An Interview With Laura Walker
What inspires you to paint the images that you paint, to do the art that you do?
Much of my painting comes from my earliest childhood memories, and childhood loves. My earliest years in life were spent on top of a real black bear rug. When I napped in the living room on top of that rug, I had a full view of a leopard painting that my parents had on the wall over their sofa and I believe this image made a very deep impression upon me.
Also, sun beams used to stream in from some windows nearby. I saw dust particles in those sun beams and I thought they were miniature living beings floating around in the air. They were fairies to me, even though I didn’t know what fairies were yet. From the earliest of years, I fell in love with animals, wild cats, furry things, stuffed animals, spotty things, light, and anything miniature.
My fascination with and love of nature, the miniature world, wildlife continues to express itself through my art to this day.
How long have you been painting?
I have been painting seriously now for 20 years. However, I have been interested in the arts all of my life and always had my hand in something, trying to do something.
What mediums do you paint in and do you have a preference?
I paint in transparent watercolors, acrylics and oils. My preference depends on the individual piece. The mediums have different feelings, strengths, about them, and it depends on how I want to relay the idea. If I want something to be more delicate, transparent in nature, I will paint in watercolors. I often use oils because I want to develop it with a certain richness that I find lacking in watercolors. Each medium has its pluses.
How do you come up with ideas for your paintings?
Ideas come through dreams, through something I see out in nature that inspires a complete vision, from the animals in the wild that I have seen, and wild animals in captivity that I have befriended, and from odd events.
Do you have any favorite artists, and what have been the major influences in your art?
There are many favorite artists that I have, and I could not possibly list them all. There are so many really talented people out there: past and present. Walt Disney had a part to play in further developing my imagination, specifically the film “Fantasia.” Modern artists that I really appreciate today are: Jim Warren, Josephine Wall, Charles Frace, Robert Bateman, just to name a very few.
Are you self-taught or do you have a degree in fine art?
I have studied art on my own, and studied art for the past decade in an open studio with George Dergalis, a well-known, very accomplished classical artist who was schooled in Italy and has been painting 60+ years. He has pushed me to discover more and more my own potential as well as opened my mind to all the tools that are out there for artists to use.
I have also taken various watercolor workshops and classes in the past, each teacher having taught me a little something to improve my technical skills.
Where do you see yourself 20 years or more as an artist?
I hope to keep improving, painting from my spirit and imagination and marrying this spirit and imagination with better and better developed technical skill. And I hope that more people will be able to appreciate, enjoy and relate to the messages of my paintings: the love of beauty, nature, color, and the magic, wonder and spirit that is in nature -- the microcosm as well as the macrocosm -- all the time, how we can find connection within it.
Do you exhibit, participate in shows, etc.?
I usually participate in a couple of shows/exhibitions a year. My work has been in books, magazines, and on the covers of magazines. I’ve also participated in many juried shows and exhibitions, have had work in galleries, done special commissions, painted murals, and won awards for my works. Please see my resume for some more details.
You also do 3D miniature sculptural items as well as jewelry. Tell us something about this.
Yes. I create miniature scenes in egg shells, as well as miniature animals on their own.
I have loved creating miniature animals and scenes for the last 30 years. This desire to create miniatures also goes back to a love from childhood when I collected miniature china animals.
My parents would buy me animals and put them in my Christmas stocking. My first china animal was a Dalmatian which I still have to this day. I also would save my allowance to buy these “animal families” to play with and have back at home. My mother would take me to the gift shop where I could buy these animals from time to time.
I made little clothes for these animals from remnants of cloth that my mother had saved and allowed me to use, and made furniture and little houses for them, as well as using doll furniture, and they were played with much like children playing with dolls. They were part of my childhood fantasy life. They all had their characters and roles, and I remember many of their names and personalities to this day.
I take great delight in creating a scene in an egg. I feel the personality of the animal and get into the world it is living in. It gives me great happiness to engage my imagination in this way, and I love to share these miniature worlds with anyone who is interested -- many kindred spirits!
What materials do you use to create your miniature animals and/or dioramas?
I use polymer clays, rhinestones, precious stones, crystals, silver leaf, 22k gold leaf, real egg shells of varying kinds, wood, stone, anything I can get my hands on and that inspires me!
Are there any artists that influenced your miniature sculpture?
Yes. My parents took me to an “Eggshibition” where I met some very talented people, many of whom imitated and were inspired by the famous Russian jeweler Faberge. Faberge and this modern art immediately mesmerized me. I was about 22 years old at the time. This exhibition was in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania. I met many nice people, but three people come immediately to mind: Ed Simms, Mary McGrath and Shirley Troxell.
These people are all so talented, very different in their approach to creating, but creating beauty and magic for all of us to appreciate just the same! I am still in touch with Shirley today and she was very encouraging in my very young days for me to enter this other world of creativity. My parents also were very encouraging and bought me many tools to get started creating miniature beauties.
Do you attend any “Eggshibitions” around the country?
I did for the first several years back in the 80s, and have won awards, but I have not for many years. I, at times, have my work on show in a shop or a museum here at home. I make very few pieces in a year. And usually what I make now is for someone specifically. However, I hope to produce more again for display to the public in the future.
What about your jewelry?
At the moment I am creating jewelry from blistered pearl shells. These are real pearls on shells that have never quite been born.
Each shell is a work of art and engages my imagination in creating a one-of-a-kind pendant.
I paint on top of these shells with lacquer enamels, low fire, often leaving the pearls and part of the shell as is. Some of these shells are silver wrapped and also have precious stones within the design.
And lastly, could you tell us a bit about yourself outside of your art?
I love nature and animals. Living out in a rural town, I continue to create a landscape that is more and more beautiful, wild, natural, and planned. I welcome all animals the ability to pass through here in peace. I delight in my discovery of many species of insects, plants, birds, mammals, flowers blooming, weather changing and all the interaction of life that surrounds me.
At present, I earn a little bit of money working as a zoo keeper and animal trainer at an animal education center in Massachusetts called "Animal Adventures." My primary focus there has been the care and training of a Canadian lynx. This has been a most rewarding and delightful project. I am forever changed for the better because of this experience. This little lynx has stolen my heart! I have also had the privilege to know other interesting creatures too: larger and smaller.
I have been involved in conservation work in Africa. I fund anti-poaching teams, help scientists buy radio collaring equipment, as well as help them track animals, etc., and scout for snared animals to save while I am in Africa.
I also have been involved in rehabilitation of wild cats. I donate time and money towards conservation, the keeping of wilderness, open space, and the preservation of animal species here and around the world.
Here at home I have gained much experience in working with wild cats from small cats such as the Canadian Lynx to Bengal Tigers.
I have also worked with all kinds of wild animals unrelated to the cat family. I have had the privilege to know some of these animals intimately, and I feel honored to know them and perhaps be their friend.
They are a constant source of love and inspiration for much of my artworks.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about you, your art, conservation?
Yes. I am setting aside a certain percentage of everything I sell in art to give towards certain conservation projects around the world.