ART + LIFE: Botanical Artist and Illustrator Lara Call Gastinger

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<ul><li><p>ART+LIFEBotanical Artistand IllustratorLara Call Gastinger</p></li><li><p>Lara Call Gastinger is an artist and botani-cal illustrator from Charlottesville, Virgi-nia. Currently, she is the chief illustrator for the Flora of Virginia Project. The subjects of her art come from the natural world and her art reveals detailed eviden-ce of change, decay, and processes that occur in nature. She finds great inspira-tion in a carrot that has gone to flower, a broken seed pod, twisted roots or insect damage to a leaf. She strives to make a plant portrait in such a way that it reveals its character and uniqueness. Her focus is on the small details in nature, down to the small venations in leaves which hopefully inspires others to look a bit deeper and pause a bit longer.</p><p>You can follow her work on Instagram, Etsy and Facebook. </p><p></p><p>ABOUT THE ARTIST</p></li><li><p>ABOUT THE ARTIST</p></li><li><p>Even as a child, I would look at tiny things on the ground and gravitated towards nature, specifically plants. While a teenager, I was taught how to draw plants and keep a field sketchbook. I have had many impressionable mentors ran-ging from naturalists to bota-nists that have inspired me. Throughout my college years, I studied Biology and was on the search for a way to connect both art and science. I also re-member a clear trip up Mount Washington in New Hampshi-re and seeing the endangered Robbins Cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana). It was so tiny and delicate yet so spectacular on the rough terrain of Mt. Washington. Since then, I have always been interested in fin-ding, identifying and drawing plants. I have found inspirati-on in so many things by just walking through the woods and looking closely.</p><p>BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING...</p><p>A GOOD STORY...</p><p>My family enjoys hiking and whenever we are hiking, I am always amazed at the range of colors, textures, and types of plants that we come across du-ring that day. On one of these trips, I started to collect some plants that embodied that day and referred to it as a slice of that day/time. From this one sample painting, I generated an entire collection of 10 pieces that were called Ten Walks in Virginia that ended up recei-ving a gold medal a the Royal Horticultural Society show in London To this day, I still collect and make memorable compositions of a hike or day out. I think that inspiration can be found anywhere in nature, even in ones backyard. The quote by E.O. Wilson (a famous </p></li><li><p>biologist who studied ants) always comes to mind ''The naturalists journey has only begun and for all intents and purposes will go on is possible to spend a lifetime in a magellanic voyage around the trunk of a tree.</p><p>HOW DOES YOUR WORK RELATE TO YOUR LIFESTYLE?</p><p>My life is really connected to nature and thus, my art. In our backyard we have a native </p><p>in nature by creating a portrait of what I find. I also capture the exquisiteness of decay in nature. There is loveliness in a curled dried leaf, a crinkled petal, or a broken seedpod. This can remind us of our own mortality and of the continuous cycle of life. Physically, painting a specimen becomes a meditative practice that entirely focuses me on the moment and becomes a practice in mindfulness. I can lose myself in the painting and time can pass so fast!</p><p>plant garden that has numerous plant specimens that I have personally collected (from the Flora project) and are present in so many of my paintings. It is like they are part of my family. My front yard has my vegetab-le garden that includes many specimens that I have featured including beets and kale. Seeing the complexity and perfection in nature is evidence that something greater than us exists. My artwork magnifies the stunning beauty inherent </p></li><li><p>''There is loveliness in a curled dried leaf, a crinkled petal, or a broken seedpod. This can remind us of our </p><p>own mortality and of the continuous cycle of life.''</p></li><li><p>DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER FASCINATING PROJECTS YOU HAVE COMPLETED?</p><p>TRULY IMPRESSED, FLORA OF VIRGINIA, A 1,500 PAGE SEVEN POUND BOOK THAT WAS RECENTLY PUBLISHED! HOW DID YOU EVEN BEING TO DIVE INTO THIS PROJECT? </p><p>At the beginning, I was char-ged with collecting any plantsthat I found in the wild, identi-fying and then drawing them. I drew one plant at a time and really got to know each one. After I had kids, I was delive-red plants by botanists since I was unable to do the fieldwork. The plants were shipped over-night or placed into a cooler on </p><p>my porch. I was able to store the specimens in plastic bags in the fridge until I could get a chance to draw them usu-ally during nap times! Before I knew it, I had drawn almost 1300 plants over ten years. I would draw a sketch, scan and email it to the botanists, receive comments, and then ink it in. A drawing would take from 3-6 hours each.