Do you want to breathe some new life into your creative process? If you’re interested in art, but find that it’s becoming an increasingly expensive hobby, orthat your creativity has become stagnant, The Organic Artist is just the book for you! It encourages us all to return to those days when art was made with all-natural materials, such as wood, stone, feather and bone.
In addition to offering a wide variety of suggestions for using nature as supplies for art, this book also introduces the concepts of awareness and perception that are foundational to the creative process. Readers will refine drawing skills, as well as increase their appreciation for the visual arts and the natural landscape.
Some of the projects and skills covered include the following: making paper and wild ink, working with clay and wood, printmaking and stenciling, natural pigments and paints, crayons and charcoal, pens and paintbrushes and bookbinding sketchbooks.
About the Artist
Nick Neddo is a sixth generation Vermonter who has been making art since he could first pick up a crayon. He grew up exploring the wetlands, forests and fields of his bioregion and developed a profound curiosity, respect and love for the community of life around him. As a youngster Nick identified primary focuses that would become life-long pursuits: study of the natural world, Stone Age technology (popularly known as primitive skills) and creating art. Trusting the inherent value of these skills, he continues to embrace their pursuit with a ravenous appetite fueled by a genuine love of the living world and the creative process.
“Everything changed when I started making my art materials directly from the landscape. The moment I begin working on a piece happens much earlier than that of the first pen line or brushstroke. Before a pen or paintbrush mark hits the blank paper, a significant amount of time and energy has already been invested in procuring the art supplies. Preparation includes days and weeks of searching the landscape, gathering raw materials, processing and refining the elemental components and hand-crafting them into high quality tools and materials. With so many artist supplies easily available on the market, why do I choose to get them the hard way?
Making your own tools (and processing materials for doing so) from the landscape is unbelievably satisfying on a profound and even instinctive level. Much of this satisfaction comes from the process of transformation that occurs each time we make something from another thing. One of the results of making things from the landscape by hand is the unavoidable deepening of one’s knowledge of (and relationship to) the local bioregion where we live. Through working with raw materials, we begin to learn to speak the language of that particular material.
We have to use our awareness in order to observe the specific characteristics, strengths and limitations that are unique to the material. Through this level of interaction a conversation begins, where we learn to be receptive to the feedback the raw materials provide as we manipulate them to take the shape and function that we desire. Ultimately this level of participation with the landscape is a path to help us remember that we are part of its natural history and ecology, not just a visitor like an astronaut on a foreign planet.
I find the materials themselves to be inherently attractive, and so I aspire to make tools that are as beautiful in their function and that retain as much of their raw form as possible.”
– Nick Neddo
Endorsements & Reviews
Sometimes the most meaningful parts of photo shoots are the people you meet – and this project with environmental steward and outdoorsman Nick Neddo was one of those instances. Based in Montpelier, VT, Nick teaches primitive skills, from Stone Age technology and wilderness survival to basketry and hide tanning, to adults and children at the Roots School in Vermont. When he’s not teaching, Nick creates and sells beautiful drawings and paintings of rugged vistas, portraits and landscapes using art tools he fashions from natural materials, such as branches and stones.
When I received the call to document his artistic process for Quarry Books, I had no idea how fascinating and memorable the experience would be. For 10 days, I shadowed Nick as he fired pottery on hot coals, turned crushed stones into gorgeous paint pigments and whittled wood pens from branches he collected in the woods. The rich paint colors, amidst the barren winter setting, were simply stunning.
We began our shoots by choosing complimentary organic backdrops, such as burlap, old boards and hide skins, for the process shots. I was regularly on manicure patrol, making sure his hard working hands were clean of ink, dirt and paint. This duty was a new experience for me as I usually shoot architecture!
Beyond his industrious spirit and talent, Nick is an incredibly kind and humble person. He’s also one of the most unique and interesting people I’ve ever met. Watching him craft art materials from the land was like traveling back in time to days when people made tools only from the environment that surrounded them. The practiced craftsmanship and ingenuity of his work shines through in the detail shots.
– Susan Teare
“Ah, so inspiring! Doesn’t this make you want to live off the land… or at least try making your own art supplies!? Vermont based author, artist, educator Nick Neddo has written this book, “The Organic Artist” to teach all of us how to do exactly that. Paints, paper, paint brushes, oh, and charcoal pencils made with branches… I want to make all of it!”
– The Jealous Curator
“Clear, concise, easy to follow and beautiful describes every aspect of Neddo’s book. Not only is he an accomplished artist, but he presents the creating and utilizing of the artist’s tools in an engaging and beautiful way.
Neddo’s craftsmanship harkens back to the days when the quality of a person’s work was their only advertisement and this book is impressive! He presents techniques in an approachable way with plenty for both the novice and seasoned artist.
I highly recommend this book! Clear and concise, it has a place in every art studio, every home, every school, and every summer camp. Clear, concise and easy to follow makes this book a pleasure to both use as a how-to book and read through for pleasure.”
– Michael Pewtherer, Author and Wilderness Skills Instructor
As a passionate student and teacher of earth living skills for the past 25 years, I have often given young students the advice to follow their passion and to write, and to add to our ‘field’ of skills and study. Often, I am met with puzzled looks, and a hesitancy, followed by resistance to my ideas.
‘It’s been done’, they say. ‘There are already so many good field guides, and skills books, and nature guides and plant books.’
‘No,’ I tell them. ‘There’s plenty of room for you, too. Just do it, and see what happens. I promise, good things will happen.’
Most of them head off to do their own good things, but few have taken me up on my suggestion.
While I didn’t have the privilege of sharing that advice with him, Nick Neddo, didn’t turn away from the challenge and we are all the richer for it.
His landmark contribution, The Organic Artist, is your Rosetta Stone, if you will, and will unlock your creativity, whether you are an artist or an earth living skills student or instructor.
Seriously. This is it. Your Golden Ticket, to a whole new world and relationship to the wild around you. It opens the doors to a level of exploration that most people haven’t even tried to pass through, because they ‘didn’t know how’ to make their own paints, inks, paper, or pigments. Until now, that’s been a valid point.
It’s a how-to book, through and through, but it’s more than that. It’s a showcase of Nick’s art, made from oak ink, or grapevine charcoal, or beeswax crayons and hand made paper.
Every flip of the page of this fine volume had me saying out loud “Oh, no, he didn’t!” with a huge smile on my face. My glee turned to awe as I realized the depth of his artistic abilities, and the true nature of knowledge he is giving us all.
Each section is thoroughly detailed to provide a working knowledge, although there are probably some readers who might have a steeper learning curve than others depending on their familiarity with the different mediums he shares.
However, if your desire is strong and your inspiration is deep, I know you will find a way to be successful in the making of your own, wild art supplies, and at the same time, find a powerful connection to our beautiful, amazing planet.
Kudos to you, Nick Neddo, on opening the door to a new world for thousands of people. Thank you for this gift and labor of love. We are in your debt!
Hawk Circle Wilderness Education Executive Director