Local artist Gretchen Leggitt and our new sticker!
Christian Martin: How long have you lived in and around the North Cascades, and how long have you been working as an artist?
Gretchen Leggitt: I’ve lived in Bellingham for about 9 years, but I have been recreating in the North Cascades since the day I moved to the NW in 2006. I have been creative my entire life, but committed to being a full time artist two years ago.
CM: Your artwork celebrates the natural surroundings of our region – the mountains, rivers, plants, trees and mushrooms of Cascadia. You often include recreation popular in our area like mountain biking and snow sports too. Have you always been inspired by nature and playing outdoors?
GL: I like to say that my first 14er summit was when I was in my mom’s womb:) I had the immense benefit of being raised in the Colorado backcountry by wildly ambitious mountain explorers who taught me from a very early age how to appreciate every ounce of nature. My mom is a scientific illustrator, so in addition to being born to love playing outside, I grew up learning how to acutely observe flora and fauna, seeking interest and inspiration.
CM: What is your process of transforming landscapes and the ways you recreate in to art?
GL: My processes span across the board. My favorite approach is bringing a sketchpad or watercolor set on adventures and taking a moment to soak in a landscape, quietly observe, study the topography and create it plein air. Oftentimes, I am moving so quickly I do not have this pleasure, so I often work from photos. Lastly, I do love exploring where my imagination takes me in my drawings, creating whimsical dream-scapes.
CM: What do all the swoopy, flowing lines in your work symbolize, or how do they function in the compositions?
GL: My swooping lines are representative of the energy forces found within nature, its dynamic climate and our human experience of gracefully moving through space when recreating. Vincent van Gogh once said that nothing in nature is still. Everything is moving. His Impressionistic markmaking captured this energy and I intend for my lines to do the same.
CM: When we approached you to create a new artistic design based on iconic elements found around our Environmental Learning Center, you mentioned that you made time in your busy schedule to work with us because of a meaningful connection you have with a former staff member. Care to share?
GL: The first time I visited North Cascades Institute, I was visiting a dear friend who was a student at the time, and I met one of the most wonderful humans I’ve known, Ian Fair. Ian was a staple at the Institute and he and I became dear friends over the past 6 years. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy and memory are ingrained in his community. I know Ian held Institute very close to his heart, so when this opportunity came up to help design a sticker, I hopped on it instantly.
CM: North Cascades Institute’s mission is to inspire environmental stewardship through transformative learning experiences in nature. I wonder if this goal resonates with you and the work you do in your art, which is also, to my eyes, inspiring and transformative.
GL: I love this idea. I hope that every child (and adult for that matter) may have the opportunity to spend some meaningful time in nature, soaking in how magnificent the wild is. Some of my favorite experiences in the outdoors have been taking friends or their kids climbing, skiing or backpacking for the first time. Sharing the joy and wonder of these experiences is unparalleled with just about anything else you can find on this earth. You sure can’t buy that delight at the local mall.
CM: Are you working on anything now or in the near future you are really excited about?
GL: I’m currently gearing up to put up three big murals in and around Bellingham. Stay tuned!
All artwork in this post © Gretchen Leggitt (except for Institute sticker)