Finding the Art in Nature

What sparks your sense of wonder? For Tracy Verdugo, the answer to that question is nature. And, as a mixed-media artist, that fascination with nature often inspires her art. In this article from our January/February 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, Tracy shares a technique that shows how the patterns in her artwork relate to her impressions of the natural surroundings.

art in nature
Artwork and photos by Tracy Verdugo

Impressions of Nature by Tracy Verdugo

One of the things I wonder about the most is the interconnectedness of all things.

Hiking in the National Park or walking on beaches near our home here in Australia, I marvel at the scribbly gum bark laced with intricate patterns where moths have created art while laying their larvae (below).

I am fascinated by the perfection of the rivulets that split the sand, as the ocean laps the shore and retreats, a perfect mirror of the branches on the Eucalyptus trees that line the white sand beach.

I collect my impressions, a kaleidoscope of physical and sensory memories, and bring them back to my studio where I do my best to translate my perceptions of the experience of wonder in paint and pencil, collage and charcoal.

Recently I have begun a series that speaks directly to this relationship between art and nature, seeking to tell a story through my art, not only of my physical recollections, but also my wonder at the mystery of the nature that surrounds me.

I’ll share a little of that process with you here, in the hope that you will begin to remember what sparks your sense of wonder, go in search of it, and be inspired by what you find. This technique shows how the patterns in my artwork relate to my impressions of the natural surroundings.


  • Ampersand™ Aquabord™ (I used a 12″ x 12″ board.)
  • Inks (I used F&W Daler Rowney inks.)
  • Paintbrushes, flat, 2″ and a medium
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Sea salt, coarse
  • Bamboo skewer
  • Gel pen, white (I used a Sakura Gelly Roll® pen.)
  • Paper towels

1.  Choose 2 colors that seem to epitomize the scene you’re inspired by. Apply the 2 colors randomly to your surface with a paintbrush. The Australian landscape is my inspiration, and I chose marine blue for the beautiful bay we live by, and flame orange for the ancient red earth.

2.  Add a few sprays of water and move the inks around. Gently tilt the board to create some flowing drips. (FIGURE 1)  Even at this stage I begin to look for accidental happenings. From above I see an aerial landscape where the land meets the water. I see inlets and islands, too.


3.  Drop some sea salt into the wettest areas of your painting to add textural interest, (FIGURE 2)  and make tiny marks with a bamboo skewer. I draw from the library of symbols I often use in my work. I am intrigued by the idea of unseen microscopic worlds and often include small organic forms in my paintings.


4.  Bring in some contrast. I added Payne’s grey in a few areas, working directly with the ink dropper, circling areas and leaving small windows to the under layers. (FIGURE 3)  Pull out some of the ink into the surrounding areas with a wet paintbrush, using paper towels to lift any excess.


NOTE: The Aquabord allows me to move the inks around easily, creating multiple transparent layers. I make small decisions as I go, keeping some areas intact and layering over others. The piece begins to speak more of water than land.

5. Add in small details with the white gel pen, and then drag the bamboo skewer through areas of wet ink. I recreated the marks of the clams at low tide. (FIGURE 4)


6. Rotate the board several times, and decide on an orientation. Continue layering inks as each previous layer dries. I work slowly and mindfully, being careful to not layer too much.

7. Add some contrast. I applied some white ink to the top of the painting and slowly sprayed it with water to spread the color. (FIGURE 5)


8. Move the ink with a wet brush, and continue to add small details with each new color you add, moving the color around the painting using a variety of tools. I added a splatter of waterfall green in a few areas, which created a different energy. (FIGURE 6) Then I added some indigo blue and more Payne’s grey for extra depth. My underwater exploration is complete.


“On the Trail”

“On long walks through the bush or along the shores of Jervis bay, I breathe in my surroundings: turquoise waters, fire-scarred trees, white sands and ancient volcanic rocks, and everywhere, the hieroglyphs of nature. Back in my studio I take my tools—twigs, brushes, inks, paints—and my memories and attempt to describe the wonder of my wanderings in pieces like this.”

art in nature
“On the Trail”

Tracy Verdugo is an inspiration instigator, prolific painter, best-selling author, and transformational teacher. Her evocative art is held in collections around the globe, and she teaches her Paint Mojo and other creative workshops all over this amazing planet. Tracy is the author of Paint Mojo. Visit her website:

Check out this Studio Saturday blog for another fun nature art technique!

In Paint Mojo: A Mixed Media Workshop, Tracy Verdugo and 16 contributing artists present a variety of inspiring stories and projects.
In this Art Lesson, Rae Missigman explores the use of natural materials to create stamps, masks, and traceable shapes.
Learn how to create texture plates that are inspired by nature in this Art Lesson with Nathalie Kalbach.



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