</p><p>A project that I have worked </p><p>on that most people find most fascinating is one that I did for a client where I documented their property for an entire year. I had a sketchbook that I filled out each week for 52 weeks. It was a great practice for drawing on the spot and documenting how one place changes over an entire year. Another surprise to some is that I do not use white paint in my paintings. If there is something that appears white, the paper is exposed to show brightness and paint around it.</p></li><li><p>I would like to develop my sea-sonal book project mentioned earlier so that it could be pub-lished. It would be an excellent record of our changing flora over the year in the Piedmont. In the meantime, I am conti-nuing to paint as much as I can now that I have full days when the boys are at school. </p><p>YOU HAVE TWO BOYS WHO LOVE NATURE AND ART. ARE THEY DRAWN TO A CERTAIN MEDIUM?</p><p>My youngest gravitates to art and is enamored by all things rainbow and colorful. He likes to sit at my big desk and use my worn brushes to paint with me. They both like to go on nature adventures with me and like to collect specimens for me to draw. We keep a nature table that is constantly filled with our collections. I keep a field sketchbook and so do they. I love and treasure the moments when we go camping and we all draw in our books together. At home, we have worked on some collaborative family pro-jects such as the huge painting/collage made out of cut and folded toilet paper tubes.</p><p>ANY UPCOMING PLANS FOR YOUR WORK?</p></li><li><p>Breakfast or Dinner? </p><p> Daydreaming...</p><p>Bucket list...</p><p>What should change...</p><p>What should stay the same...</p><p>100 things I like to draw:</p><p>Breakfast!</p><p>A cup of Japanese green tea and dark chocolate.</p><p>Childlike wonder, curiosity, and creativity that we have as kids.</p><p>Do Tell... </p><p>Travel to Iceland, Norway, hike part of the AT, go to an ice hotel and a cranberry bog.</p><p>How little exposure to nature kids get today and how much screen time there is.</p><p>dried leaves, mushrooms, acorns, hickories, dried berries, bumpy leaves, smi-lax roots, rotten apples, lichens, mosses, seed pods, curling leaves, milkweed pods, holes in leaves, tiny shells, kale, rosehips, anemone flowers, opening buds, radish leaves, artichokes, insects making holes, buckeyes, witch hazel flowers, fuzzy stems, faded beech leaves, beech nuts, mountain laurel, beets, leek flower heads, shiny onions, sprouting garlic, fall hickory leaves, twis-ting vines, delicate ferns, croziers in the spring, tendrils, star magnolia petals, Queen Annes Lace seed head, winter grasses, yucca pods, falling and curling petals, shiny leaves, broken capsules, partridge berry, emerging may apples, spring ephemerals, decaying leaves, morels, peppers, ripe persimmons, green round walnuts, yellowed walnut leaves, red sumac berries, brown sycamo-re leaves, hydrangea flowers, poppy capsules, anthers with pollen, butterfly wings, garlic heads, mushroom gills, spiky chestnuts, wild grapes, sycamore seed balls, undersides of leaves, skeletonized leaves, peeling bark, white flower petals, spines, acorns caps, clematis seeds, dried sunflowers, tulip poplar co-nes, fuzzy asters, radish leaves, hemlock cones, hazelnuts, colorful rocks, shelf mushrooms, blackberries, yellow fall leaves, black locust pods, shiny beetles, winterberries, split open walnuts, radishes, stigmas, dragonfly wings, pea pods, seedbox, tomatillo husks, cross sections of flowers, glandular hairs, windborne achenes, milkweed flowers, maple leaves with red, yellow and green, maple seeds, twigs with dots, anything prickly, morning glory seed heads.</p></li><li><p>Bottlebrush Buckeye</p><p>Poppy</p><p>Tulip Poplar Leaf</p><p>Hickory</p><p>Chestnut</p><p>Buckeye</p><p>Beech Nut</p><p>Jimson Weed</p><p>Hazelnut </p><p>Elm Leaf</p></li><li><p>Sumac</p><p>Buckeye</p><p>Jimson Weed</p><p>Ostrich Fern</p><p>Polypore</p><p>Walnut</p><p>Sweetgum</p><p>Sycamore</p><p>Black Locust Twig</p><p>Buckeye</p><p>Wild Grape</p><p>Kentucky Coffee Tree </p><p>Wisteria </p><p>Deodar Cedar</p></li><li><p>''The moment one gives attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes </p><p>a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.'' </p><p> Henry Miller</p></li></ul>


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