Taproot Contributor :: Phoebe Wahl

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="1401,1398,1391,1392,1396,1390,1386,1388,1393,1389,1387,1399,1397,1394,1395,1400"] It has been a great pleasure to work with our contributors for each issue of Taproot Magazine. Behind the scenes, the process of creating our magazine is multi-layered (from concept to sketch/draft to layout to print) - the magic you find between the pages of Taproot reflects not only our aesthetics and ethos but the creativity and imagination of our contributors as well. It's a symbiotic relationship, and one we feel grateful for. We're thrilled to introduce you to our Taproot Interview Series, where you'll find nuggets of inspiration and thoughts from the people who help create this magazine. An interview with a regular contributor feels like a conversation shared over a cup of tea, between work and chores, all the while sharing a bit more from "behind the scenes" with the writers, crafters, and artists that make up our community. Phoebe Wahl has been with Taproot since the very beginning and we're excited to launch this new series with a glimpse behind the scenes with Phoebe as she shares a bit about her art. Phoebe is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration.  She spends her time illustrating the imaginary worlds she inhabited growing up in the Pacific Northwest through painting, sculpture, sewing or storytelling.  You can find her wherever there are pillows, children's books and a cup of tea. Her work can be found in each issue of Taproot. To see more of her work, you can visit her online at phoebewahl.blogpost.com By way of introducing you to Phoebe and our new Interview Series, our editor Meredith Winn sent a few questions her way.  We hope you'll enjoy her responses and the above gallery of photographs she shared with us.   Meredith Winn: You create a world of wonder with your art. Ferns, fairies and families living together; life within your pieces have a magical quality to them. It's a nostalgic blend of everyday reality with a taste of idyllic childhood. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, do you find that your surroundings as a child and young adult worked their way into the art you are creating as an adult? Where else do you find inspiration? PW: I definitely feel like where I grew up, in Bellingham, WA had a huge impact on my visual aesthetic. The concept of home, and all of the sensory experiences I associate with it are hugely inspirational and important to me. I spent a lot of time outdoors growing up, hiking, camping and exploring. My dad is a Washington native plant nut and every evening we would go on a ‘Yard Walk’ slowly moving through the garden, listening to birds, noticing what had bloomed, how things smelled and felt and tasted. I spent days on end with my sister and the other neighborhood kids in forts and hideouts in the bushes. I wrote letters to the fairies who lived in a mossy corner of our yard, and got letters back! I am so thankful for the level of exposure I was given to the natural world from such a young age, it has played an enormous part in shaping who I am and how I interact with the world. The things I’m drawn to create now are very similar to the things I drew and painted as a child. Which is comforting in a way, that I really haven’t changed all that much. My work has really always been about nature, loving moments between people, and magic, tiny worlds. Books have always been and still are big for me, reading old favorites, especially picture books, never ceases to inspire. I love the work of Barbara Cooney, Alice & Martin Provensen, Elsa Beskow, Garth Williams, Roger Duvoisin, Elisa Kleven, Tove Jansson, Rie Munoz, Bonnard, Vuillard, Cassatt, Chagall, Matisse and Grandma Moses. The list could go on forever...! Meredith: When you graduated from RISD did you experience a shift in your creative process moving from an art school setting into creating your own work schedule with a studio in your home? Do you structure your work day or does it flow naturally? What does a typical creative day look like for you? PW: It definitely has been an adjustment learning to manage my time outside of school. But it almost feels like a re-adjustment, since as a unschooler growing up managing my own time working on different projects came very naturally. I fall into a loose schedule in the way that I work, but in general it’s all just time management of what needs to get done when. I’ll have periods that are more hectic, and ones that are more calm. It depends if the sun is shining, if my roommate Brailey is home to hang out with, if I’m reading a good book... Generally I try to do any computer work I have to do, like answering emails, in the morning, and move on to physical creating (drawing, painting, sewing) by noon. One thing that I learned the hard way in college is that taking time to take care of yourself, to cook and read and relax and be social, can only make you a better worker. I find working from home makes it hard not to work ALL the time, since it’s always staring me in the