We’ve long been enchanted by artist Terri Foss, whose Instagram feed is full of her incredibly charming, witchy paintings of crescent moons and wild, solitary figures standing alongside pumpkins and crows and cats and wolves, most of them glowing in hues of purple and gold. Other posts show Foss herself, like a figure from her paintings—walking through a leafstrewn forest, the moon bright overhead—or scenes from inside her candlelit home and workspace, filled with herbs, mirrors, antiques, and a zillion small treasures. She is clearly someone who lives beautifully. Last spring I had the pleasure of meeting Foss in person at a caf. in Beacon, New York, where she emanated a soft, reserved beauty and strength, speaking quietly but with clear intent. It was evident that there was much brewing under the surface—passion, power, insight—and I was thrilled to ask her the questions below in an attempt to learn some of her secrets.
Enchanted Living: Tell us about your life and your work. What made you decide to create the art and choose the subject matter that you paint?
Terri Foss: I will start by saying I was born in April of 1965, the day after a full moon. My sun sign is Aries, my moon sign is Sagittarius, the fire element, and the ruling planet of Mars—and I’m a natural creative proud lefty. I was born and raised in New York’s rural Hudson Valley on a quiet country road named Sarah Wells Trail and named my daughter Sarah thirty years later. My father built our small ranch on the adjacent property of the farmhouse he grew up in. When I was five, we moved only miles away to the most magical little home surrounded by fairy forests, a pond, and fields of apple trees. A few hundred feet past my backyard was a church and cemetery from the 1800s. In the apple field was the most magnificent old tree that we loved to climb.
One day, when I was about ten years old, I was taking a walk in the field when I saw something I had never seen before: a man sitting with an easel, canvas, and paints. My heart sung. He was painting the beauty that I experienced every day in this tree-lined grassy field. I ran home to tell my mother and dragged her by the hand back with me. I knew right then and there that was what I wanted to be: an artist. That summer I enrolled for my first art lessons at the Bethlehem Art Gallery. My grandmothers and parents all influenced me greatly, teaching me how to work with my hands and create whatever my heart desired. I started to draw with pencils and discovered I knew how to draw animals. By the time of my high school graduation, I had taken every art class offered and had been accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where I majored in graphic design and fine art.
I forced myself out of my comfort zone to live in the bustling city. It was there that one of my professors critiqued my work, telling me that my art was too cutesie. I knew this was not a compliment. His biased judgement stung me temporarily, but I never forgot that he tried to change me. This also taught me that we are each unique and one-of-a-kind beings, and this is what makes the world go round. Jobs came and went for a couple of years, but my heart was not excited. I’d always wanted to be a nurse, so I enrolled in college again to became a registered nurse. While raising my three children over the next couple of decades, I became a hospice volunteer and painted murals in people’s homes and businesses. But my artist soul needed more.
I followed my intuition, what called me and what made me feel excited. I made myself an art studio in my home and began tapping into the internet and social media. Over time I filled my studio with treasures and pieces of nature I connected with; my small sanctuary is now an extension of my spirit and soul, a space that welcomes me unconditionally every day. I have always loved Halloween and witches. I identify with all that is good and heals. I believe we all have a little witch in our souls, and my paintings portray this. I want you to see yourself in my paintings and get lost in them. Feel the feelings and know your spiritual energy is waiting for you to embrace it. Use your intuition, trust yourself, as you already know the answers to guide you in your amazing life. I paint what I love, what excites me and makes me feel content.
EL: What does witch mean to you? Do you identify as a witch?
TF: If I am 100 percent honest, I have never discussed this subject with anyone, but I feel comfortable sharing some of my thoughts with you all. It is a feeling that is so personal and lives in my deepest core. As a young girl growing up in the 1970s, with my two younger sisters, we were all very much sewn together through our souls. Our lives and imaginations were truly magical in every sense. We lived in the country, and most of our free time was spent exploring our forest and the very old cemetery neighboring our property. Nature and spirits naturally surrounded us in a pure, innocent way. It was wonderful. I learned at a young age that my intuition, sensitivity, and insight were my strengths. I always felt I was a caretaker and a healer. My love for Mother Nature followed me through all the stages in my life. I have always been in tune with her subtle shifts. All this energy spilled into womanhood—maiden, mother, and now crone. I believe we all have special individual strengths with gifts to offer to harness and call our own. It is never too late to discover your magic.
