BRISTOL, NY For Nancy Lane, art is about telling a story, or at least suggesting one.
“I want the people who see my paintings to come up with their own story,” she said, glancing at a painting of a train passing by a woman standing near an old Victorian house.
Her grandmother lived in a similar home and traveled by train to become a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Letters between her grandmother and great-grandmother suggest she was missed terribly, and that ache is palpable in the painting.
“People don’t have to know the story of my grandmother to relate to the painting,” Lane said, because people have their own sadness and their own longings.
But one story line, in particular, Lane returns to again and again: Teaching children to respect animals.
For 30 years, Lane has illustrated children’s books on the topic. And after completing more than 24 books, she fully intended to focus solely on her own fine art paintings and commissions -- until a request came in to illustrate a book about songbird migration written by New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Scott Weidensaul.
“It’s a topic I care a lot about,” said Lane, who lives in Bristol surrounded by 14 wooded acres. She wants children, and adults, to understand the dangers these birds face and how humans sometimes add to that danger.
Each painting for the book, which will be titled “The Strength in her Wings,” takes about 20 hours. Lane works them in with her other oil and watercolor paintings for galleries and shows, like one recently at The Little Theatre Cafe in Rochester.
When she gets a bit stuck on a painting, or the weight of the pandemic bears down, she listens to narrative music or takes a walk in nature.
“It’s a meditative walk,” she said. “I don’t take my phone, and all my senses are open. I pay attention to not just what I see but what I smell. I feel the wind.”
And she notices the light. Always the light.
“I find light to be an amazing tool as an artist to suggest an emotion or a mood in a painting,” she said, and it’s often a main character in her paintings because light helps her communicate.
“One of the reasons I’m a realistic painter is because it’s more accessible to people,” she said, “and my goal is to communicate with people, to reach people.”
THE ART JOURNEY
Nancy Lane drew all the time as a child, and she was lucky enough to be surrounded by picture books.
Later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Maryland Institute, College of Art. Her studies included children’s book illustration and typography at Parsons School of Design in New York City and painting, graphic design and art history in Italy through Temple University Abroad.
Most recently, she studied with internationally known artists Rob Liberace, Jeff Hein, Mary Whyte, Katherine Stone and others.
FIND MORE INSPIRATION
For details on other upcoming shows and classes visit NancyLaneStudio.com or connect with her on Instagram at @Nancy.Lane.Studio.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Nancy Lane has illustrated more than 20 children's books