face. My studio is also my bedroom. So I can’t escape. It’s important to keep reminding myself that investing in a happy, whole life for myself outside of my studio will only ever be reflected positively in my work. Meredith: You have an upcoming children's book to be published in 2015. What was your favorite part of this process? Do you often incorporate story with your art? You work with many different mediums. Illustration as well as sculptures from felted, wired, and recycled fabrics are part of your portfolio and shop. Do you have a favorite medium? PW: I am still very early in the process, so it’s hard to say. Writing a children's book and having it picked up by a publisher is definitely a really exciting reminder that writing is and always will be something I absolutely love to do. I think whether I’m conscious of it or not, story always incorporated in some way. It may never be written down, it may not be exciting and full of intrigue, but I have an overall knowledge of the world that all of my characters come from, and of their own individual paths and passions. So I guess you could say those are stories, for me it just knowledge that goes hand in hand with drawing someone...inevitably I begin to think about who they are and how they came to be on my paper. The medium I am most comfortable in is watercolor, I’ve been painting with it since I was nine and it will always be special to me. But I also love printmaking, and working with drawing tools since I love line and texture. Pen and ink, colored pencil, charcoal and graphite... Collaging with paper is something I started doing in the last two years. I loved the dimension and solidity it added to my work, and the opportunity for detail and patterns incorporated from books and magazines. I have always loved and will always love working three dimensionally too, whether it’s with fabric, wire and felt, paper mache, or ceramics. I think all artists should give themselves the chance to work in 3D, it really informs understanding of the way shapes behave in space, which can only make you a better at drawing them. Meredith: You recently shared your creative process with the folks over at Storyacious about the making of Moon Dance. You mention the importance as a working artist to make time to create pieces of art just for yourself, for "fun". Can you expand on this concept? As someone who makes a living from being creative, how do you stay mindful of balancing creative work and creative play? PW: It can be very difficult, when the line is so thin between work and play. They’re so intertwined. Lately I’ve been thinking about this a lot, about how to keep myself engaged and excited about my own work, and what feels different about that than work I do for a client. I sometimes feel myself drawn more and more to work in abstraction in my sketchbook, or write for fun, or make something three dimensional that challenges me and feels completely different than an illustration. The other day I was frustrated with a piece and I jumped up, plopped myself in the middle of my room and started ferociously cutting up cardboard boxes and shaping them into a giant animal head. I never finished it. In fact, I ended up using it for kindling. But there was something about the spontaneous decision to sit down and make something ‘pointless’ that felt refreshing. I think it’s just good to allow myself to be unpredictable, and create things that keep me on my toes. Although it can be scary investing in that time, since it feels less ‘lucrative’ so to speak. But enormously essential. I still feel very new to the entire process of being a working artist, and I’m sure this feeling of work vs. play is something I’ll be dealing with for the rest of my life. Meredith: You have a bustling work space and are always creating something lovely in your studio. Do you have any upcoming projects that you are excited about? We'd love to hear about what new projects you look forward to creating! PW: Besides the book, I have been working on getting my entrepreneurial cap on by getting prepared in advance for upcoming holidays with seasonal goodies. For Mother’s Day I’ll have three new greeting cards and giclee prints coming into my Etsy shop. I’ll also hopefully be making some new mobiles that will be for sale soon. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about exploring animation further... that’s just a matter of investing in some equipment and time to explore...! I have a ton of long term ideas, ones that I may have to keep it in my back pocket until I have my dream homestead with a massive barn studio and acreage to do giant projects on…And of course I am VERY excited about all the upcoming work I’ll be doing with Taproot. It has been such a joy to have been a part of every issue so far. I can’t say thank you enough, both to the incredible Taproot team, and readers. The amount of positive feedback and love I receive from the Taproot community is so humbling and touching, I’m regularly blown away by everyone’s support. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Taproot! ~ amanda & meredith