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Natural history artist Kelly Leahy-Radding is a passionate woman of diverse talent. She is a painter of botanicals and wildlife, spinner and painter of home-grown yarn, farmer, graphic designer by trade, avid amateur wildlife photographer, and entrepreneur. Dismay is not in the mix.
Wildlife has been a difficult market for Radding to get into, although she loves it and is trying. It’s, again, the birds and also white backgrounds that the powers call “illustration,” not fine art. Her wildlife pieces with backgrounds do make it into shows.
“I’m a nature person,” she says. “I like going out and seeing birds. You can never do them the justice they deserve but you can try. My favorite artist is Monet. I took a trip around France and ended up in his garden. He said, ‘I wish I could paint the way a bird sings.’”
Her new thing is “Paintings from Nature’s Scrapbook,” miniatures of natures artifacts that she finds wandering the paths of untamed gardens.
Radding lives on a farm in Columbia, CT, with her husband, pygora goats, 34 llamas, sheep, and other assorted critters. She raises the goats for their cashmere down and the llamas because she fell in love with them after getting one to guard the goats against coyotes and fox. She spins their yarn, often hand-dyes it, and sells it in a shop she owns with a needle felting partner who also raises llamas for yarn.
So how does a jack-of-all trades handle the challenges?
“I have so many interests. For many years I fought it but I have finally learned you just have to do a little bit of each and satisfy all of the parts. Wildlife art is just as important to me as botanical. They all have a meaning to me.”
* All art copyright and images courtesy Kelly Leahy-Radding
Birds and botanicals: gauche on paper
Mostly all else: calfskin vellum with watercolor
Wildlife: egg tempera under oil on clay board
Member: American Society of Botanical Artists, New England Chapter; Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society
Training: Fine arts at Colorado College; Art Institute of Huston in advertising design and illustration; children’s illustration at Rhode Island School of Design; botanical art and illustration at New York Botanical Garden that put everything into focus for her. (“It was one of those ah ha! moments.”)
Kelly Leahy-Radding: www.leahyraddingart.com
Mocha’s Fiber Connection: www.mochasfiberconnection.com
The Farm: www.tuckerwoodsfarm.com
American Society of Botanical Artists, New England Chapter: www.nesbaartists.org/
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