Drawing From Flora and Fauna

An artist finds success while discovering nature.

By Gina Parsons

Photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton


While growing up, Manchester artist Laura Lebeda hiked for miles in the woods behind her house. “The exploration and freedom of that gave me a respect and love of the outdoors. I remember in our yard watching in awe at the large lilac bush covered with Monarch butterflies,” she says.

Now, Laura hopes that seeing her award-winning artwork will encourage people to explore and think about the strength, fragility and beauty of the natural world.

Laura has been an artist all her life, using a plethora of different art mediums through the years. She especially enjoyed drawing, but struggled with her own perceptions. “I kept thinking that drawing wasn’t a valid art form. It was like the prototype before you paint or create a sculpture,” she says. “It took me a while to realize drawing was very valid.”

That realization arose in a series of figure drawing classes taken during her final semester for her Master of Fine Arts degree. She used charcoal to create a large detailed drawing of a hosta bloom with a bumble bee getting nectar—drawn from a photo of her beloved late grandmother’s hosta.

That led to the “Pollinator Series”—large-scale charcoal drawings of monarch butterflies, and next, she drew the “Migration Series,” focusing on hummingbirds. She followed with other series focusing on wildlife.

Laura began submitting her drawings to some of the large St. Louis-area art fairs. “I was surprised and happy when I was accepted into them, and doing well with them, and it was drawing,” she says. “My first love ended up being what I could focus on.”  She researches the animals she draws, and integrates educational text and journal writing into many of the drawings.

For each drawing, she completes the animal’s eyes last—adding the iris, the pupil and the highlight. She wants to capture the impression of the eyes. On the rest of the drawing, she works to let go, “so it stays really loose and the mark making is very spontaneous,” she says. “I don’t want to get them too realistic. I like to show the motion, or the feeling of what the motion is—the energy of the little animal.”

Through her artwork, Laura invites viewers to look closer and see the sacred in their everyday lives. She loves the idea of “giving back” and how nature is cyclical, and we are all parts of the “whole.”

“I hope seeing my artwork alleviates any stress and gives viewers a moment of peace,” she says. “I do notice that when people walk in at a fair or at the gallery, they kind of take a breath and pause and sigh.”

In addition to her drawings, Laura also has created 3D pieces inspired by nature. You may view and purchase Laura’s artwork at art fairs and galleries, mostly in the region, plus on her website. To see her exhibition/art fairs schedule, to learn more or to contact her, visit laura-lebeda.com.