Hudson artist helps fellow illustrators get noticed, releases second book

by Mary McKenna

Hudson artist Salli Swindell and her New Yorker brother Nate Padavick are at it again, cooking up new ideas. The dynamic duo was featured in Hudson Life years ago with the publication of their first book series, “They Draw & Cook.” Since then, this creative team has been busy revamping their online platform and finding new ways to support the illustration community they love.

The first project they tackled was to merge their individual websites – They Draw & Cook and They Draw & Travel – into “one big, creative playground” called simply, They Draw, Swindell said. This new merger showcases a range of garden, food and travel-themed illustrations from novice to professional artists around the world.

“I really try to balance well-known illustrators with those who are just getting started and put them in the spotlight,” she noted.

In doing so, what Swindell and her brother discovered – to their delight – was that art directors were shopping their site for new talent and that artists were getting hired for projects. This led to the launch of another website, Illustrators for Hire. It features 200 curated illustrators’ individual profile pages with direct links to their portfolios and contact information.

Like any good idea, one spins off the other, and the brother/sister design team didn’t stop there, but went on to create an additional online platform called the Illustrators Circle, which is designed to connect and inspire artists at a time, post COVID, when connection was sorely needed. Through it they host what Swindell calls “draw alongs” led by illustrators who offer affordable, informal, hour-long tutorials over Zoom.  

“We all draw while we talk to this illustrator. One of my favorites was with a woman named Dr. Eleanor Barnett. She’s a food art historian. She did the deepest dive into how food appeared in historical artwork and what it meant,” recalled Swindell. “She kept us fascinated!”

According to Swindell, participants have the image in front of them on the screen to paint and can “pop in and chat” on the Zoom call. The last 10 to 15 minutes are reserved for show and tell.

“Then we post (artwork) on Instagram,” she said. 

While she’s committed to promoting and inspiring the work of fellow illustrators, what’s been most rewarding for Swindell is the direction her own work has taken as an artist in recent years.

“One of the corners I’ve turned is I don’t take on as much client work anymore,” she said. “I’ve found this new thrill in doing work for myself.”

Earlier this year, she entered three of her pieces – all abstract landscapes loosely based on hikes from local trails – in a design competition with “Uppercase” magazine and won. The knowledge that what she submitted wasn’t something created for a client or a product, but “done for me,” and that it was selected for publication among 1,000 entries felt good, Swindell admitted. There’s a little “extra sparkle” in knowing that, she said.  m

It’s that same sparkle that has her working on her second vegan cookbook about how to add more flavor to your meal with “dips, dressings, and drizzles,” Swindell said. The proceeds of that book will go to the Community Solidarity vegetarian food bank in New York. Swindell described herself as increasingly motivated and inspired by flavor, color and “spark” these days.

“I developed this mantra to stay colorfully creative,” she said. “And it doesn’t mean sit and use bright colors all day. It means pay attention to an interesting stack of ribbon.”

Swindell plans to put that attentiveness to use this fall when she leads her first off-site, four-day retreat. Her workshop, aptly titled “Stay Colorfully Creative with Salli,” is shaping up to be a restorative one, she said, meant to “soothe your creative health,” and teach you to think outside the box. The retreat will be set in a beautiful, restored 1800s house and barn in the woods of Vermont and offer some pleasant “brainstorming” hikes – something that’s proved essential to her creativity all these years.

“Everything pivots around taking these massively long walks through Hudson and along the trails,” she said. “That’s where every idea comes from.”

Salli Swindell features colorfully created food illustrations in her second vegan cookbook, “More Flavor – Dips, Drizzles & Dressings. Photo submitted.

Photo (main / above): Salli Swindell