Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.
Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with different mediums?
Rachel Fisher: I've always been creative in different ways — whether it's drawing, painting, quilting or design. I primarily work with watercolor and ink as it's perfect for travel since it takes very little space. I'm inspired by natural environments, so having supplies that don't weigh much or take a long time to set up is vital when I'm out and about. Occasionally I have ideas that require different mediums, and figuring out how to bring the concept to life challenges me to learn new techniques. For example, last year, I created a marmot illustration and learned to carve linoleum blocks for hand printing t-shirts.
Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Many of my sketchbook paintings are done quickly, and when I have an idea I want to refine further, I recreate it on larger watercolor paper. My process varies, but I always begin with a pencil drawing to get a rough sketch of the piece. When I'm working on something that is large or complex, I sketch variations of the idea on multiple sheets of transparent tracing paper so I can lay the sketches over each other until I figure out just the right placement and size for everything. When the sketch is done, I go over everything with a fountain pen to create outlines, textures and shading. I love details, and I'm always exploring the right balance of pen versus watercolor for textures. I have sketchbooks I use only for testing, and when I'm working on a new texture like wavy fur, I'll try it out over and over before deciding on the best method. Watercolor is secondary to me, and I often don't decide whether or not to add color until I finish the pen drawing.
Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from.
Most of my art is inspired by experiencing new places. I spend a lot of time hiking in Washington and find endless inspiration in nature. I see my sketchbook as a record of places, people and inspiration that have entered my life. My art is about capturing the spirit of a place rather than creating a photorealistic image. I try to complete at least the pen sketch on location, knowing I can add color once I'm home. My sketchbook gets thrown around a lot when I travel and has the wine stains, dirt and smudges to prove it. I really relate with that imperfection and desire to capture a moment as it is, dirt and all. Social media often shows artists with one subject or medium, but I find it important to let my inspiration run a little wild and create unexpected pieces.
Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
I'm very drawn to organic shapes. They're fun to paint and naturally lend themselves to some of my favorite subjects; landscapes and plants. Small critters. I really like sketching small creatures I've run into or hope to meet in the future. I believe drawing a variety of subjects is valuable for growth, and often seek out new subjects like fire lookouts or gnarled tree stumps to challenge myself.
Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
One of my favorite pieces is a watercolor landscape I framed in an old type drawer. I have a degree in design and will always have a fondness for letterpress and hand printing methods. Type drawers are made of wood and contain many little sections to store the different sized type blocks. They always felt whimsical to me, like they belonged in an old apothecary, and I had a rough idea to use one in my art for a long time. The drawer I purchased on eBay arrived with the original metal handle and many years of cobwebs. After a good cleaning, I used it to frame a large landscape painting of mountains and the night sky. I created the watercolor to fit the frame exactly, and it was nerve-wracking taking an x-acto knife to a finished piece and slicing it up into smaller shapes for each little window. The old wood is a beautiful contrast to the blue of the watercolor in a way that's hard to capture in photographs. Looking at it reminds me of the first time I saw the Milky Way while backpacking in the Cascades. I have another type of drawer that's even larger, which I'm excited to use for framing in the future.
What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I was born on an island next to a frog-filled stream, and my husband is convinced I didn't discover shoes until well into my later childhood. My parents had a soft heart for animals, and my childhood home was a wonderful zoo of fish, birds, chickens, cats and salamanders (wild, not pets). Our front yard was a Christmas tree farm (compliments of the previous owner), and the back bordered a large forest. The forest was my playground, where I ran around barefoot, capturing salamanders and discovering new worlds with my sisters. The height of our discoveries was an abandoned treehouse we had to wade through a swamp to find. The playfulness I feel interacting with animals and being outdoors is just like being a kid and fuels my creativity. It's no surprise the majority of my art features my two favorite childhood things, creatures and nature. The only difference is I wear shoes outside now — at least most of the time.
If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
The best place to see my current adventures and art is @Fishercreates on Instagram. To see upcoming watercolor workshops I'm teaching, visit my website www.rachelfisher.com. I also have a series of playful and sleepy animal illustrations for Land Bird Ceramics, which are sold in stores throughout the Pacific Northwest.
What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
I'm currently working on a two-piece painting of otters I'm very excited about. Otters are some of my favorite animals, and I've dragged my husband to visit them at the zoo so many times that I know their feeding schedule. They're one of those creatures that look like they're having so much fun you can't help but smile along. I want to capture that playful spirit in the painting, and I'm really excited about making the fur and water textures come alive. I'm in the middle of experimenting with techniques right now, and when it's done, it'll be one of my largest watercolors.
Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I enjoy a latte or French press with a dash of cream. Hold the nonsense like flavors, whip cream and sugar.