Write-up by The Advocate: MHCC Student News

CONNECTING TO NATURE THROUGH ART

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018 MEGAN PHELPS ARTS + ENTERTAINMENTLIFESTYLE

Imagine you’re in the far North, looking out at a vast white landscape. You smell the sea as the cool breeze stings your cheeks, and get a whiff of fish and seal skin drying on nearby racks.

This was the setting that Amanda Jorgenson, an artist currently stationed in Seattle, grew up in. Her series, “Flora and Fauna” is currently being showcased at Mt. Hood’s Fireplace Gallery in the Student Union.

Growing up, Jorgenson had a keen interest in the arts; her parents even enrolled her in art classes at the early age of 6. However, she did not immediately pursue this interest. Instead, for roughly a decade she worked as a German language instructor at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.

In 2014 she heard about the yearlong Natural Science Illustration program at the University of Washington. After she applied and was accepted, her journey as an artist continued to evolve. Over the past few years she has created illustrations for children’s books, public art commissions, and private commissions.

Her interest in artwork based around animals partially came from her childhood in Brevig Mission, Alaska, which is a small village with around 300 people.

“The opportunity to have little interference with the indigenous species – even at that age, I knew it was something kind of special,” she explained in an interview. “I knew it was important.”

Six of the paintings being shown here are a part of the “Flora and Fauna” series which contains carnivores and plants indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. The black-and-white pieces shown are detailed pen-and-ink drawings of birds.

Of the pieces students and faculty get to see, the pieces titled “Grizzly Bear with Fiddle Head Fern” and “Burrowed Owl” are the artist’s favorite, the bear being the first created in the Flora and Fauna series. The owl is treasured due to it’s “bad-ass” persona, she said.

Jorgenson’s journey back to the arts was an unexpected one. At times being a full-time illustrator can be stressful, since there can be high- and low-points for commissions. But, one day this past April, she was going through a box of old papers in her parents’ house in Gresham. To her surprise, she found a letter her second-grade-self wrote to her future self, stating that she wanted to be an artist and paint pictures of animals for people.

This reassured Jorgenson that everything would be all right.

“I totally deviated from that goal, but I kind of came around to it,” she said. “So, for those people who really want to pursue art and be an artist, don’t be afraid of doing it. I mean, ultimately you’re gonna come back to it, I think.”

To anyone interested in pursuing art, she suggested, “Always stay true to what you enjoy doing and what inspires you. You can find your niche; you can find people who are interested in your art. It’s not impossible. You just need to find them.

“Don’t be afraid to put in the legwork to find your people.”

Visitors can check out Jorgenson’s “Flora and Fauna” series and the other pieces in the Fireplace Gallery through in the Student Union through Oct. 30. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Volunteer Profile - Urban ArtWorks

Since October 2017, I’ve gotten to know the fine folks at Urban ArtWorks (UA) In their own words (gleefully copy and pasted from their website):

Urban ArtWorks is a Seattle-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for contemporary artists and local youth to work together to create public works of art. Our goal is to empower young people through professional opportunities in the arts.

Since then, I have helped UA raise money for youth programing through donating my art for auction, taught and facilitated mural projects, and volunteered my time assisting in fundraising endeavors.

Below is an interview I did with UA in June 2018 (recently published on their website):

VOLUNTEER PROFILE: AMANDA JORGENSON

Amanda is an artist and volunteer who helps us out with a variety of initiatives. We asked her some questions about public art:

How did you find out about Urban Artworks? 
I was reading The Stranger while at my former day job and saw an ad for Urban ArtWorks’ Summer Celebration. I sent-in an email to introduce myself as both an artist and as a potential volunteer for UA’s events and teaching opportunities.

Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up / how did you find yourself in Seattle?
I was born in Geneva, Switzerland and moved to the U.S. shortly thereafter. My family and I bounced around the U.S. – mostly between the Midwest and Alaska. My love of art started when we lived in an Inupiaq village called Brevig Mission in Northwest Alaska where I was surrounded by Native carvers and drawers. Close proximity to animals and various forms nature provided me with the subject matter of my art, knowing Native artists provided an example of using art as a form of storytelling, which I have followed over the years. After a near decade of being a German-language instructor at University of Oregon and Oregon State University, I decided to change up my career path and follow my passion of art in earnest. In 2015, I applied for University of Washington’s Natural Science Illustration Program and was accepted. I’ve been in Seattle ever since and am happily getting more involved in the art scene here.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I go on ridiculously long walks and really listen to song lyrics. Misinterpreted – or reinterpreted—lyrics tend to lead to an idea for a drawing. For example, during a creative dry-spell I was listening to a good deal of David Bowie, particularly “Let’s Dance.” There’s a lyric, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues,” which made me – an absolute bird nerd- think about the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies putting on red shoes. Silly things like that really help me create new art.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed? 
The subject. As most of my art features animals, it is important to portray their personality, feathers, fur, glint in the eye accurately. Every minute detail matters as they are very specific to each species. I am an incredibly messy artist despite my best efforts, and I tend to start with the foreground instead of the background, as it’s always more interesting. Of course, this has gotten me into loads of trouble!

