Nature is my primary source of inspiration, and color my main mode of expression.
Each of us brings a personal filter to our view of the world. Insects, birds, flowers, stones, and fallen feathers always catch my eye. Painting allows me to reveal the beauty I discover in small, intimate details of nature. My love of nature, color, drawing and design – with just a touch of whimsy – come together in my natural history paintings. In abstract work, I employ multi-layered colors to explore micro and macrocosms of energy, dimensions, and the cosmos.
Art has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Drawing and making things were always my favorite activities as a child. Many of my toys were little things I made of stones, clay, or paper. As a youngster, I filled journals with intricate mandalas and make-believe creatures. My scientist father inspired an early love of nature on camping trips and nature walks. He would identify every bird and plant, and I would show him where to find imagined fairy gardens. Although my college degree is in biology, art is essential to me, and is a lifelong pursuit. My fascination with both art and science continues to this day.
One summer in high school, I wandered into Elaine Magnin’s needlepoint store in San Francisco. The beautiful hand-painted canvases covering the walls amazed me. I was a total novice, without the slightest idea how to make a single needlepoint stitch. Despite that detail, I soon had my first paying job in art—painting designs on counted canvas. I was promoted to custom order artist and began creating my own designs. After college, I launched Designs by Lucy, and sold my line of original designs to fine needlepoint stores nationwide for more than 12 years. I gained valuable experience from this period, but the work itself began to feel too restrictive. I turned my focus to fine art, reveling in the freedom to experiment with new subjects, media and styles.
I have a passion for color, which is a major, consistent component throughout my work. I find it thrilling to experience vivid color in nature, so I am especially attracted to the flora and fauna of the tropics. Skin diving is my favorite travel activity because it allows me to float through seemingly alien realms of incredible life forms. Nature provides such remarkable creations that I prefer depicting actual species of plants and animals, although they may seem imaginary through the lens of my interpretation.
Butterflies appear frequently in my work. Their infinite patterns and colors make them ideal art subjects, but they also hold a greater significance for me. I don’t consciously consider them as symbols or archetypes when I paint them, but they do represent several things to me, the foremost being the inner spirit. Beyond this, I see butterflies as metaphors for transformation, constant change, passage of time, and the stunning beauty of nature.
My abstract mixed media and pastel paintings come from an internal source of inspiration, and I allow intuition to guide me in their creation. I use colors to translate interactions and transformation of energies. Colors merge, flow gently from one to another – or clash to create excitement and tension. A great many partially transparent layers overlap to evoke a sense of depth and multidimensionality. I enjoy the ambiguity of seeing both micro and macrocosms in the same painting.
My surreal digital art pieces are created in Photoshop,using innumerable bits of my photos and other artwork. In each piece, I feel as if I am telling a story, myth or fairytale without words. I follow my intuition and make artistic judgments until the piece feels right, but I allow the viewer to imagine the narrative and meaning.
Lucy’s Letters: are illustrations I created for Alphabet Dreams, a children’s bedtime alphabet book that nears publication. Mrs. Grossman’s Paper Co published “Lucy’s Letters” as stickers, and I make related products such as cards, bookmarks and name pictures in my studio.
Miniature fantasy Shoes: My tiny shoes of polymer clay, intricately painted with nail polishes and pearlescent acrylic inks, were originally inspired by imaginary characters from the Land of Oz, but they have since gone in ever more fanciful directions. They were featured on HGTV’s Crafters Coast to Coast program in 2005.
Beaded Jewelry: Once, when I was frustrated that all my art supplies were still packed from a recent move, I spotted a fabulous array of colorful glass seed beads in a store window. I bought a basic instruction booklet, a few supplies, and I was on my way. Since I was determined to create a coral reef necklace, I moved on to more advanced stitches and original designs. Now I make beaded jewelry for sale—and to go with every outfit I own. I may add some of my favorite styles to the Shop soon.
Realistic Watercolor: I begin with research on my chosen subject. This takes a few days to a few weeks. Once I know exactly which creatures and or plants I want to include, I make several sketches to work out the basic composition. After my watercolor paper is soaked, stretched and dried, I do a very light pencil drawing on it to show placement and shapes. Finally, I begin to actually paint, slowly bringing all the different elements to the same level of detail. I use several different watercolor techniques to obtain the effects I’m after. Most often, I work wet-in-wet within small, well-defined areas.
Pastels: I use pastels when I want intense, saturated color without minute detail. I start with a light pastel sketch on dry watercolor paper. Working dark to light (opposite of watercolor), I rub the pigment in well over the entire sheet. I use enough pastel layers to completely fill the tooth of the paper, leaving no white areas.
Mixed Water Media Abstracts: These paintings are not planned out in advance. Working by intuition, I spend a great deal of time just sitting and looking at a piece in progress before adding the next element. I begin by dampening and tinting the stretched watercolor paper with two or three washes in basic primary colors. Later, using a large brush, I sweep plain water onto a portion of the dried surface. I drip, pour or spatter colors, which interact within the wet area. It is necessary to allow the paper to dry between each application of paint. Since I use so many layers of watercolor, acrylic ink (and, sometimes, bronze powders from my grandmother’s art cabinet), this process takes many days. Glimpses of the original light wash and portions of each successive layer are still visible, adding depth to the final painting.
Beaded Jewelry: I weave and string glass seed beads, freshwater pearls, and semi-precious stones. Without using a loom, each item is stitched by hand using a long, slender beading needle and thread. Each piece is an original design.
Lucy Arnold has created art since childhood, and has always been intrigued with nature. Born in 1954, she was raised in California. She earned a BA with Honors in Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her art career began with a needlepoint business: Designs by Lucy, with nation-wide distribution for over 12 years. Moving back to California in 1993 from New York, she focused on fine art. Her award-winning paintings, ranging from scientific realism to complete abstraction, have been exhibited in solo, invitational and juried shows for over 30 years. Lucy’s art has been published as prints, cards, stickers, book and CD covers as well as in calendars, textbooks and art instruction books. Travel destinations that have inspired her include the Amazon Jungle, the Galapagos Islands, Turkey, Greece, East Africa, Machu Picchu, and Hawaii. She is an Artist Member of Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and a signature member of Marin Society of Artists. She lives with her husband in lovely Marin County, California, and has two grown children.