a separate room where we housed wild animals. One by one, I carefully lifted all five of the sleepy little ones into the cage on a blanket, and then gave them food and water. I clicked the cage shut, turned off the lights and locked up the building for the night. I wasn't scheduled to work for the next two days, so I was anticipating some R and R. In the morning, the staff is always greeted by the deafening ruckus of howls, meows, squeaks and chirps of many hungry animals. Those angelic skunk babies from the previous night, snuggled all safe and warm in their cage were startled awake to this alarming cacophony of sounds. We all know what skunks do when they are alarmed. It didn't take long for the smell of those sweet little skunk babies to permeate the building with a stench strong enough to swell your eyes shut. Feeling well rested after two days off, I walked into the building and was immediately assaulted with good natured tongue lashings from fellow staff members, and the distinct lingering odor of skunk. I found out that skunks were the one exception of animals that must be kept confined in a covered container for this very reason. We moved the skunks out into a separate shed for the remaining duration of their care, and I hope their descendants are roaming through the forests now, making their own baby stink-pots.
I have been happily married to a wonderful supportive husband for over thirty years now, and we have two grown sons which we are very proud of. My family members are also animal lovers, and we share our house with two very spoiled little dogs.
In 2000, after an old back injury caught up to me and rendered me unable to ride horses, I found myself with time on my hands. A few friends encouraged me to join them in evening painting classes, and I immediately found something that I enjoyed and could do in my leisure time. The painting classes were fun and I found myself gravitating towards painting nature scenes of landscapes and wildlife. After finishing my first canvas painting, it gave me such pleasure and encouragement, that I haven't put down my paint brushes since. The sale of my first painting was a delightful surprise, and I realized that I not only loved to paint, but someone liked my painting enough to buy it. Now that our children are grown and I have more time to paint, my love for animals and being in close proximity to rural life and scenic wilderness, naturally influences my choice of painting subjects.
There are actually few critters in my life that I try to avoid at all costs, and they encompass stinging insects such as bees, wasps and hornets, of which I have a deep phobia for. I would gladly swat at swarms of our famous Canadian black flies and mosquitoes, rather than face one wasp. My fear of these stinging insects is so ingrained into me, that I let out a tearful shriek at the graveside during my mother's burial service. Our oldest son, who was young at the time, and not afraid of bees, started teasing a very large bumble bee at some flowers growing nearby. Obviously, he didn't, and still doesn't share my phobia. I was trying to both listen to the minister and catch my son's eye to stop his antics at the same time. He kept pestering the bee until it got irritated and of course flew straight up past ME, causing me to scream out loud. During the hushed silence at a horse show, I screamed at an aggressive wasp just as the judge was making his final choices for ribbons. How silly I felt as all eyes turned towards me, even the judge. I have no fear of horses that are many times my size, but a small insect can send my adrenalin pumping and my feet running. This intense fear began years ago, when I was quite young, while we were out on a family fishing trip. My mother had found a hazelnut tree and began picking some in a basket to take home. Tired from walking and having missed my afternoon nap, I sat down nearby on an old jacket discarded on a pile of planks. No sooner had my bottom connected with that jacket when a swarm of very angry bumble bees attacked me for disturbing their nest in the planks below. Fortunately for me, my brother's friend was approaching, and he scooped me up, knocking off the bees as he ran with me in his arms. Little sisters often develop crushes on their older brother's friends, and I already had a secret crush this boy. After that traumatic occasion, my secret crush advanced to him becoming my hero.
Our northern Ontario winters are very long and cold. Between this, and my inborn fear of stinging insects, I have never attempted to set up my easel and paint outdoors on site. Rather than painting, I'd spend more time trying to keep warm in the winter, or looking over my shoulder in the summer at buzzing noises, and then running away in fear. Instead, I enjoy painting in the warm, safe haven of my small painting studio that I have set up in our home.
In closing, I ask you as an animal lover, and witness to many countless deaths as a former Humane Society employee, to please spay and neuter your pets. Enjoy nature and wildlife, but don't intrude, and keep our lakes, lands and forests clean. Even if it isn't ours, we stoop to pick up garbage when we are out on excursions.
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