Women in Art: Peggy Macnamara, Artist in Residence

A woman drawing on a large sheet of paper, in a forest of bright green, leafy plants

We're highlighting women artists at The Field Museum and exploring the intersection of art and science. Hear from Peggy Macnamara, artist in residence at The Field Museum and associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

How did you get your start as an artist? 

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Colorful painting of two large blue birds among trees, surrounded by other smaller birds, a frog, and a butterfly
"Little Blue Heron," © Peggy Macnamara. 

I have always loved drawing, and I did art history in college and graduate school.

What does your job entail? What’s the day-to-day like?

I get to the Museum by 8am every day and am usually working on a project. I just finished about 40 watercolors (each 22 by 30 inches) telling the positive conservation story of the Peregrine Falcons going off the endangered species list. These paintings appear in the book The Peregrine Returns: The Art and Architecture of an Urban Raptor Recovery by Mary Hennen and myself. I also have a children's book coming out about the collections. I teach my Art Institute classes on Tuesdays at the Museum. My work appears in shows, including "The Choreography of Birds" at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods. I also do workshops and lectures at various locations around the city, many of which are open to the public. 

What has been your favorite part of your work, or a memorable moment?

I was painting in the Hall of Birds when I was surrounded by group of children about 10 years old. They gradually moved on, except for one little girl who was watching me intently. Finally, she said "I want to be you."

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Paintings of various animals stacked up in an office, including birds, insects, a monkey, and a crocodile.
© Peggy Macnamara.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists? 

My advice is "persist" and "work consistently". You will get better and find your way. 

Watch as Peggy sketches a Snowy Owl and hear some of her tips for drawing.

Explore more of Peggy's work and upcoming shows and events