All art and photos by Guinevere von Sneeden.
See more at instagram.com/guineverevonsneeden.


Guinevere von Sneeden lives in an enchanted world, an uninterrupted sanctuary of pure delight where time is suspended. Dust particles shining in the sunlit windows hover in midair. Nothing seems able to shatter the perfect peace and productive tranquility that surrounds all that she does.

Of course von Sneeden is a real person, with real struggles. Her art is something she works on avidly and enthusiastically, always exploring new mediums and new ideas. (Working in clay is her latest pursuit.) But at the same time, one cannot be faulted, when looking in at her life through the enchanted windows of Instagram, her blog, and Pinterest, for seeing it as charmingly idyllic.

Von Sneeden lives in New England, in a stone cottage that was built in 1694, with her husband, a black cat, a chinchilla rabbit, and “a brood of feisty hens.” The cottage, which she has named Tinkerrigge, is even older than the venerable town nearby and has many a story to tell. The house also has hidden chunks of geode, granite, and glass that glimmer in the light like revealed secrets. The chimney, centered on one end of the exterior, has a charming story: “Apparently in the mid-1800s a woman went stone crazy and masoned the entire home! If you look closely you can see where her beautiful messy stonework comes to a stop … apparently her husband said she was up too high on the ladder and hired professional masons to do the rest. So at the top of the chimney you can see the break from messy into perfect masonry. It always gives me a little laugh.” This imperfection extends to the interior, where you can see through the centuries-old floorboards upstairs. “This caused a very funny evening when I dropped my glass of water, and it soaked the chair in the living room.”

Von Sneeden spends her days creating beautiful and whimsical paintings with watercolor and torn paper, mixing in stains created from plants grown in her own garden. The “little ladies” she paints hold the stems of overgrown blooms like umbrellas, or languidly drape themselves next to somnolent flowers. And when you see von Sneeden’s real-life Eden, it’s hard not to imagine these artworks as an extension of her own experiences. Indeed, it is hard not to be reminded of other strong female artists, such as Tasha Tudor or Beatrix Potter, who created their own simple lives full of homespun comforts.

Like Tudor, von Sneeden loves flowers. “I did work as a floral assistant and completely fell in love with the world of flowers. As a self-taught artist, being a florist really helped my artwork in terms of symmetry, placement, and color. I like to think it was the flowers that taught me to paint, because it was they that inspired me to start painting in the first place.”

Her world is moved by magic, although she prefers to use the term spirits. “I always seem to see the ladies in my work as spirits, or as women and animals interacting with spirits. In such a distracting world, I find it beautiful to think of ghosts set to wander about and being so in tune with their present moment. Some of my favorite pieces to paint have been live women unknowingly interacting with the spirit world.” Von Sneeden also finds inspiration in certain myths. The stories of Blodeuwedd and Persephone especially resonate with her. In one of her blog posts, she calls herself an “opposite Persephone,” wilting as the weather gets warm. “I do love a colder climate, but ever since I’ve fallen in love with gardening, things have started to change,” she says. “I now look so forward to seeing the flowers bloom.”

Among the flowers she loves best are hollyhocks, roses, and larkspur. “What lovely flowers!” she says of larkspur. “Their deep royal color, and how true to their name! If there ever was a flower that could encapsulate a beautiful birdsong, this would be it. When I learned that we were to leave our home in the mountains, I harvested my whole meadow of larkspur and saved them pressed in a book to make my own wallpaper for our future child’s bedroom.”

Hollyhocks are also enchanting to her. “I do believe that fairies live inside. When I was little, I always thought the seeds that each bloom is packed with were little fairy books and that the tall stock and many blooms of the hollyhock must be a fairy library.” These flowers and a few other favorites repeatedly show up in both her art and her garden. “Tasha Tudor always said as a gardening tip that if you’re limited in funds or land, instead of planting a huge array of flowers, just stick to a few and make a big splash with them.”

The idyllic life von Sneeden leads extends from her art and her garden to her pets as well. Her rabbit, Sir Oliver Winterbottom, has free rein of her house and can be seen in many of her pictures on Instagram, nosing at a dried bunch of flowers in a windowsill or lounging by the woodstove. Her black cat, Saoirse, gets along fine with Sir Oliver, aside from a few humorous antics: “They’ve developed quite a fun game together where Saoirse knocks down books and papers from up high and then Oliver eats them. They make quite the team! Oliver has a fascination with shoes, it seems. I come home and kick off my shoes, but it appears he likes to keep his home orderly, because he’ll always hop right over to them and pick them up with his teeth and move them little by little until they’re right next to each other. It’s enough to make one believe that Snow White certainly was not joking.”

The enchantment that imbues von Sneeden’s life spills over into the paintings she sends out into the world. “I like to add a bit of magic to my pieces by adding some herbs and tinctures to my dyes and watercolors. There’s a certain meadow by the cottage that grows the most beautiful herbs and flowers. When I start a painting I like to add herbs that I believe will capture the feeling of the image I’m thinking of. For example in the painting Cats and Roses, the background was dyed with goldenrod and rose petals, and a tincture of wild nightshade and foxglove was added as well.”

This is a beautiful life, and a vicarious pleasure for anyone who follows her work online or purchases one of her Little Lady paintings. “I feel so lucky to live in this beautiful place, doing what I love with these amazing creatures and my wonderful husband. So incredibly lucky. My only wish is that I am able to continue living this dream.”

All art and photos by Guinevere von Sneeden.
See more at instagram.com/guineverevonsneeden


Article from Issue #34
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