Nature’s Art of Awe

June 9, 2023

By Vanessa Swenson, Local artist, and INLC member

Photo by Clarin J Photography

I grew up wandering the wheat fields of Central Washington with a sketchbook in hand. On other afternoons, I could be found sitting in my favorite backyard tree, finger-painting the flowers as their blooms buzzed with energy. At the time – as with many important moments in life – I didn’t think much of it. Creating while outside was second nature. My mom was an art teacher and my dad a music teacher in rural Washington communities which meant I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by wide open spaces to explore and endless examples of the magic that creativity could unlock in life.

The arts continued to wind and bend their way through my life as I studied Graphic Design and Art History in Bozeman, Montana. Concurrently, my love grew for the wild and natural landscapes in which I found myself immersed. Eventually, my wanderings led me back to my hometown of Spokane, nestled in the Inland Northwest geography that shaped my childhood. As I pursued my fine art career, the connection became more and more clear.

Beargrass on the flanks of Mt. Spokane

Creating art was my way of communicating the awe and experience of what it means to be a part of nature.

-Vanessa swenson

In my spring 2023 series of work entitled “Seven,” I created seven pieces of art that meditated on these moments of connecting with and feeling awe within nature. Some pieces focus on tangible times such as a June night spent beside Colchuck Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness or following the technicolor trails of Maple Pass on a fall backpacking trip in the North Cascades. Others are simpler moments such as a golden hour of picking marigolds in the garden; a picnic with your Arrowleaf Balsamroot friends; and the entire universe found within a small patch of an old-growth forest floor.

“The Enchantments” available at

Connecting with nature and the wild of our world is why I make art. So with that, I have committed to donating 5% of all my art sales to Northwest environmental efforts and organizations. For the months of April and May 2023, I selected the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy. Their projects have protected natural areas in my neighborhood that provide endless inspiration for all.

I hope to welcome others to connect with their landscape and to see their part amongst these incredible natural systems – to know you are family with the plants, trees & wildflowers that greet you on your next walk through the pine-filled forest, across the slopes of the Mount Spokane foothills, along the lively banks of the Spokane river and beyond.

Learn more about how Vanessa connects with nature through her art at