EL: How do you begin a new day?
TF: I am the true definition of an early bird—this is when my energy and creativity are at their height. When night falls, all I can think about is waking before the sun and hearing the first birds sing and seeing the soft glow of the first morning light. Coffee is first and a few quiet moments to be thankful for the abundance I am blessed with. When I say abundance, I am speaking of this universe, my family, health, and basically my entire being. I think about the dreams I had during the night, which are always very important to me. Next, I set my goals that I want to accomplish for the day. This includes physical, mindful, and emotional well-being reminders for my soul. I then sit quietly with my iPad, gratefully responding and writing back to the awesome people who reached out to me.
Then it’s time to make my way down to my art studio and small shipping area tucked away like a cocoon in my home. The candles are lit, the incense is burning, the sage smokes, the music is on, now it is time to package orders from my Etsy shop. Each package is special and treated as such. Once they are all complete, it is now time to sit on my front porch with my cat Skyla and dog Trixie to enjoy the peacefulness and greet the new gifts Mother Nature and the universe have bestowed on us as the new day begins. Afternoons are for artwork and new creations!
EL: What appeals to you about magic and witches? Do you feel there is magic in your life—and, if so, how would you describe it?
TF: Since I was a girl until now, when I’ve journeyed over fifty times around the sun, I have been drawn to a powerful, magical sense that defined my spirit and innermost soul. I took notice and appreciated my unique, strong grandmothers and great aunts I had as role models growing up. I was overly intrigued by my great aunt Helen, one of my Ukrainian grandmother’s sisters, who read her oversize antique tarot cards at her round breakfast nook table. They were beautiful, and although I never touched them, I wanted to! She had a large antique domed astrology display. Colorful pins represented all the planets, moon, and sun. I don’t know what it was called, but my sisters and I would stand around it gazing with intrigue.
My great grandmother was a fortune teller. I remember visiting her small home and being in awe. It was decorated with wonderful witchy vibes. I sat with my sisters on her soft Victorian velvet lounging sofa. She had glass beaded strands hanging in the doorways, and I loved parting them to walk through. Being a teenager in the 1970s, I spent sleepovers with my closest girlfriends and sisters conjuring spirits with the Ouija board that I still own today, playing Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. I believe the universe is magic and have always lived this way. It’s the only truth I’ve ever known, never questioning its power and instead making the choice to embrace and trust my journey. I have always had a strong purposeful inner voice, with my intuition and sensitivity being my strongest attributes. Yes, I believe I have manifested much of my life through passionate drive, ambition, and casting a spell or two!
EL: Do you have a personal mantra that you live by? How do you achieve your goals in life and business?
TF: Envision. Intention. Manifestation. Fiercely love your precious life and the time you are given in this physical world. The universe is bountiful, offering a wealth of endless possibilities just waiting for us to harness them. Start by knowing what you are worth. Tap into your inner spiritual being to know your truth, fall in love with yourself, live in your own skin, and wear your soul. Don’t hush your inner voice, let the light in, and wear your crown proudly. I have always informally envisioned my goals. Part of this process is living as if I have achieved them already. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I began using this belief in a hardcore way. My mind consumed itself with the vision of having my art be seen by people around the world. I discovered successful artists that I admired and envisioned myself persevering with my own art. I have always been an old soul, a bit of a loner in a good way and a content homebody. I knew I had to discipline myself to work hard toward my future.
A vision board or sacred vision altar space are both useful tools to guide and to channel your desired outcomes. My visions for myself were and are imprinted in my conscious mind. I use this method for spiritual, mental, and physical goals I want to obtain. Infuse yourself with knowledge, love, desire, and of course magic.
EL: How do you stay enchanted in life and what inspires you to create art?
