Studio Visit: Cara Cummings

Studio Visit: Cara Cummings

Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Cara Cummings, 46, of Champaign, an artist and executive director of The Land Connection, chats with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli.

Is your art related to your work with The Land Connection?

Yes, I like to use my art to tell the stories of food and farming in our community. I am a botanical illustrator, so food is a beautiful subject, particularly locally grown organic foods, which some people might call ugly. They represent the diversity of the things we can grow here.

What media do you use?

Watercolor. I'm a watercolor painter and I also do wood carving, which uses plant material I love. I tend to make things you can use in the kitchen — things I would say display our beautiful food in a beautiful way.

Your paintings of black radishes and other veggies are quite precise. Did you study art?

As an undergraduate, I was a biology major. I also took painting and botanical illustration classes, both at the University of California-Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College.

I like precision. I think I really enjoy the fact botanical illustration is so relevant. A photograph doesn't take the place of an illustration. The information you can give an illustration is really different.

Are you a California native? What brought you here?

Yes, I am. I started dating someone here, and he convinced me I was going to love this college town because there's so much going on.

Do you think he was right?

I do. It took me a while to figure that out. It was on my first trip to Prairie Fruits Farm (in rural Champaign) when I realized what was so magical about the soil of the Midwest. You can grow anything here. And the farming community is full of just incredible people.

You can get the best things right here. That's what I love about this place. There's a vibrant arts community too. And everything is so accessible.

Have you ever shown your art or sold it?

I have sold it at small shows, by word of mouth and through my website (carasgarden.com). I've never done it full time. I also use my art in Land Connection materials.

How and when did you get into woodworking?

My father was a woodworker. I grew up playing in his woodshop. When I moved here four and a half years ago, it was March. It was still cold. I was going a little stir-crazy and my boyfriend had a garage he never used. It was full of woodworking tools.

I was poking around, looking for something to do, so I started playing around with some of the hand tools and did some carving. I just loved it. It was something to do that was physical. I started making things for my kitchen, and when people saw them, they loved them and so that turned into a side business, too.

Will you teach botanical illustration again this summer at Prairie Fruits Farm?

I hope so. One of the fun things that's happening with The Land Connection is our incubator farm program in which we put beginning farmers on land someone else owns.

This year, the Delight Flower Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is moving to Prairie Fruits Farm. That's an incredible opportunity to lead workshops on botanical illustration, because we will have a huge variety of flowers growing at the farm.

Topics (2):Art, People