Snow fell in sheets outside the Long Neck Point Road home as the wind blew fiercely off Long Island Sound.

While most locals took cover -- enjoying a glass of wine near the fireplace or curled up with a good book -- Jan Dilenschneider threw open the French doors in her painting studio and welcomed the ice-cold weather.

"You have to feel the experience as well as create it," she said. "My philosophy is you have to feel what you're painting. You have to feel the emotion."

And her philosophy has served her well.

During that storm two years ago, Dilenschneider created a mixed-media oil painting with pastel, "A Birch and a Pine in a Whiteout," which earned her best in show at the 20th annual School of Art Student Exhibition, sponsored by the Silvermine Arts Center.

Now, two short years later, Dilenschneider's work will be exhibited at Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier in Paris during July.

Dilenschneider's works include landscapes and still-life pieces.

Sitting in her studio two weeks ago, the muted walls highlighted by her landscapes and still-life pieces, Dilenschneider discussed her upcoming show.

But her studio wasn't always a showcase for her paintings. In fact, Dilenschneider said the room, which is on the second floor and offers a balcony overlooking the Sound, doubles as a dining area when she entertains.

Two doors, hidden to the naked eye, slide open to reveal where she puts her paintings when company arrives.

Finally, someone pointed out to her that "some people actually hang paintings on the walls."

"I painted for years and years and I had no interest to sell my work or to do shows," she said, adding that people would ask her for her website, but she doesn't have one.

About a year ago, a man wanted to purchase one of her paintings.

"That was reinforcing," she said. "Very reinforcing. It's encouraging."

In January, she, along with her husband and a friend, visited the Paris gallery and met with Pierre-Alain.

"He looked at my work on a CD and he was very impressed," she said, adding that he wanted her to update him on her progress.

"We visited again three weeks ago and he said he could offer me a show next May, or, if I was interested, in July."

So she agreed to July, which she added, is the start of Paris' Fashion Week.

"I was very pleased he was interested," she said. "I was delighted."

Pierre-Alain gave her the option of using the first floor or the second floor for the exhibit, "or both," he said.

So she chose both, and now she's in the process of selecting 22 to 25 paintings to ship to Paris before the opening.

Dilenschneider, whose mother was an artist, took to the easel early in life.

"I created my first really serious oil painting at 11 or 12, of a swamp at my grandmother's house," she said. "I thought about how it felt to be in this dark blue swamp."

A graduate of Ohio State University, Dilenschneider studied at the North Shore Art League in Illinois and the National Academy of Design in New York City.

Today, she takes advantage of her surroundings, painting landscapes of the water and tall reeds, as well as her penchant for still-life fruit.

She said one of the more difficult parts of painting is knowing when she's finished.

"I like a painting to make you feel like you're still engaged," she said. "I like it to be not unfinished, but still spontaneous -- things are not all worked over. I want them to be slightly like the wind blowing. It's still going. It's still moving. Once a painting goes static, you don't want to look at it anymore."

Dilenschneider goes back to one word when describing her work: Strong.

"It's all an experience," she said. "That's the thing. You really have to keep going to the next level and keep challenging yourself. You need to see where you've been and where you're going. And you need to be inspired by everyone and everything."

avarese@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4405; @Ashley_Varese