Artist Laurel Mundy integrates conservation into her art and lifestyle

After graduating from a Master’s Program in science illustration in Monterey, California, Laurel Mundy landed back home in the Pacific Northwest as an intern at Seattle Audubon. Her goal as a recent graduate was to practice her scientific illustration skills and Seattle Audubon had various opportunities for her.

Her work included developing curriculum booklets for the Finding Urban Nature (FUN) program with a few of her insect illustrations, graphic design work and leading bird sketching activities for children attending Nature Camp, and producing scientific illustrations of the life cycle of the Marbled Murrelet as part of Seattle Audubon’s ongoing conservation work for that species.

Watercolor of tufted puffin by Laurel Mundy
Bird’s Eye View #4, Tufted Puffin, Watercolor and ink by Laurel Mundy

Developing her own style

Laurel is now a professional illustrator and designer working with national and state parks, researchers, nonprofits, and other clients. Using her favorite mediums, ink, watercolor, and digital painting, she continues to produce more traditional scientific illustrations, but also plays with more stylized and simplistic designs when creating commercial art for notecards or stickers. The ink provides the level of detail needed, while the watercolor offers the texture and color that bring the artwork to life.

Laurel’s work features all of our Pacific Northwest favorite landscapes, flora, and fauna, but it is clear that birds are her favorite subjects. She initially studied Biology in college thinking she wanted to go into field work. One of her professors was very passionate about birds and helped foster her already existing curiosity and interest. She did get away from drawing for a while to pursue field work with owls and passerines (perching birds or songbirds), but eventually she was drawn back to art.

Engaging in conservation conversations

“Each piece I create can be a call to action,” says Laurel about her interest in conservation.

She frequently depicts birds in what she describes as their “real habitat”, nesting or perching amongst plastics, bottle caps, candy wrappers, and cigarette butts. At first, she wasn’t sure how this would be received, but she has found it to be a good conversation starter, and opportunity to educate the public about single use plastics and other human-related threats to birds. She does admit though, she tries to use cigarette butts more sparingly and chooses trash objects with appealing shapes or colors, allowing her to send a message, while keeping it interesting to look at.

Watercolor of tufted puffin by Laurel Mundy
Swainson’s Thrush with conservation message by Laurel Mundy

Finding nature and humor

In a year like no other, Laurel says she has expanded her knowledge of the species in her own yard. Particularly during the spring migration, she noticed birds that she had never seen at home before including Townsend’s Solitaires and Chipping Sparrows. She also has embraced the pandemic through a humorous series of “Quarantine bird” illustrations that include characters like the Downy Woodpecker toilet paper hoarder, and a Clorox-loving California Scrub-Jay.

Picture of Bird
Snowy Plover, Punny Quarantine bird series by Laurel Mundy

Living Tiny

Laurel’s other passion is her tiny house lifestyle. She and her boyfriend live in a 240 square foot tiny home in the woods, perfect for appreciating nature. She admits that being in the same small space every day, especially during the winter months, can start to feel a bit claustrophobic.

Ideally, in the future, she would like to build a small art studio where she can work and store her art supplies, but for the time being, she has a large desk space, lots of cubbies for paper, a storage loft where she houses inventory for her Etsy shop, and plenty of natural light in their tiny house. In reality, she says, if she had more space, she would just fill it with art supplies that she wouldn’t use, so being limited on space keeps her focused on what she does use—a small watercolor palate, some pens and brushes, and a jar of water. Sometimes that is all you need to create something beautiful.

Artist Laurel Mundy by her tiny home
Laurel Mundy outside her 240 square foot “tiny home”

Support Laurel

You can find Laurel’s work for purchase on her Etsy Shop. Laurel’s art is also featured as Seattle Audubon’s design for the 2021 Birdathon.

See more of her work on her website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Other articles in this issue of Earthcare Northwest

The Nature Shop Windows Become Beautiful and Bird-friendly

An interview with muralist Angelina Villalobos

Enhancing Environmental Education with Art

by Hanae Bettencourt

Song’s Aren’t Just for the Birds

Spotlight on musician Whitney Neufeld-Kaiser