Have there been major influences from childhood that you didn’t realize until later in life?
Not really, as they’ve always been present. When I expressed my interest for art and animals, my parents helped encourage and cultivate that, and continue to do so – even when the art game gets tough.

What projects are you working on these days?
I am currently working on a pen, ink and gouache series of Pacific Northwest Carnivores and the flora that surrounds them. I am an avid supporter of conservation efforts, and I believe representations of nature gives the viewer a more-relatable insight to the general public on what is happening to our green spaces and how we can help indigenous wildlife.
I’ll be on a backpacking adventure with Cascades Carnivore Project soon, where I’ve been asked to illustrate a wolverine den (and any potential elusive wolverines that come my way!). Getting out into the field and seeing wildlife firsthand – instead of in photos – is always fantastic.

Who are some other artists who have influenced you?
One of the first female natural science illustrators, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717). She led me to want to try watercolor with pen and ink.

Did you come from a creative family?
My father is incredibly creative. He and I used to spend a good deal of time drawing or building things together. My mom and sister have their moments, but they happily stay away from things which seem too artistically complicated.

How is living in Seattle influencing your work right now?
I’m getting more involved with local conservation groups looking for art and illustrations for their organization. Access to these orgs as well as the proximity to nature is really channeling my artwork in that direction at the moment.

Show at Revolutions Coffee in Greenlake: A Combination of Two of My Favorite Things

Now hanging at Revolutions Coffee in Greenlake [208 East Green Lake Drive North
eattle, WA 98115
]! Art + coffee: a fantastic combination - though less likely to convince you into a sale as art + booze would. No matter: go check it out!

This is a lovely little coffee shop in Greenlake, perfect for people watching and enjoying a damn fine cup of coffee. I've been "bugging" the nicest baristas I've ever met in my life to let me hang my art since last year this time (though I'm not sure if they remember this - all the better for me!) but this has come at a perfect time. People are spending more time inside now that the weather is turning, and starting to think about the Holidays.

An aside: Have you started thinking about the Holidays? I know someone who makes things for people...

I've found space for 7 of my digital paintings on the walls at Revolutions Coffee. I decided to show more of my digital work this time - rather than my colored pencil pieces- as I've found that there is more intrigue with the digital media and pen and ink - though I'm yet to show any of those. While I was hanging, I had a some interested people inquire on the medium of the pieces. Many thought it was watercolor, which is an interesting perspective to hear. I'm so used to getting (mostly positive) feedback from my immediate circle of family and friends that I really enjoy hearing what strangers think.

Must. Do. This. More.

 The show will be up for a bit. There was a delay in getting it up on the wall, as I've relocated from Fremont to Ballard in what seemed to be a never-ending move. 

Let me know what you think, if you go check it out!

Art Show at Standard Goods in Capitol Hill

As my inaugural blog post, I thought I'd let you all know about a current show hanging up in Capitol Hill at Standard Goods in Capitol Hill, Seattle.  While the art walk itself was a few weeks back, the show is still up for another little bit, so definitely go check out my art as well as Standard Goods - it's a really neat Pacific Northwest-inspired local shop. 

Maya Koplowitzi, Direct Marketing Editor of Standard Goods,  interviewed me for their artist spotlight blog. It gives more insight of who I am as an artist and how I got started in this field. You can check out the interview + pictures of my illustrations at there website here, but I'll also post the Q & A below. 

I have another upcoming show in October at Revolutions Coffee  in Greenlake, as well as a December show at Dubsea Coffee in White Center, so you'll never miss out on seeing my art in public spaces. 

I'll make more of an effort to keep up the blog posts to keep you all updated on the goings-on and what not. I look forward to seeing you at one of my shows!

