Author Archives: Leah

Voyager (1) Digital Painting (Photoshop)

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss depicting a tiger swimming in rough water

My husband Tony is crazy about tigers, so I was delighted to see that according to the Chinese Zodiac, 2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger. We’ve also traversed some rough seas lately, metaphorically speaking, & I wanted to express my gratitude for how he’s carried me through these challenging times. So this is the Lunar New Year painting I created in his honor. The little calligrapher mouse in the houseboat is my avatar, so to speak, as the steadfast tiger is his.

Close up of Tiger Head by Leah Palmer Preiss

The mouse’s hat & curious whiskers were loosely inspired by a portrait of the Yongle Emperor, Zhu Di, below, which I discovered while researching Zheng He, a great Chinese explorer of the early Ming dynasty. I’m a hat person & the resemblance of the emperor’s headgear to the iconic Mickey Mouse ears was irresistible.

The Chinese character that mousy-me is writing is one of several that translate to tiger. I’m not really sure if it’s the most accurate translation, but it is the simplest to draw!

Prints of Voyager (1) are now in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Prints of Voyager (1) are now in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Lentic Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss, Lentic: A goldfish and a turtle in a lily pond with a frog, snails, & water lilies. Ecology art, nature lover gift

There’s just something about cutaway diagrams & models that has fascinated me since I was very young. Maybe it started with dollhouses, or science museums, or classroom posters, but the sensation of being granted a curated view into a secret space behind or beneath the surface still feels magical to me.

When I realized that Lentic would lend itself to this treatment I felt such giddy, childlike delight! Not only did creating the cutaway make me happy, but the softly rippling water & gently waving lilies were soothing to paint when I felt stressed– almost like watching an aquarium. So when Anu chose this painting to end our week of illustrated words, it felt just right to be floating out on this peaceful note!

I’m eternally grateful to Anu for making it possible for me to create these pieces & to connect with such lovely logophiles every year. And I deeply appreciate all your support through my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab, & through your kind comments & messages.

I wish you all a peaceful, healthy & happy holiday season, & I look forward to seeing you again in 2022!

SeraphicAcrylic on Text on Wood Panel, 8″ x 8″

When I first sketched out this seraphic being, it had feathery wings that were fiery only in color, much like the phoenix in Fulgor.
Although I do love to paint feathers, as I thought more about the word’s etymology–

“From Latin seraphim, from Greek seraphim, from Hebrew seraphim, from saraph (to burn).”

A.Word.A.Day

–I decided to try a rough sketch of a straight-up flaming version. Once it began to take shape, I never looked back.

As I was painting the face I tried to capture a sense of seraphic serenity, but also of empowerment & determination. I visualized a being capable of bringing light & comfort in dark times, like fire itself, but also holding immense power & mystery.

This was my second painting on panel after Daedal. The (slightly) larger size and smoother surface seemed to befit an angelic entity!

The original painting & prints are now available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Xylophilous Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Nature art painting by Leah Palmer Preiss, Xylophilous: Tree wildlife-- beaver, chipmunk, owl, woodpecker & other birds, mushrooms, ferns on crossed tree trunks

Even though I live in a city, a block away from a busy street, I’m definitely xylophilous! (In the etymological sense, that is– wood-loving.) My childhood home bordered on a forest, & my family spent many hours working, playing & wandering in the woods. But I’ve always said that I can’t see the forest for the lichen, because my favorite thing to explore & paint are all the tiny little life-forms that are overshadowed (yet also supported) by the overstory.

So when Anu offered this word, I jumped at the chance to create my own little peaceable kingdom of wood-loving flora & fauna. It’s certainly not an accurate sample of xylophilous species in the scientific sense, & it vastly under-represents the number of species that depend on trees– I couldn’t begin to show the tiny beetles and borers that live in & under bark, for example– but I hope it gets the point across that even dying or damaged trees can be teeming with life & potential & beauty in their own way. As William Blake said, “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” Or even a wise beetle!

I couldn’t resist hiding that quotation in the bark, & if you look in the background near the pendulous possum, you may find a rather dreadful math pun tucked in there too. Apologies in advance.

The original painting is sold, but prints are now available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Involute

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss: A curious curly fiddlehead fern-creature greets a snail atop a magic mushroom.

I’ve always had a weakness for curly green things…

…so when Anu offered the word Involute, my mind went right to fiddlehead ferns. And because I am probably part snail, I thought I’d throw in a little self-portrait as well! But then my alter-ego looked a bit lonely, so Fiddlehead Fernfellow was born. And what better place for the two to meet than on a magic mushroom in the moonlight?

The original painting is sold; prints are now available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Into the Labyrinth! Daedal, Acrylic on Text on Wood Panel, 8″ x 8″

An acrylic painting on panel by Leah Palmer Preiss, showing a group of golden dinosaurs exploring a labyrinth shaped like the letter D.

