Call of the Wild
By Sarah Sherman
Artist Jeanette Fournier is inspired to paint the wild creatures in our world so that they will be remembered for years to come. It’s this connection to the natural spaces of New Hampshire and Vermont that she wants to share.
Growing up in Bethlehem and Littleton, she was in love with nature and animals from the time she was young and was always outdoors hiking. Her grandfather worked for the U.S. Forest service and it was in her blood. The family jokingly would call her hope chest a “hopeless chest” because instead of filling it with linens and household goods for her future, she would fill it with seashells and interesting rocks.
Self-taught, she was drawing from the time she could pick up a Crayon, she recalled. She would copy photos she saw in books and magazines, or really anywhere. When people would ask where she got her training, she would laugh and tell them Norman Rockwell or Andrew Wyeth because copying their work was a great influence on her illustrative style.
Her parents encouraged her artwork as a hobby, but, similar to many other practical parents, they were concerned about art being her primary source of income. So, she got a business degree from Hesser Business College and spent 25 years working in the human resources field up and down the East Coast in a variety of positions and settings.
Along the way, she painted on the side for some extra money and her own enjoyment and took some classes at Manchester institute of Arts (now part of New England College) and had a little private art tutoring.
In the early-2000s, she started doing more pet portraits, and in 2005, when she and her husband returned to Littleton, she took the plunge, making art a full-time pursuit. Her older brother was in the military and was being sent to Iraq and she was needed to care for elderly relatives. Focusing solely on her art career gave Fournier the flexibility to be a caregiver and to spend quality time with her grandmother, who loved traveling with her to art shows.
She committed to give herself two years’ time to get the studio up and running and keep itself sustainable enough to make a viable living. And from there it was all steps forward.
Married for 15 years, her husband is also an artisan, a woodturner, and the couple has a two-level home studio, with one level for each of them. He makes bowls, candlesticks and the frames for her paintings, while still working full-time in construction sales at a lumberyard.
She works mostly in watercolor, although she says she has also done some graphite studies. She paints her animals from photographs for detail, then creating natural background settings for the paintings from her own imagination.
She will also paint commissions of wildlife and of people’s pets, everything from dogs and cats to a cow. Most are based on favorite photos of a beloved pet that has passed away.
Her rural home in Littleton near the Moore Dam and Reservoir provides her with endless inspiration. She can look across at the mountains of Vermont or go for rides in the car and see wildlife everywhere.
“All I have to do is take my dog for a walk and I see things (to paint),” she laughed. The 7-year-old rescue dog is a lab and Jack Russell terrier mix, small at only 25 pounds with pointy ears and nose.
She said owls are her favorite wildlife subjects — “I see them everywhere I go” — and they’re also some of the most popular paintings with buyers.
Second most popular? Trout.
“I sell a lot of trout at art shows,” she laughed. “The wives are at the next booth over looking at jewelry and the husbands are looking at my fish.”
Fournier’s work can be found at Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, Vt.; Oglethorpe Fine Art/Artisans on the Bay in Meredith; and at The Gallery at WREN. WREN stands for Women’s Rural Entrepreneurship Network and is a nonprofit that has recently reopened on Main Street in Bethlehem after a hiatus. Fournier has been a WREN member for 15 years.
And she is also a member of Copley Society of Art in Boston, the oldest nonprofit art association in the United States. Being accepted as a member there was a huge accomplishment and the “biggest thrill of my career,” she said, with an application process she called stressful and grueling. As a member, she is part of the permanent members’ exhibit in the gallery and can also submit art for the society’s various themed shows.
This fall, she will participate in Art in the Park in Norwich, Vt., on Sept. 21 and the 5th Annual Open Studio Weekend Oct. 12 and 13 in Littleton. She will also have a solo exhibition at Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vt., through the end of September, focused on how wild creatures are able to hide themselves in plain sight.
She believes in giving back to area organizations that support the creatures she paints and donates a percentage of her sales during Open Studio Weekend to the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust and Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, as well as donating trout prints to Trout Unlimited. These partnerships are important to her.
She also makes it a point to buy the artwork of her fellow artists; the wood for her frames is purchased locally, as are her other art supplies. “You need to grow your local creative economy,” she emphasized.
“I love the independence and being my own boss,” she said of being self-employed. “There’s a sense of freedom. It’s all on me. If I don’t go into the studio to work, I don’t get paid.”
For more information and to view more of Jeanette Fournier’s work, visit jfournierart.com.