Watercolorist…natural science illustrator…Jennifer Lucas.
Jenn, who earned a BFA with a biology minor from Stony Brook University, was first introduced to watercolors in college and discovered that she loved the medium, being attracted to the range of artistic effects it offered. “You can go from beautiful transparent washes to opaque detailed passages” she said. “And you can use all the versatility of watercolors in one painting.”
Jenn’s technique is to often make a sketch on tracing paper, then transfer it to watercolor paper. Starting with the wet-on-wet method, she would then work her way to dry brushing at the end. At times she will draw into the painting using watercolor pencils and white ink to achieve a sharper detail or shading. The white ink is used to highlight a particular area that she wants to keep white, or to clean up edges.
One of her favorite subjects to paint are bones. Why bones, you might ask? Well as Jenn explains it, “They have interesting and complicated parts, yet simple organic lines. And the color can vary a bit too. I feel a painting, or a study of a bone is a tasteful tribute to the previous owner.” She has also done house and pet portrait commissions.
In 2018 Jenn completed a certificate in natural science illustration at the NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx. And she sees it as her artistic mission to raise people’s awareness and educate them of the nature which surrounds us. Her hope is that “it’ll make people better stewards of our planet.” As an artist in general, Jenn feels that it makes her a better person when she’s creating art.
Occasionally Jenn will digitally enhance her illustrations by scanning the image, removing the background, and then do any retouching. Once it’s saved as a low- and high-resolution file; it is then suitable for both digital and print reproduction. For one of her most recent illustrations, the creatures were done in watercolor, then scanned and placed in a digitally enhanced background. Any text could then be added digitally as well.
As a nature science illustrator, Jenn has had a drawing published in the Fire Island Times accompanying an article about North Atlantic Right whales. And she helped work on a mural at the CREEC Nature Center at Carmans River Kayak, depicting the creatures throughout the Carmans River in Brookhaven, NY. Jenn has also created illustrations to accompany a doctoral candidate’s dissertation defense about turtle conservation. Currently, she is working on a mural for CEED (The Center for Environmental Education & Discovery in Brookhaven, NY) that depicts species of plants and animals found at the Washington Lodge property, an education center also located in Brookhaven.
Jenn feels that an integral part to being an artist is to remain teachable and open. “Whenever I think I don’t need to pay attention to a part of a workshop because I think I know everything, that’s when I learn the most.” Asked if her work evolved over time, she said, “I guess it always improves a little technique-wise with every painting.” When recently looking at some old exercises when she started classes at the Botanical Garden, she quipped, “Wow they were awful! I thought I knew so much from undergrad/fine art. I learned so much at NYBG about light and color…” Jenn also takes workshops in traditional, digital, and marketing for artists.
She has a long background working in the sign industry. Starting while she was still in high school, she did hand carved and hand lettered signs. Fast forward a number of years and with the onset of computers, Jenn learned the software and briefly found herself once again in the industry. This time working on the front of house signs for most of the Broadway shows at the time.
The best advice given to her about her art and what she passes onto other artists is simple. Sketch daily. Projects are so much easier in the brain with daily practice. Adding that it’s important to join groups. As artists can be introverts, she feels that it’s important to be with others on this creative journey, whether in-person or online. “I have many artist friends to go to with questions that I’ve never met face to face,” she says. Jenn also encourages joining groups that are not art related as well, pointing out that opportunities can come from different sources.
Thank you, Jenn, for letting us visit your creative world and sharing your incredible paintings and illustrations with us. We look forward to seeing many more.