Kendall-Leigh Nash is inspired by light, shape and composition thanks to her photography background. She creates pastel, pencil and charcoal drawings inspired by nature.
We were delighted to catch up with the artist and see her workspace and home studio, delving into her latest series of pencil drawings 'When Worlds Collide'. These works depart from her botanical charcoal drawings and instead feature animals combined with other eco-systems: plants, insects, fish and more. The combinations serve as a reminder that nature is interdependent, much like ourselves.
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SOTA: Tell us about your new work “When Worlds Collide” - what are you focusing on in these current drawings?
KLN: This body of work is really inspired by my love for nature and wildlife. All my work in the past has been inspired by nature and I realized the constant theme running throughout the work, even though it’s taken on many different shapes, is the search for connection to nature. I long for it. My work is my way to connect to myself, to my creations and it’s as simple as turning toward nature to find that peace and perspective. There’s something about being reminded that there is a whole world out there, that makes our daily problems seem somewhat insignificant in the grander scheme of things. I find comfort in that.
'When Worlds Collide V', Pencil & acrylic on paper, 100 x 70cm
How do you find the animals and plants to draw and what guides how they come together in your final artwork?
I’m constantly looking around and photographing what I see for inspiration, specifically when it comes to the botanical elements in my work. I source the other elements, like the animals and ocean life, online. I have folders of sourced and photographed images that inspire me and I ultimately use these to come up with the concepts for the drawings. Sometimes, a plant or animal will inspire an idea and I use that as a base to work from. I then do a bit of research behind the main subject matter and try to find interesting ways to combine natural elements to tell a story or send a message. Other times, a scene will literally pop into my head and I work through the concept and find images that suit the story I am trying to tell.
Which is your favourite animal you have depicted so far?
This is a tough question because I really do love all of the work I’ve done. But one that sits close to my heart is “When worlds collide III”, the monkey, flowers and bees drawing. I’m not sure what specifically speaks to me about this work, but I just had so much fun creating it. My brother gave this piece the title of ‘New King of the Jungle’. I just loved the idea of that and what it showed me was the pieces that I make create conversation, even if the perception isn't my initial intention. People see different things and I love hearing about what my work evokes in others. Some of these works carry statements and some are just out of my imagination. Initially, I liked the idea of plants and flowers growing on top of his head, almost becoming part of his hair and skin, as if nature was becoming him and he was becoming nature. The monkey is constantly surrounded by, connected to and giving life to plants and flowers and ultimately attracting more life, such as bees that then go on to pollinate more plants, being responsible for the continuation of life. I feel like ‘New King of the jungle’ is a fitting name.
'When Worlds Collide III', pencil on paper, 47 x 70cm
What do you want to achieve in your work?
We are so reliant on our natural world and I fear that if we forget where we come from, we lose our relationship to, and mistreat, the thing that gives us life. Not only should we be reminded that we are connected to and need nature, but that we share this world with millions of creatures and other animal species. What we do affects the entire ecosystem. This is where I find myself currently. I want to combine worlds (ecosystems) as a way to have fun with the idea and get conversations going, but also as a way to speak about our interdependence. What we do affects the other and we are all somehow connected. Nature is this finely balanced system and we need to remain a part of that, rather than trying to fight it.
Describe a typical day in your life when creating one of these artworks.
First, I come up with a rough concept that leads me to do a bit of research and the sourcing of imagery. This can sometimes lead to the concept changing or new ideas being sparked. But it all gets jotted down and a very rough sketch of the drawing is created in my sketch pad. Once I’m happy with the concept and layout of the drawing, I get started loosely drawing the piece on the final sheet of paper. I love working on Fabriano Disegno 300gsm paper. Once the soft outline is made of the entire piece, I go in with detail and work through the drawing step by step like this. Sometimes, I add more elements later on if I feel something is missing. I start drawing in the morning and work for about 4/5 hours a day, taking small tea breaks here and there. Drawings typically take me about a week to make, sometimes longer if they are bigger or more detailed.
Describe your studio/workspace.
I currently work from home on my easel or on the big wooden, dining room table. I often have all the doors open, with views of the plants and trees and the sounds of the birds. But most of the time, I play music on Spotify or listen to podcasts whilst I draw.
Can you describe the perfect location where you would like to see your work displayed?
Truthfully, I don’t have a perfect location. I just feel grateful when I see my work framed and on people’s walls in their homes or office spaces. It’s also always great to see my work up on the walls of galleries.
"I want to combine worlds (ecosystems) as a way to have fun with the idea and get conversations going, but also as a way to speak about our interdependence. What we do affects the other and we are all somehow connected.
Nature is this finely balanced system and we need to remain a part of that, rather than trying to fight it."
- Kendall-Leigh Nash
Detail of 'When Worlds Collide VII', pencil on paper, 50 x 70cm
Follow Kendall-Leigh on Instagram.
View available drawings by Kendall-Leigh Nash here or visit the StateoftheART in Cape Town to see them in person.