Story By Gina Malone | Photos By Paula Illingworth
Although no one in Simone Wood’s family encouraged her to be an artist, nor did she have any formal training, other experiences in her life have combined to allow her to teach herself to paint and to find inspiration for the watercolors that she creates. She remembers the serenity of art class in high school. “I was at my most comfortable there,” she says, “the smell of paints, the organized mess of paintbrushes and pallet knives, and the art that hung willy-nilly on the walls. When class was over, I would linger around the classroom and look at all the amazing styles of art that the other students had created.”
Upon graduation, however, she settled upon a business degree, discovering later that she was not cut out for the office environment. “I would often draw on those frustrating pink ‘While You Were Out’ pads,” she says. “To this day, I get the chills when I see them.”
She took a job with a greenhouse/garden center in her native New York. The flower shop there had in- house florists and was filled with silk and fresh flowers. “Having no floral experience to speak of, I was put in charge of making silk tea cup arrangements,” Wood says. “That was the kickoff to my falling in love with the world of floral design.” After a disappointing end to another job with a small floral shop in downtown Syracuse, she became serious about learning the floral industry, studying in California and New York and judging and competing in flower shows in the northeast. “I ended my floral career with having been a member of Biltmore’s esteemed floral department,” she says.
Her love of nature and flowers, in particular, dates back to her childhood days when an elderly neighbor put together a garden show with the children in her neighborhood who planted seeds for flowers of all kinds. Wood chose marigolds, still a favorite flower to this day. “I don’t know if I even won a prize,” she says, “but it didn’t matter. That’s when I really fell in love with nature and gardening and flowers.”
Seeing birds with her father at a wildlife refuge set off a love of birds of all kinds—geese, crows, egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds. That early admiration for winged creatures still shows up in her art today. “My subjects are seldom detailed and I try to use artistic license when it comes to the undertones of the birds’ natural colors,” she says. “I really want to achieve a bird that’s perched on a branch in such a way that it makes you wonder if he is ready to take off or if he just landed. I love to paint birds with their heads looking back over their shoulders.”
She finds an innate connection between the natural world and her desire to create. “I am inspired by nature,” she says, “especially when the sun is setting and the sky is on fire. I often sit and look at things and figure out in my mind how I would sketch and paint them.”
Watercolor is the medium of choice for her these days. “I create my paintings a few different ways,” Wood says. “At times I will start with a splatter of paint on the paper, let it dry and go back to it and see what the position of the bird will be in relationship to the splatter. At other times, I’ll start out with a sketch of a bird that I saw perched on a branch, fence post or feeder, then start the painting process.” With the composition of her paintings, she seeks to create movement with the birds.
Wood and her husband moved to WNC from the Syracuse area in 2008. “Knowing that Hendersonville was an up-and-coming artists’ community, I chose to show my works at Art MoB Studios when I was approached by the owner Michele Sparks, who saw my paintings at my first Art on Main event in Hendersonville,” Wood says. She was supported at that first showing of her work by her husband who still gives her the space and encouragement she needs to create and by her sister Diane who was “the one who inspired me to begin creating, and to continue creating, my works of art.”
To learn more, visit SimoneWood.app or find her on Instagram. Wood’s working studio is at Art MoB Studios and Marketplace at 124 4th Avenue East in Hendersonville and her work is also available at Heart of the Matter Gallery in Brevard. An artist reception for her work, open to the public, will be held Saturday, February 16, from 5–7 p.m. at Art MoB.