Corinne Lea: Preserving Nature through Art

“I love that moment before something is about to happen – right before the predator sees his prey or as an onlooker, you can see a piece and think about what’s about to happen. There’s something absolutely thrilling about that moment and it’s pure and raw and beautiful. Nothing in our day-to-day technology-ridden lives can really replicate that.”

It’s no surprise to hear that Sturgeon Bay artist Corinne Lea is a fan of English broadcaster David Attenborough, the naturalist best known for the Life series of BBC natural history programs. That inspiration, along with a lifetime of appreciating the natural wonders of Door County, is evident in every piece of art currently adorning the walls of The Ridges Sanctuary.

"Great Horned Owl on the Hunt" by Corinne Lea.

“Great Horned Owl on the Hunt” by Corinne Lea.

The second installment of the sanctuary’s new Reflections On the Ridges winter art and lecture series, Lea’s 35-piece collection of watercolor pencil, pen, pencil and acrylic creations aims to put the viewer in touch with the often-unseen moments of the natural world.

“As I’m painting, I’m thinking of what inspires me about this creature, what inspires me about this subject matter and I hope that when people see my work, they are inspired,” Lea said. “It captures the thrill of the hunt or the everyday quietude when you come across a flower in the woods, just that silent, beautiful moment that you have with nature.”

Lea has had many beautiful moments with nature in Door County, recalling all of the inspirations from childhood that led the self-taught artist to preserve them on canvas and paper: Peninsula School of Art classes from Baileys Harbor artist Malin Eckman (“Her style just so inspires me – it’s whimsical, it’s imaginative but also she has a real sense of realism and anatomy, which I respect and admire.”); her mother Renny’s affinity for house wrens; seeing woodpeckers in her own yard; and most of all, her late grandmother, who introduced the family to Door County after buying a farm here in 1965.

“She was a gardener; she was an amateur naturalist, a huge wildlife enthusiast,” Lea recalled. “She had a fox that came into her yard just about every day waiting for her to put out scraps, right in the front yard. She took care of the yellow lady’s-slippers on her property, clearing away brush so they could grow. She had her own vegetable garden and flower garden, which were amazing, so she was a big inspiration for my love of nature.”

Through the years, Lea has dabbled in gardening, candy and baking businesses (her family owns Sweetie Pies in Fish Creek) and while she has appreciated those experiences, her heart has always led her back to art and nature.

"Hine's Emerald Dragonfly," by Corinne Lea.

“Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly,” by Corinne Lea.

Her showing at The Ridges (now on display through the end of February) is her first “real push” to creating art for a living and through her paintings and mixed media pieces, is dedicated to doing her part to conserve this county’s natural treasures.

“I think when people are able to see a vision of something beautiful in the natural world, they know that when they can appreciate it through art, it can remind them of appreciating the actual creature, animal or plant.”

Corinne Lea’s art will be on display throughout the month at The Ridges Cook-Fuller Center, 8166 Highway 57 in Baileys Harbor. For more information, visit

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