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Fine Art of Lucy Arnold


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Each of us brings a personal filter to our view of the world. While others may enjoy the distant beauty of a mountain range, my eye is drawn to the small, intimate details of nature. It is the insects, birds, flowers, stones, and fallen feathers along the way that attract me. Painting allows me to reveal the beauty I discover in overlooked, unobtrusive bits of nature.

My most recent body of work expresses the heart of my art – a love of drawing, design, color and nature, with just a touch of whimsy. This work is in large part a tribute to my scientist father, who introduced me at a very young age to the endless wonders of natural history. While rambling together on wonderful nature walks, he would identify the birds and plants, and I would show him where to find hidden fairy gardens. We delighted in seeing into each other’s worlds, and both views continue to intrigue me.  I majored in biology in college, but soon realized that art was essential to me, and that it would be my path and lifelong pursuit.

Early Years  

Art has been important to me for as long as I can remember. The inner world of dreams, imagination and creativity were my blissful refuge, helping me through the challenges of childhood. I drew pictures of objects to illustrate the alphabet as I learned it, and at age 8, I filled a journal with intricate mandalas. Of course I had no idea there was a name for these detailed drawings – I just loved making them. Many of my toys were little things I made of stones, clay, or paper. Creating them was much more fun and rewarding than playing with them afterwards. I have no idea how my family dealt with the never-ending accumulation of handmade gifts I constantly bestowed on them at each and every holiday!

Design Background  

One summer in high school, I wandered into a San Francisco needlepoint store. 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, copying the store designs in oil paint on counted canvas. I was soon promoted to “custom order artist”. After college, I began to create original designs for my own needlepoint business: Designs by Lucy. I continued this career for a dozen years, selling to fine needlepoint stores nationwide. 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 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. Innumerable, 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.

Other Directions  

Lucy’s Letters: are illustrations I created for Alphabet Dreams, a children’s bedtime alphabet book that awaits the right publisher. 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.


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/plants I want to include, I make several sketches to work out the basic design. 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.


Artist’s Bio

Lucy began making art when she was just a toddler, and has continued ever since. 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 her needlepoint business: Designs by Lucy, which had nation-wide distribution for over 12 years. Since she began exhibiting fine art, Lucy has received 19 awards, had 25 solo exhibitions, been accepted into over 125 juried shows, and been invited to jury numerous art shows. Cedco Publishing, Corwin Press, Mrs. Grossman’s Paper Co, Reader’s Digest, Sage Publications, Red Hen Press, Quarto Publishing, Step By Step Beads, Carlina Calendars, and WholesalersUSAInc have published art by Lucy Arnold. Her work has also been featured on HGTV. She recently completed illustrations for a children’s alphabet book. Travel destinations that have inspired Lucy include the Amazon Jungle, the Galapagos Islands, Turkey, Greece, East Africa, Machu Picchu, and Hawaii. Lucy has been married for twenty-five years and has two grown children. She and her family moved back to California in 1993, after spending ten years in New York.

Limited edition giclee prints, small digital prints, and gift cards can be produced from many of the paintings in my galleries. Please see About Prints and Cards, or Contact the Artist.

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