Nature Is Both Beautiful & Brutal: A Conversation With Naomi McCavitt of Thicket Design


With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, Naomi McCavitt, the talented artist behind Thicket Design has established herself as an artist to watch in the city.  Her work has been showcased in group exhibitions across several cities, and she has hosted solo exhibitions in Seattle and San Francisco. Since becoming a full-time freelancer in 2017, Naomi has been creating stunning custom and original art, murals, and wallpaper inspired by the natural world. Her mission is to highlight underrepresented species in the interior design world by combining natural science illustration with design, to create objects that remind us of our connection to nature.

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
Image courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

Your work is amazing. For our readers, how did you get started professionally?

Thanks so much! I went to school for art thinking I would be an art teacher. I taught adjunct at VCU for like 5 years but couldn’t make ends meet doing that, so I ended up taking a job at an art publishing company making art for the home decor and hospitality industry, the art you see in furniture stores and hotels, that kind of thing. Then I took a side job doing species illustration for the VA department of game and inland fisheries, and that gave me enough work to start my own thing. I started Thicket Design in 2014 as sort of a marriage of these two things: home decor and nature illustration. I was selling prints and getting jobs doing freelance illustration and commission work. Someone asked for a mural, and it’s been my bread and butter ever since.

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
Iguanas, courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

Nature and graphic design pervade all your work. What is it about that combo you find interesting?

I always liked being in nature and I get a sense of wonder and belonging (but also a little terror) from looking at the details in it. I get more from looking closely at moss or an insect than the long view of a landscape. Antique naturalist prints have always been a big influence, people like John James Audubon who were recording things in nature for identification and cataloguing. I also always liked the surrealists and looking at collage art, how they juxtapose things in an absurd or allegorical way. My style is really just about making things that look (hopefully) appealing using plants and animals to give that same feeling of a kind of alien wonder I get from being in nature. To me, nature is both beautiful and brutal. It doesn’t care about the individual, but it all works together perfectly.

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
Image courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

Favorite animals or bugs to illustrate?

I like it all, but I get especially charged up attempting to make something aesthetically pleasing using species that aren’t usually thought of as “pretty.” Moths, snakes, mushrooms, sea worms, that kind of thing.

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
Image courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

Who are your artist inspirations?

The Dutch master still-life painters, old educational prints, Haekel, Maria Sybilla Merian, Audubon, Bosch, Walton Ford, to name a few! I also love looking at Moroccan rugs. They are like paintings to me.

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
Inside Common House Richmond, VA, image courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

As an artist and person, why live in Richmond?

I love Richmond! It’s my hometown, and I’ve left a few times but always come back. I have always had beautiful old apartments here with room to paint and cheap rent, although that’s changing a bit now! Richmond has this great mix of the natural and industrial. You don’t see that everywhere. Plus, so many good artists.

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
Inside Bar Solita, Richmond, VA, image courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

And maybe this blends into that question, how would you describe the art scene here in the city?

I feel like Richmond has become a place that really celebrates murals and art. I have found that the artists I know are all really into supporting one another, and so there is so much talent here!

Naomi McCavitt, Thicket Design
RVA Street Art Festival 2023, image courtesy of Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design

You have done a few murals now. How is it painting in front of everyone, and is working on the scale an enjoyable experience?

I love it! I mean, painting at home where you can control the temperature and all the other obstacles that can arise when painting a mural is wonderful, and I love that too, but there is something about the challenge of a large wall that always gets me excited. It can be immersive if it’s indoors or a sort of public offering if it’s outside. You hope people like it. There is no price of admission; it sort of belongs to everyone.

What do you have coming up this year that you want to tell people about?

I’ve got a few outdoor murals coming up and I am working on a new series for a show in January 2024.

Follow Naomi McCavitt aka Thicket Design @thicketdesign

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work:

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