Áine Cole (pronounced on-ya), has an artist’s heart. There’s an innate sense of story and insight in each of her pieces, whether it be an abstract female form or a landscape of vibrant colors lit by an invisible sun. “I’d say that all of my work, no matter whether it’s abstract, or women or landscapes, is all inspired by nature,” she shares. “I’m really drawn to the natural world, whether it’s colors, or forms, or specific landscapes, or a detailed leaf; everything really comes from nature.”
Her newest collection, “A Year on a Cranberry Bog”, was recently featured at the Guyer Art Barn in Hyannis, part of the Hyannis HyArts Campus. To discover the inception of this project, we must go back two years, before Áine was a full-time artist.
After her departure from her position at a travel company in Boston, Áine took some time for herself. “I wanted to do something more creative, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to take the leap to do my art full time. So I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to hike in Spain.’ Which was a bit of a rogue choice,” she admits.
Her decision to walk the El Camino de Santiago turned into a month long hike and a life changing experience. “It was originally a Catholic pilgrimage, where you travel from France to the edge of Spain–it’s 500 miles,” Áine explains. “It’s extremely empowering, especially as a woman, and I wanted to do it alone and maybe get some direction. When I came back, I thought, ‘Life is too short.’ I heard hundreds of stories on the trail from people who had lost a lot. Seeing all these people physically taking steps to move forward on the hike–that’s all they could do, go from A to B every day–was inspiring. I knew I just had to do it. If I fail, I fail. I have to just try. When I came home and I made a website; I had no idea what I was doing. I just started painting.”
When the pandemic quickly changed everyone’s lives and plans last year, Áine was in the midst of just starting her new career. “I had come home from the Camino in October and done a lot of work on my business. By March I had just started to sell pieces and getting images up on my website. I thought, ‘Oh, okay, so I can’t do in person events. How is the summer going to go?’ It was a little bit chaotic.”
As many artistic projects go, at first Áine had no particular direction with it. “My partner lives in England, and I was visiting him for about six months. I was missing the bogs and doing my meditative strolls and walking with my mom, so my first cranberry bog piece was done in England, which is sort of ironic,” she laughs. “Then I came home and thought, ‘I’m going to do more of these.’”
Drawn back to nature and to her roots on Cape Cod, Áine began to paint what brought her comfort. “My mom and I have always walked the cranberry bog, so we just did it a lot more during the pandemic. I was intentionally going to the bog to either paint or to take specific photos during golden hour or specific times of the day where I could get different scenes, and then come home and paint them.” The project took Áine roughly a year and a half to complete.
For the changing seasons featured in “A Year on a Cranberry Bog”, she used watercolor as well as acrylic paints. “I tend to use watercolor a lot more in the winter. My favorite season to paint, hands down, is wintertime. That’s what I gravitate to more so, because I think when the sky is overcast you can see the colors of the world a little bit better. It’s a moodier setting; you have less saturated colors with watercolor. It’s one of my favorite mediums because when you get it right, you can feel it.”
The rest of the year’s scenery brought in more intense colors and distinct perspectives of the landscape. “I did a lot of detailed paintings of the harvest and the fall because I knew that’s what people gravitated toward,” Áine explains. “And those super saturated, opaque reds that you get from acrylic I used for more of the fall, the harvest season and the summer, when you have those bright blue skies and green grass and yellow buds.”
Apart from this latest collection, Áine practices in other various styles and settings. “As far as style goes, abstracts are my most favorite to do,” she emphasizes. “Abstracts are special because they’re so emotional. People can really see your expression within the piece. And not everyone loves them–some people actually hate them. But that’s kind of cool–we’re knocking all the spectrum of emotions out of one piece. When someone finds a piece and really connect to it, it’s that much more meaningful, because it has come straight out of me and whatever I was inspired by that day. So it’s a little bit extra special.”
While Áine has just recently moved to England, she will be unremittingly continuing her work, which will still be for sale through her website and Instagram. “I probably will be using a lot of watercolor over there,” she muses. “England has a bad rap for being rainy and gross all the time, but I think it’s so lovely. The weather’s quite temperate, and because it rains all the time, the grass is this lush green almost year round. I have been inspired by that landscape already. I can’t wait to get a new change and new perspective on scenes to paint.”
Self-made as she is, Áine still sees herself on a lifelong journey. For those who aspire to be artists like her one day, she holds sage yet modest advice: “I’m still figuring it out myself, but I think just do what you love and be honest. That’s what I come back to. That’s what I meditate on. Just do what you feel is right. That’s not only for art, but also for life in general.”
Rachel Walman is the assistant editor of Cape Cod Life Publications.