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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.

Has it really been a year?Yeanling, Acrylic on Text on Canvas, 6″ x 6″

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss of lambs & baby goats

Why yes, it has. And quite a year at that!

2020 has been strange, difficult, terrifying, at times surprisingly delightful, but above all, unpredictable. That makes me all the more grateful for one favorite tradition that has remained unchanged: my annual week of illustrations for A.Word.A.Day! Many, many thanks to Anu for inviting me into his wonderful world of words once again.

Our first word for the week is Yeanling, which of course brings to mind cute, frisky baby goats & lambs, springtime, & a freshly blossoming… pandemic!? Coincidentally the background text included definitions for “year,” so I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit to reflect this particular year. I had thought it would be fun to hide a few Easter eggs in the background, along with other youthful fauna of various species, but as I sketched, those too began to get a little weird!

Prints of this very odd painting (& the original while it lasts) can be found in my Etsy shop, CuriousArtLab.

I hope you all have found reasons to smile & ways to romp around a bit in 2020, despite its many challenges. I hope 2021 brings many more smiles & fewer struggles!

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

The last of this week’s words, hyaloid, sent me into a nostalgic reverie of my father’s chemistry lab at Duke University, which I remember from my childhood as a magical place full of mysterious vessels & devices, as well as odd smells & occasionally odd people. I found it fascinating, but also a bit frightening, possibly because I was often warned to be careful.

I felt as timid & curious as the little lab rat in this painting, gazing glassy-eyed at the experiments in progress in this decidedly non-academic laboratory. My father’s lab definitely did not feature alchemical symbols among the molecular models, but there were crystals & microscopes and all manner of wonders that inspired my imagination. And although I never followed in his scientific footsteps, it’s no accident that I named my Etsy shop Curious Art Lab.

So thank you, Dad. And to thank those of you who have followed this week of A.Word.A.Day illustrations, I’ve created a special coupon code: AWAD2019 will offer you 20% off of any order of $100 or more, through 13 December 2019. That way you can get all 5 of this week’s prints for the price of 4, but of course you can choose anything else you want from my shop. I love the people I meet through A.Word.A.Day, & I’ll be forever grateful to Anu for inviting me to wander around in his logo-laboratory!

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

Acrylic painting by Leah Palmer Preiss, Worricow: A prickly green monster rising from the swamp

When Anu sent me worricow, I believe I may have shrieked with delight. I’d never encountered the word until that moment, but it’s just the sort of quirky discovery that makes me an insatiably curious logophile. And what could be more fun than inventing new monsters? (Though I tend to prefer the sort that are odd rather than terrifying.)

This painting & prints are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

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

Despite being a cat person by nature, when I think pure, unadulterated jouissance, I think dog! So I sketched a doggie dancing on the beach… which made me think of champagne… & it wasn’t until I started drawing the label on the bottle in the sand that I thought of Terrier Jouet. (Though I suspect my subconscious/muse was rolling its eyes the whole time, patiently waiting for my pencil to catch up.) Admittedly, the tail is a bit long for a terrier… but all the better to wag through the waves & form a jolly letter “J!”

This painting is SOLD but prints are available in my Etsy Shop, Curious Art Lab.

Year of the Pig/Latin Acrylic Painting on Text on Birch Panels, 10" x 5" Diptych

Pig Latin, acrylic on panel by Leah Palmer Preiss, depicting a flying pig ascending into the heavens above frying bacon

I always enjoy creating paintings inspired by the Chinese Zodiac.  This year is the year of the pig, & as I’m quite fond of pigs (particularly piglets) I was excited about this one. It ended up being more than a little late for the Lunar New Year, but maybe that’s because I found myself doing two paintings in one!

Pig/Latin started out with a sketch of a flying pig, inspired of course by the familiar figure of speech. But a pig with angelic wings, ascending blissfully to the heavens, reminded me of the uncomfortable fact that an awful lot of pigs die for our gustatory pleasure. Now, I can’t deny that bacon is delicious (even to me, a somewhat reluctant omnivore after many years as a vegetarian). But pigs themselves are so lively & clever, it just seems strange that most people think of them only as a food source. 

Because I feel so torn about this issue, it occurred to me to create a diptych. In the top panel, I painted the glorified flying pig. I was delighted to find an eloquent discussion of hog intelligence in one of my volumes of Animate Creation, 1898, which I used as the background text of the painting, along with a faint overlay of a Gustave Dore engraving. (If you’d like to see a brief video of pig-painting in process, please check it out on my Instagram page.) 

In the lower, terrestrial panel, there is the tempting & tasty bacon. In the memento mori tradition, I also included a rather porky medieval-style banner reading “Sic transit gloria porci” –Latin for “Thus passes the glory of the pig.” (Of course, this is a variant of “Sic transit gloria mundi.”) And in the frying pan, there are instructions for cooking bacon, scanned from an antique cookbook.

I used birch wood cradled panels as a support for this one instead of my usual stretched canvas, so that the two paintings could be stacked on a shelf without wobbling, but they can also be displayed singly if you prefer your bacon sans angel or vice-versa. 

The “frame” is trompe-l’oeil– I scanned a real frame, printed it faintly onto the archival paper that I use for the text, then painted it in red oxide with accents of metallic gold, shaded to accentuate the carving. The sides of the panel are painted to blend with the faux frame, as you can see in the right side of the photo above.

The painting(s) & prints are now available in my Etsy shop.