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. Come by the shop on August 10th to see more and hear music from the band Cherry Boy at 8 pm.
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 with markers 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, 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, 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.