Thoughts & Butterflies: An Interview with the Artist Brigid Seay

We don’t often get to dig into the mind of an artist. How many times have you stood in front of a piece of art and thought, “I just don’t get it”? So when we asked the artist Brigid Seay of Nadura Art to connect with us on what she is doing, she dug in. From candy-colored landscapes to the best little butterfly objet d’art, Brigid gives us an early spring look at her work below. Plus, we get to shop butterflies!

Ok! It’s the first day of spring and we are all dying for some color! Tell us what you are working on right now.

Yes! You can’t predict this weather in Texas, but the spring color is in full swing here! Currently, two types of art are available. 

The first includes the a series of paintings that are as non-toxic as can possibly be! In this series, which is on the website, I wanted to begin with paintings that were very safe for the most vulnerable person in the house; so the inspiration begins in the nursery. In my opinion, we all have some connection to art, whether that be academic, emotional or a simple joyful experience. I wanted to start with the basics and teach this experience from the very beginning in a very pure form. This way, clean art can grow with a child and family, safely.

The second is a series of butterflies. The butterfly is a symbol of rebirth and fresh air. It is a story of hope. And in Texas, we actually have an incredible migration of butterflies, so it is something we see and embrace. 

The butterfly is a symbol of rebirth and fresh air. It is a story of hope!

You sort of have to love butterflies in Texas. Out of tragedy, something beautiful emerges. The butterfly is un-tethered, free to migrate across the planet for unbelievable distances – riding the current of the wind.  And on that same idea… Air. It surrounds us more than water. If you look up – from here to there – you are looking through billions of unseen particles that make the planet flourish. There is water, pollen, oxygen, bits of energy and sunlight… all of it adds to the growth of plants and living cells that mean the world goes on. I could go on… We could talk about the meaning of “art” itself, but at the end of the day, we need to keep things simple. Things seem complicated enough these days!

Butterflies are everywhere! What makes these different? I love that there are so many artists creating butterfly artwork and we all have a slightly different perspective on how we do it. Nadura Art butterflies are symbolic, and so they are created out of traditional methods to play on that timelessness. 

First, each colorful pattern is made using Italian marbling techniques where non-toxic pigments are suspended on the surface of water treated with seaweed powder and then paper is lightly pressed and lifted from the surface to capture the pattern. No two are alike! Second, each butterfly is hand-folded in origami, inspired by the hall of cranes that were up at the Crow Collection of Asian Art for so many years! Third, the butterfly is then preserved with its own air in a specimen box, like a nature study.

You talk a lot about keeping things natural, clean and non-toxic. Is that the driving force behind your art? What is the story here?

Inspiration can come from simple ideas but it can also come from very strong personal experiences. When I was just starting out as a young professional, I had the incredible opportunity to work for a woman side-by-side, elbow deep in sculpture, cleaning, repairing and caring for some of the most amazing art collections in Texas. When she was 38, my mentor became sick and passed away. Out of respect and without going into detail, it was a tragedy. There was no unusual ‘reason’, but it was just unfortunate and a great light was gone.

She was a very inspirational women and taught me so much about having your own sense of your own character no matter what industry you are in or who you meet. I mean, she would consult for some of the most influential art collectors and her roll out these tools that she had dipped in hot pink plastic!

But it got me thinking about where we were and what we were surrounding ourselves with – those artist materials. Some of those materials contain serious chemicals.

You know, we see something in a museum and sort of assume that everything there must be perfect. Can you break it down for us: what these chemicals could be and if these affect us in our daily lives?

Yes! Art does have this “it must be perfect” kind of aura, maybe because of the dedication with which it was made. Most of us at some point have had this vision of artists slaving away and dying for their art. There is a vision of some romantic time in historic Paris, artists living without food to spend one last coin on oil paint. 

This oil paint is not a piece of bread. In fact, it is made of different minerals, like crushed stone or even parts flowers that are then dried and ground up, and suspended in a paste of linseed oil and solvent. Acrylic paints may include man-made versions of these pigments that are then mixed with water and tiny bits of alcohol and plastic resin. 

This is amazing technology. Very creative people, throughout time, have figured out how to capture incredible colors from all over the globe, replicate them, and distribute them so that the colors last over time. For example, my sister asked me to restore an old landscape oil painting we found at a flea market by cleaning it with cotton swabs and spit: which is seriously the first step you take to clean oil paintings… and we found a yellow tree in the landscape – an entire tree lasted the test of time under the muck! Paintings that are fully dried are not the problem… it is the artwork that is in the process of drying. This is called the “curing process.”

Paintings that are fully dried are not the problem… it is the artwork that is in the process of drying. This is called the “curing process.”

When artwork is in the curing process, the solvents, resins, alcohols, or other binding substances release into the air. So all of those particles go up, disperse and we ultimately breathe this. The release of these toxins is called “off-gassing” and we may not actually know how long that curing process takes or how long some of these paints off-gas; it could be years. 

So the paintings that are curing are actually releasing toxins for a significant period of time directly into the air in your home.

In all fairness, don’t let this stop you from buying a piece of art you love that is just freshly painted! The point is… elevate your choices when buying art so that you have a mix of pieces to maximize the air quality in your home and life.

If this is all about art, why are you calling it Nadura Art? Becuase it is more than just artwork, it is a brand of clean visuals developed to minimize toxins in beautiful artwork for your home. For the paintings, specifically, I use up-cycled frames that are years old (which are more likely to have completed the off gassing process), natural fibers for canvas that have been laundered in eco- and baby-friendly detergents, 100% no VOC* primer, and mineral pigments so safe that you can compost with them! Ultimately, I paint the vibrant colors of a landscape, highlighting the big clouds that roll across our Texas skies.

Why do I need this in my life? When we find a moment of inspiration, whether that is a person or a book or a piece of art, we hang onto that so we can revisit it and center ourselves for the things to come. For me, knowing that I can breathe deeply because my colorful, engaging piece of art is safer for my indoor air quality or an intricate butterfly means even delicate things ride the wind and see the world, I have a little more clarity. 

I created Nadura Art for you to think about the inspirational choices you make in a more informed way, for the safety of your home and lifestyle. Sometimes we need to make large, critical choices for our health and wellness. Other times, we can make choices where we just want a small corner of something pretty that makes us feel good. But always, that choice is yours. Let it be an enduring one.

Where to shop:

In person Shop a wide selection of the butterflies at Jacksons Home & Garden starting this Saturday, March 26 with a spring open house!

Online Shop canvases and a limited selection of butterflies here!

*VOC means “volatile organic chemical”