Rosemary Conroy’s love of nature has led to a full-time business creating delightful art that celebrates the natural world and conservation.
ABI: What made the biggest difference in your decision to become an artist?
I never went to art school, so for a long time I assumed that I couldn’t be an artist. Despite having success in other endeavors, I always felt like something was missing. Many years later, I started taking art classes after work and I realized how much I loved it and that I still had a knack for painting. That’s when I started to think, “Well, maybe ‘someday’ I can be an artist… maybe when I retire… or hit the lottery.”
Then, when 9-11 happened, it struck me that all those people who died would never have their “some days.” When I was confronted with the fact that there are simply no guarantees in life — and your number could be up at any moment — I started planning how I could quit my day job and become a full-time artist. That was twelve years ago.
ABI: Tell us about your interest in conservation and its influence on your work.
RC: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and wasn’t exposed to much that was natural or wild. In my early twenties, I inadvertently stumbled upon a group of birdwatchers in Prospect Park. They showed me all these amazing birds — a world that I never knew existed. It was such a revelation! Those colorful fragile beings thriving amongst the asphalt filled me with such hope. I became hooked.
That eventually led me to getting a Masters in Science and working in a conservation organization in northern New England. I wanted to show the world what a precious thing nature is and of course, protect it from harm.
Later, when I started taking night classes, I had one teacher who told me I had a real gift for portrait painting and another one who told us to “notice the things you notice, that’s what you should paint.” Well, that was easy; I noticed birds and wild animals. And while painting people might have been more lucrative, I put the two together and started doing portraits of wild animals instead.
From my work in the environmental field, I knew that telling people a story about something bad that was happening to all the lions in Africa for example, might get some reaction. But tell people about the harm done to one particular lion (say, named Cecil) and that would get a whole lot more attention! So I focused on painting my local fauna with the idea that it might help people see the birds and mammals around them as individuals who deserved their consideration.
ABI: How do you support this cause?
RC: Besides doing thematic shows around my favorite subjects, I also tithe annually to my local wildlife rehabilitation centers and donate a percentage of my open studio sales to my local land trust.
ABI: Talk about your open studio event and what makes it special.
RC: Well, autumn is quite beautiful here in on my small New Hampshire farm, so people enjoy making the trek out to my studio. I also host a special collectors-only brunch before the public portion of the weekend. My darling husband has gained quite a reputation for his delicious quiches (made from our own free-range hen’s eggs and organic produce from our garden) and his chocolate chip cookies. Mix in some mimosas and it adds up to a festive (and often quite lucrative) event. Many people tell me they look forward to it all year!