TF: My life and art are intertwined. I live in my paintings, and my art consumes my soul. The energy flows naturally for me, almost magnetically keeping a magical connection between the two. This is a daily conscious effort on my part. I feel we are responsible for our own drive and inspiration. I surround my senses with what appeals to me to keep my mind, body, and spirit alive. The second a shadow or darkness begins to show itself, I immediately turn on my protective surrounding glow. I try not to negotiate with negativity or undesired thoughts. Surrounding yourself with beauty does not have to cost money.
Think of what makes you feel excited, happy, and inspired. For instance, this morning the tiniest hummingbird landed on a branch so close to me … now that is magic! I noticed how the sound of wind began in the distance, yet nothing was moving around me, and then within seconds air rushed through, making the trees dance, and then it was silent once again. Take notice of the moving cloud formations and colored hues in the sky. Light a flickering candle and watch the wax drip. Sometimes I light a simple pinecone and blow it out—nothing smells better. Music is always a mood enhancer to get the creative juices flowing. A simple altar space holding what is special and sacred is a must for me. Don’t be afraid to spend quiet time in your own wonderful mind to envision greatness. Good vibes and positive energy will be a chain effect of pure abundance in all forms.
EL: Can you describe a favorite painting that you have created and tell us how your Earthly Souls and Spirits Oracle card deck was born?
TF: My paintings tend to portray witchy elusive women, many times not showing their identity openly. They are entirely at peace, centered and grounded. It is my intent that my viewers resonate with and each envision themselves, almost getting lost in my art as they journey through their own earthly lives. My message I portray in my art is to know our ancestors, loved ones, and beloved pets who have passed to the spirit world surround us and offer us guidance, love, and safety as we navigate through our time on this planet.
I have one painting that I have a special sentimental attachment to. It is one I created some years back of a red cloaked woman looking down at her cat. This bond between them is a unity of their spirits. At the time, I didn’t even have a cat. I had a little black rescue Chihuahua named Guinness; he was my soul and has since past over the rainbow bridge. Soft pine trees embrace them as the full moon watches over with protection. This painting is called Divinity and is featured on the cover card and in my Earthly Souls and Spirits Oracle. This painting represents me most accurately on an emotional level, so much so that I re-created the original design for myself because all my earlier original eight-by-ten paintings were sold years ago. I painted them for very little money, many selling for $30 each. I am grateful I had the insight of scanning the images before they went to their new homes. This is how I was able to create my Earthly Souls and Spirits Oracle card collection, which has been available in my Etsy shop since 2016. This earlier time period of my life was an emotional and financial struggle for me. Little did I know I was being given a gift. Now I am able to offer prints of my art and my oracle deck because of this period of hardship. I never gave up, but persevered with my art. Most everything has a silver lining if you look for it.
EL: Do you have any advice for our readers who have trouble tapping into their own creativity and what advice would you give someone to follow or find their passion?
TF: Oh yes I do! This is a subject I feel very passionate about. It is very important for us all to support each other. I want to express what a compliment it is when someone is inspired by my art, and then, in turn, taps into their creative side to make their own art. I feel so proud when someone reaches out to me to show me their pieces. Yes, we all inspire each other. What a glorious world of wonderment!
Ask yourself what excites you and gives you energy when you do it or think of it? Does something come to mind? Well, this is your given gift. Channel your passion and practice it. Your creations may not be perfect, but in my eyes they’re “perfectly imperfect.” Instead of looking for imperfections, find the unmistakable beauty in what just came from your own mind and hands!
Revisit and reminisce about your childhood imagination. The days when you wholeheartedly believed in magical happenings and a mystical world of enchantment, maybe the witches’ brew you concocted into a perfect potion or your “imaginary friends” that kept you company. These innocent days of fantasy and memories tend to fade, leaving your carefree childhood beliefs and feelings in a dulled state as we carry on in adulthood. I am going to tell you to rekindle them, bring them back into your life. Didn’t they give you a feeling like no other? I suggest that you unwrap your gift and practice using it. Nurture your passion. Where is that spark? Give it air, watch the ember glow as it bursts into a bright flame. This light is yours, so protect it. Don’t let anyone dim your glow.
Follow Terri Foss on Instagram and Facebook @terrifoss or visit her Etsy shop @etsy.com/shop/terriannfoss.