When Anu Garg offered me the word “Daedal” to illustrate for A.Word.A.Day, I knew it was bound to get complicated, & sure enough, it was a long & labyrinthine path from my first concept to the finished painting.

Originally we had intended it to appear in 2020, to complete my second A.W.A.D. alphabet, but it took me so long to finish that we decided to save it for 2021. Patience is one of Anu’s many virtues, for which I’m endlessly grateful!

Even though there were many times during the making of Daedal that I feared I might never escape its convolutions & complexities, there were also moments of serendipity and delight. Early on, as I was struggling through the construction stage, (3D architectural drawing is so not my forte!) I heard this amazing poem by A. E. Stallings on the Poetry Magazine podcast:

“To build a labyrinth it takes
A twisted mind, a puzzled art,
A fractal branching of mistakes.” (See the full poem here.)

Not only was the poem literally titled “Daedal” (!!!) but it perfectly captured my feelings about creating this piece, and the journey of my artwork in general. I asked the author’s permission to include the above lines in the painting, & when she was kind enough to say yes, I felt I’d been given a magical talisman conferring the strength I needed to keep building!

Finally, the structure began to take shape. Then a group of dinosaurs came to visit. Then one of them morphed into a dinotaur (or is it a minosaur?)–this was starting to feel like my kind of adventure!

When I was finally ready to turn the drawing into an actual painting, I realized it just wasn’t going to fit on my usual 6″ x 6″ canvas. I ended up using an 8″ x 8″ wooden panel, a new experience for me that I liked so much I did it again for another A.W.A.D. piece this year. (Stay tuned!)

In the end, I was grateful for the lessons I learned from this “fractal branching of mistakes!” If you’re curious to see a snippet of my super-slow invisible-brushstroke painting method, (no joke, this is really what it’s like *sob*) check out this little video on my Instagram page.

The original painting is sold; prints are now available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Coronamas Ornament Acrylic on Text on Wood, 4″ x 4″ Round

A masked coronavirus reading a book entitled Love in the Time of Covid, illustration by Leah Palmer Preiss

Despite covid19 restrictions, a broken furnace & serious carbon monoxide scare, unprecedented shipping delays & other seasonal difficulties, I’m feeling strangely jolly these days! Perhaps it’s the brush with death, or the thought that we’re almost to the end of the year & there’s a glimpse of light at the end of the 2020 tunnel.

I painted this ornament for my book club’s annual gift exchange, which didn’t end up happening, though we did enjoy a Zoom meeting. You may recognize the faux-antique text in the background from Yeanling… it seemed appropriate for this one too.

Let me know if you’d like a pdf with multiples of this image to print out for gift tags or ornaments. I’d be happy to send a link to a downloadable file!

Happy holidays & a happy new year to all!

Noctilucent Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Our last A.Word.A.Day word this week (& this year) has such a lovely sound to my ear, & the phenomenon of noctilucent clouds is so magical that I couldn’t wait to illustrate it. My first sketch focused mainly on the clouds forming the letter N, but I added a tiny luna moth in the corner. My husband took one look at the sketch & said “Make the moth bigger!” We don’t always agree on such things but he was right about this one! It was a challenge, but a pleasure, to paint the shimmery wings of the moth & the luminous clouds in the sky. It was calming work at a time when there was very little calm to be found, here in the US at least. And it seems a fitting way to end this week, with enormous thanks to Anu for the light he always brings to the darkest times, with his carefully curated words of wisdom, amusement, & intrigue.

Prints of Noctilucent (& the original while it lasts) are in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab. It’s always a special delight when people mention A.Word.A.Day when they buy my art. It’s like a secret handshake of word-nerdery! Thanks to all of you, & see you next year!

Zaftig Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

As an artist & calligrapher I’ve always been drawn to beautiful curves, so I was delighted to see today’s word on the list Anu gave me this year. The sketch started simply as a curvy Z, then gradually materialized into my take on a classic boudoir pin-up, strongly influenced by that glamorous icon of bodacious body-positivity, Miss Piggy.

Prints of this image (& the original while it lasts) are available on my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.

Leptodactylous Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss depicting an aye-aye playing the piano amid tropical foliage

Today’s word is almost as long as an aye-aye’s fingers. I’m not sure you could describe it as slender though. (Are there slender words? That’s a topic worth pondering.)

In any case, aye-aye fingers are long, slender, & dextrous, & the lemur relatives’ impressive hand spans would probably give them quite an advantage at the keyboard, though most piano teachers would suggest a shorter manicure. More importantly, they are natural percussionists, with highly sensitive touch & hearing. So it is only slightly insane to imagine them tickling the ivory.

Prints of this painting, along with the original while it lasts, are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab.