Lisa Madson is most at home among the foliage and under the sky. “My patio is my studio. The natural light is there. That’s where everything happens,” says the Whitehouse Station–based artist. “This is our natural habitat. It is uplifting.”
Madson was raised in a home that celebrated art and nature: Her mother taught her drawing; her father was a geologist. She pursued formal training at Montclair State University, then spent a career teaching others, in public and private schools and directing workshops. But a shift came when she got involved with the Nature Printing Society, an international group that promotes direct printing from nature. “That's where things started to blossom,” she says.
Her art is created through a steam transfer process called “eco-dying,” in which natural elements such as leaves and ferns are printed on damp paper or canvas using tannins, carbon and ink over a steam tray. After printing, Madson adds watercolor, glues the paper to a wooden board and covers it with wax, which she scrapes and polishes, warming the wax until it coats the piece in a fine sheen.
It’s a process that demands patience. “During printing, you feel anxious and want to pull the paper apart right away, but it’s better to let it sit,” she says. “Then, once you pull it apart, it is always a surprise.” A large piece, like 36-inches by 48-inches, can take her up to two months to complete.
Madson’s art is as compelling as it is breathtaking. It is a call to action. “We all have a pressing worry that our natural resources are getting whittled away. I bring something beautiful from nature into the public view, with the hope that it will motivate people,” she says. “Maybe it will prompt them to join a local environmental organization or pick up a bag of trash in the park.”
Her works have been exhibited in juried shows at the Monmouth Museum, Somerville Library, Ringwood Manor Art Association, Hunterdon Art Museum, New Jersey Highlands Commission and the Audubon Society in Pennsylvania, to name just a few.
This summer, she will direct a nature-based art enrichment program at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum in Morristown and has an upcoming installation on the grounds of Ringwood Manor in Passaic County.
Madson implores people to seek opportunities to view art and to buy pieces from artists.
“Go to art shows and galleries or buy something from the library or a student rather than pick up a machine-made decorative piece from a store,” she says. “Original art is so personal and it feels good to support the local arts community.”
Connect with Madson at email@example.com. Find out more about her upcoming workshop at maccullochhall.org.