Born, raised and a resident of northern Illinois near Chicago for most of her life, Valerie Connelly retired from teaching French literature in 2005 and now lives in Cookeville. She owns a publishing business, is a radio talk show host and continues to paint and compose music. In 2009, Connelly moved to Cookeville, where she has joined the arts community and continues to paint commissions, illustrate children’s books and create a series of paintings of the natural beauty in Tennessee.
Connelly painted "Arctic Tern" from a photograph made by a friend as he saw this bird while in Manitoba, Canada. The photo was remarkable for its clarity and inspired her to create this painting. Connelly’s process of painting is described by her: “I begin with the background, creating sky, clouds and distant objects first. Then I work forward, painting midrange and, finally, the closest objects. Finally, I added light and shadow to the grasses and the tern, to show that he is flying in sunlight.”