The Artist Next Door: Anat Laytner

Cold Spring artist: Draw some flowers!

Got some time on your hands? How about using those hands to draw a flower?

Anat Laytner thinks you should.

“You don’t have to go out and buy a flower; just go outside, look around, slow down, bring stuff to your desk or table,” says the Cold Spring resident. “It can be a pinecone, which are fantastic for drawing. Look at it closely, and admire. Or it could be anything outside — an interesting rock formation, a branch. It doesn’t have to be an amazing flower.”

Laytner’s instructions are concise and spirited: “Have fun, put music on, give yourself permission to relax.”

She doesn’t believe in “people saying they can’t do it. I have a bunch of friends who say ‘I can’t sketch for my life.’ It’s just learning how to look, to put thoughts and observations, something of your own, on paper. Just enjoy this; if you don’t like the result, try again, it’s no big deal. Anything but saying [about someone else’s work], ‘Oh my God, this is so perfect, I can never do that.’ ”

Laytner, who grew up in Jerusalem (and whose husband, Mel, is a member of the board of Highlands Current Inc.) enjoys working with multiple forms, including printmaking, embroidery, textile design, drawing and painting. She had no formal art education — “time and circumstances didn’t allow” — until about 10 years ago, when she took courses in illustration at the Bronx Botanical Garden.

Anat Laytner

Anat Laytner with some of her subjects (Photo provided)

“The way I was taught was to be very precise,” she says. “It’s a formal kind of art, scientific, with precise measuring, because originally it was used for documenting. Travelers had notebooks and drew exactly what they saw. It’s a beautiful form of art, but my mind has moved to the most free-form of the same subject, because it’s fine — you’re the artist; you can do anything you want.”

The couple are sheltering in Cold Spring, but in New York City Laytner led an informal, enthusiastic group for beginners. She says she had to lobby hard to get newcomers. “They claim they have two left hands, that they don’t even know how to hold a pencil, but I tell them ‘That’s so silly — there is no wrong in art,’ and they wind up loving it — they can’t wait for us to meet. Two of the women have had major life issues, going through chemo, other things, and while working with me they said, ‘it was the first time in a long time they weren’t thinking about their pain.”

Recently, Laytner made a series of step-by-step drawings of a lily flower to help members of the group and other friends who are trying to keep busy and learn at the same time. She agreed to share these with readers of The Current (below).

Laytner suggests, if possible, obtaining smooth “hot-press” paper for botanical illustration and HB drawing pencils (press lightly), and favors those made by Prismacolor and Faber-Castell. (Supplies for Creative Living of Cold Spring has both in stock. Order online at for pickup or mail delivery.)

Laynter works in half of a garage that’s been turned into a studio on her property. She rarely has to buy materials. “I can use branches, old schmattes, bamboo sticks, old jeans, and turn them all into something new,” she says. When it comes to casting her eye on spring flowers, she’s particularly looking forward to tree peonies and daffodils. “They’re both not that easy to draw, surprisingly,” she says.

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