A fascination with the natural world keeps artist Heather Lancaster endlessly engaged
In a world that’s obsessed with appearances, Atlanta artist Heather Lancaster is consumed with what’s underneath the façade. Looking beyond the obvious and exploring the natural world are integral to her character, and those qualities permit her to capture subtle nuances in her exceptional paintings.
As the daughter of nationally renowned artist Helen Durant, it was inevitable that Lancaster would be sensitive to—and observant of—her surroundings. “I grew up watching Mom draw, and I loved the process of brain to hand; graphite to paper,” says Lancaster. Although she considered a career in medical illustration, Lancaster graduated from Mary Baldwin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Historic Preservation. Those passions have evolved to result in her finely detailed paintings of fauna and flora.
At first, Lancaster began drawing for her three young children as a way to create memories and tell stories. Soon friends began requesting her work, so she expanded into small graphite drawings of baby animals and plants. “My hope was to create these quiet little drawings to encourage observation and nurture children’s connection with the natural world,” Lancaster explains.
Today Lancaster works on a large scale layering graphite, charcoal and in India ink—an unforgiving medium that doesn’t permit changes or corrections. Preferring to work on one piece at a time, she’s her harshest critic as she evaluates the degrees of completeness, value and balance of a piece. “I break the rules with my application of ink and water, but I’m very deliberate about the marks I make, and negative space is tantamount to the figure in every composition,” says Lancaster.
Lancaster is devoted to the study and careful contemplation of her subjects. She thoroughly researches them and then creates small-scale studies—a process she considers fun and interesting. For her original series on ostriches, Lancaster was inspired by a visit to the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels. “I love the Victorian weirdness and the odd elegance of these birds with their loose, flamboyant feathers that are completely juxtaposed with the stark musculature of their long legs,” says Lancaster.
The majority of Lancaster’s work are commissions placed through galleries. “Art is the soul of the house, so it’s crucial for me to create each piece for each specific owner; each specific place.” While research, studies and proposals are part of the three-to-four-month process, the result is that every creation is intentional.
“I’m deliberate. I love black and white. I value contrast and simplicity,” says Lancaster. This artist not only understands her creative language, Lancaster is equally genuine as a person—and that authenticity is evident in every painting.
See more of her work on instagram, @heatherlancasterart, or online, heatherlancasterstudio.com