Featured Artist: Peggy Macnamara

At Brushwood Center, we are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by doing what we strive to do year round: build a community around nature and the arts. To help lift up the struggling arts community during this difficult time, we are highlighting a different nature-inspired artist each week and sharing their story with you. We encourage you to reflect on the impact of art in your life, and look for ways to support artists in our community.

This week, we are featuring Peggy Macnamara – an artist who combines a loose, vibrant watercolor style with a scientific study of insects and animals. Serving as the Artist-in-Residence at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History since 1990, Peggy has traveled with scientists all over the world to paint nature and illustrate conservation efforts. Through this work, she has published 4 books in collaboration with museum scientists through University of Chicago Press. Recently, her eye has turned to creatures living under the water, resulting in gorgeous depictions of sea dragons and fish. When the world reopens, you can enjoy Peggy’s paintings at the Field Museum, where they are on display as part of the permanent collection. For now, we are delighted to bring them to you here.

Peggy Macnamara on her work:

“My work is about the study of nature. I hesitate putting myself in such a grand tradition, but there it is. I admire those that have gone before and find myself studying old techniques while pushing in new directions. Like the scientist, who builds on the knowledge discovered before him, artists seem to emulate and eventually grow into the concerns of their time. I believe that by looking carefully at the entirety of nature I will learn to see better and gather an understanding of how things work. And hopefully pass on this wonder in my work.”

“Thirty years ago, I went to the Field Museum in Chicago to draw the Hoffmann Sculptures in order to improve my drawing skills. There I found endless subject matter, a community, and a purpose for my work. I moved from Oriental artifacts, to birds, mammals, reptiles and insects, drawing daily from the exhibit areas. I wandered through hidden areas of the museum painting oddities like tiny Tibetan statuary and the South American Shrunken heads. I eventually moved behind the scenes into the collection areas where I did the “Illinois Insects” and “Architecture by Birds and Insects”, “Migration” and “Peregrine Return” books with University of Chicago press. This adventure carried me outside the museum to collaborate with scientists in Madagascar, Africa, Central and South America, Alaska and other places enabling me to contribute to conservation efforts.”


Get Peggy’s COVID Coloring Book

Peggy created a Complimentary Coloring Book to help you get through this difficult time. Paint while you stay at home. Art is Meditation. You can download it here.

Watch Peggy in action as she paints “Three Owls”


Follow Peggy Macnamara Online

You can learn more about Peggy’s artwork and books on her website or watch her draw and paint on her amazing YouTube channel. You can also keep up with her by following her on Facebook or Instagram.


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