Nature Through the Artist's Eye: Stephanie Peters
Article published in the Fall 2017 Issue of the Maricopa County's Audubon publication, Cactus Wren*dition
"Mixed media artist Stephanie Peters has found inspiration in the natural world since childhood. Growing up on a horse farm outside Baltimore, Maryland gave her the perfect foundation to become a full-time artist inspired by animals. She’s still working on that - somewhere along the way she got distracted by the majestic beauty and destructive forces of natural cataclysms. In her studio in Arizona, she creates mixed media paintings and drawings inspired by recent natural catastrophic events and their role in the ecosystem.
Her relationship with natural disasters began in 2004 after the powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia. After hearing the news, she wondered how she could help heal those directly affected by the devastation. Over the next ten years, she would witness and experience natural disasters personally, giving her the inspiration to seek answers to her question in a series of abstract paintings that symbolized healing.
Her original series deliberately did not discuss the science of natural disasters; however, she couldn’t ignore the positive and negative impacts disasters have on their environment. Focusing on wildfire, a natural event that is part of the backdrop of her life in Arizona, Peters examined the important role of forest fires in the life cycle of plants and animals. This generated a new series of paintings and drawings that look at the forest both during and after a fire.
Peters acknowledges that disasters, besides being brutal and surreal, can also be breathtaking and astonishing. “When an avalanche falls, or a meteor shoots through the sky, it’s hard not to see beauty,” she says. For that reason, her work reflects the aesthetic dimension of these complex events. Recently, in addition to wildfires, she has also begun to explore the impact of severe weather and volcanoes on the environment.
When she is not chasing a natural disaster, she travels to interesting places seeking experiences that inspire her, like hiking among Desert Bighorn sheep in Zion National Park, or watching flamingos in the Camargue region of France. These experiences inspire her to create intimate portraits of animals in soft pastel, abstract interpretations in her paintings, or illustrations for digital art – on her journey as a wildlife artist."
Kirtland’s Warbler Soft pastel on paper, 8”x12”
This drawing of a Kirtland’s Warbler reflects the life that exists because of wildfires. Also known as Jack Pine Warblers, these little birds are dependent on wildfires to provide the small trees and open areas that meet their rigid habitat requirements for nesting. They were almost forced to extinction when forest fires were suppressed, but now they are on their way to recovery as scientists and wildfire mitigation experts find ways to control burns and live with natural occurring wildfires.
Mount Graham Red Squirrel Soft pastel and charcoal on paper, 9”x12”
The Mount Graham Red Squirrel is native to and only found in higher elevations of southern Arizona’s Pinaleño mountains. Forest fires threaten its habitat, and along with drought and insect infestation, have helped push this squirrel to the edge of extinction.
Slide Fire Sky (Smoke) Acrylic on canvas, 20”x24”
This illustrates the majestic beauty of a smoky sunset near a forest fire. Although wildfires are dangerous and feared, it is hard to ignore their beauty, and not appreciate how they can transform the evening sky. This painting was inspired by the sunsets I saw in Sedona over Coffee Pot Rock, during the 2014 Slide Fire. That fire ended up burning over 20,000 acres in and near Oak Creek Canyon.