Interview with Maya, Marketing Editor at Standard Goods:

This coming Thursday at Standard Goods for August Capitol Hill Art Walk we will be hosting two talented artists, both featuring the animal kingdom. Meet Amanda Jorgenson, the Seattle-based but Alaska-raised illustrator. Amanda combines her love for natural science, song lyrics and puns with illustration. 

Tell us a little bit about your style as an artist? 

I like focusing on the details which may seem minute and insignificant to some. Every spot, scale, hair, feather has its importance and needs to be drawn with care. The hardest drawings I've ever done are the animals we find "common" such as crows, robins, and squirrels. If you look at them long enough, you'll come to realise they are quite complex!

I enjoy creating art which has more of a meaning - even if it is not completely obvious. My titles always show what I was thinking about and the end product is putting those words and lyrics down onto paper. 

Growing up in Alaska must have been amazing. What is your favorite thing about Alaska? How did growing up there shape you as an artist? 

 Alaska is all about being in and around nature and wildlife. I enjoyed being able to drive 15 minutes from our house and be in the Chugach Mountain Range, the moose wandering around the neighborhoods, and the occasional black bear going through your trash. I liked the feeling of being quite small in the vastness of my surroundings. 

While living in Brevig Mission, AK (a small Native Alaskan village in the Northwest of Alaska), I had the opportunity to learn and watch Native carvers and drawers at their work. I remember watching them for hours as they practised their craft. Their style influenced how I see animals. They have more behind their facade. They have a story, an importance. 

How did you get introduced to the Natural Science Illustration program at University of Washington? Sounds fascinating. Can you tell us a little about what this program? 

 My mother is a branch manager at a library in Vancouver, WA., where she hosts local artists art. One artist was a former student in the NS Illustration program at UW, and my mom immediately told me about it (Thanks, MOM!). I applied after putting together a portfolio and got in - which drastically changed my career path. 

I encourage anyone who is interested in drawing flora and fauna to attend this program. I learned about drawing proportion (instead of just eyeballin' it), different mediums (like colored pencil on drafting film) and I ultimately found out what my illustration style is. The feedback from the instructors and more importantly your peers was most excellent.

Can you recall your earliest memory with art? 

I remember spending evenings sitting at the dining room table drawing birds and other animals with Mr Sketch markers. Additionally, I was a very fortunate child in the sense that my parents saw my talents and encouraged me to continue drawing so they enrolled me in art courses from the age of 6 on.  

What is your spirit animal? 

 According to a quiz I just took online, I'd be a Brown Bear based on the fact that I like mountains, the color blue, and berries. I would agree, as I am calm until provoked, enjoy my downtime and alone time, sleep and being outside exploring. 

But my coworkers have said I'd be an orangy-yellow bird, based on the fact I absolutely adore birds, ever since 5th grade when my teacher taught a whole section on them. The color bit...no so sure.

What Illustrators that you admire most? 

James Audubon. His bird illustration plates are divine. 

What was your favorite children's book growing up?

My favorite picture book was a German book called "Mein Bär Braucht eine Mütze" (My Bear Needs a Hat), which is about a teddy bear who needs specific clothing knitted by the narrator's mother in order to go on a walk/adventure. 

As a chapter book, I absolutely loved the "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques. I've always enjoyed stories with anthropomorphism. Perhaps my visualization of the characters while reading helped me develop my style. 

What is your favorite medium to use? 

 I really enjoy using colored pencil on drafting film and photoshop for digital painting (I love my wacom tablet!). 

Where in nature do you go to find inspiration? 

 I can be sitting outside just observing the common neighborhood animals and find beauty and complexity in their everyday-ness. Most of my inspiration come on walks home around Lake Union to Fremont, listening to music, or trying to work an animal seen along the way into a pun. For example: that's how I came up with the Octopus (titled: "Enjoy the Silence" - Lyric, "Here in My Arms"  - song by Depeche Mode) and "Drowning in Your Swallows" - a picture of Swallows perched on a wine glass, seen along Lake Union and my thirst for a glass of wine. 

Lastly, what words of encouragement would you give to aspiring artists young and old?

Have faith in your talent and craft. I am constantly discouraged, but working through my own self-doubt so that I continue to produce ever-changing illustrations - pushing myself to achieve more. Use your disappointment in your more-than-likely already brilliant art work to make yourself work harder, try different techniques, etc. Of course, I'll need to remember my own advice the next time I believe my illustration looks inadequate.