Serenity in Nature

Penelope “Penny” Adamson draws inspiration from the outdoors

By Joyell Nevins

Penelope “Penny” Adamson is a living example of how artists, like fine wine, deepen with age. She has been drawing since she was in grade school, and decades later, continues to draw and stretch her horizons.

“These kids are inspiring me,” she says, referring to the students at Antioch College where she works. “There is artwork everywhere. It broadens my thoughts.”

Adamson refuses to be stuck in a rut. Her primary medium is pencil and ink drawings, but she recently began creating with skeletons: the toy skeletons used for decorating during Halloween. Adamson dresses them up in doll clothes and sometimes adds special hairdos or wigs.

“It’s a way to release some of the creativity playing in my head,” she says. “It’s important for me to just play.”

Even in school, Adamson excelled in art more than academics. It gave her an outlet and a pursuit. She graduated with Yellow Springs High School’s class of 1979 and attended Greene County JVS (now Greene County Career Center) in commercial art. Adamson also had the opportunity to work with one of her JVS teachers in Diamond Art Studios, where she did freelance lettering and airbrushing.

Adamson still does commission work and occasional lettering (like ABC’s for a nursery). Her primary sketches, however, come from nature, where she is most inspired.

Living in Yellow Springs makes getting out in nature is easy to do. There are woods in her backyard, woods on campus and trees just about anywhere.

“As a nature artist, I love Yellow Springs,” Adamson says.

One of her current projects is actually based off of a deer skull found by a friend in the woods.

“It looked pretty cool with a shadow behind it,” she explains.

Getting her hands dirty helps, too. Adamson and her partner of 10 years, Emily Seibel, are avid gardeners and grow a lot of their own food and flowers. “Farm to table” meals are a large portion of their menu.

Adamson always has a sketch book with her and loves to doodle. Her final illustrations are often detailed and intricate, with pen work in and outside the border. They may be of a flying crane, a watchful owl or a beautiful flower.

“Her pictures are almost a meditation of her subjects,” describes Seibel. “When you see it on the page, it draws you into the experience.”

Seibel is an artist in her own right, singing with the World House Choir and before that with a 14-piece horn fusion band. She feels much of Adamson’s ability to portray her subjects comes from the capacity to listen.

“There is a profound deep listening that you can see and feel in her,” Seibel says. “You can’t look at her art and not feel the peace it embodies.”

Along with nature sketches, Adamson also creates social- and equality-themed artwork. Growing up in a bi-racial home, with her parents taking in and sometimes adopting foster children, Adamson learned empathy and grace of spirit.

“It gave me a better understanding,” she says. “Not to judge, not to hate.”

Although all nine of her brothers and sisters didn’t live in the house at the same time, holidays were and are a time for connection. Before her mother passed away eight years ago, Adamson’s mom’s house was the gathering place. Adamson says she still gets together with much of her family, including two of her sisters who live in Yellow Springs.

Bringing nature home

Much of her sketching is done in the studio workspace she shares with Seibel in their home. Although, Adamson admits Seibel doesn’t always get much of that space to herself!

“I’ve managed to spread out everywhere,” Adamson laughs.

Seibel doesn’t seem to mind, though.

“I love watching her work,” Seibel says with a smile. “The first drawing she showed me, I just sort of swooned.”

Although Adamson refers to herself as fairly laidback, when she has an idea in her head, watch out. The energy explodes. Adamson has been known to work all day and then come home and draw all night.

“I end up drinking lots of Coca-Cola,” she says. “If it’s screaming to get out, it has to get out and I can’t stop until it gets out.”

And if it’s not right, she just starts over and does it again. Adamson stresses to artists just beginning to just keep producing. Keep making it happen.

“Never give up,” she says. “Explore being yourself regardless of what anyone else thinks.”

Adamson has exhibited work at Emporium Wines and Underdog Café and Eden World Center for Wellness and Discovery. She is currently compiling art for an exhibit at the Winds Café with Seibel’s mother, Cathy Ledecker. Ledecker and Adamson’s exhibit will run from September to October.

For commission work or to see samples of Adamson’s art, Like her artist page “Penelope S. Adamson” on Facebook.

Joyell Nevins believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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