The Materials I Choose
I’m always and actively figuring this out, but that’s the point. It’s been an evolution of me finding things that work and are beautiful and are sustainable and responsible too, and it will no doubt continue to be.As an artist, I have the opportunity to make lots of choices about materials to support my mission, and I am constantly researching and exploring to find the very best materials that I can, so that you don’t have to.I’ve decided to share with complete transparency all of the choices I make, about the materials and processes I use, so that you know what your choice to purchase from Drawn to Ecology means.
I use Hahnemuhle papers, because it’s BEAUTIFUL paper. It’s archival and has a million options for texture and weight (every single thing that every paper-person dies over - you know who you are), and it’s the most sustainable source I have found.I have tried out Moab from Legion. It doesn’t quite print the same way, but I’m going to try Legion paper for originals and when I do block printing, because I love the quality. They have a unique artistry you can see in each piece of paper, and it’s also sustainably made.My letterpress cards are printed on Gmund paper. Although it is transported from Germany, it is used by my letterpress printer for many projects, so the freight for transporting the paper is spread across many artists. The paper production is one of the most sustainable, and man but it feels like buttah in your hands.I will soon be offering wedding stationery suites (woohoooo!), printed on hemp paper, which is biodegradable - or if you want something extra special, seed paper will allow your guests to plant your invitations and grow herbs or veggies that won’t spread invasive species.
I use archival ink in my studio for original artwork because I want it to be museum quality to make the best product possible for you to enjoy for years.For my letterpress cards, we use regular ink. It is actually better in a small letterpress shop for employees’ health and water-usage, because of the solvents needed to clean the letterpress machine with soy-based inks.I’m looking into using soy-based ink with larger batch greeting cards, booklets and small publications because the print shop I will use offers the kind of sustainable and hemp paper I want to use and because they don’t have a press that needs cleaning between each run like a letterpress printer, solvents are not an issue for employee health.
I use hemp and organic cotton for all fabric products. Hemp is more sustainable but not allowed in US manufacturing because of its connection to cannabis (ugh), despite the fact that it uses less pesticides, less water and is a phytoremediation plant - meaning that it helps restore balance and cleans the soil, air and water.Hemp can even help reverse climate change, because it sequesters excess atmospheric carbon. Trust me: this is a good thing. You can read more about it here. As a result of all of these great things, I use hemp fabric even though it’s not manufactured or grown locally.Traditional cotton has negative environmental impacts. Its pesticide runoff decreases oxygen and kills everything in our rivers, and its production causes health problems for workers. Organic cotton is a better choice because it has the softer blend of cotton, but with less of these negative impacts, so when the product calls for cotton blend, I always choose organic.
I make all these things for you, and I am so careful with the materials I use to make them, but then I need to send them to you, and that means PACKAGING!All of my packaging is recyclable, recycled or biodegradable. I understand the beauty of unwrapping a beautiful thing, like it’s a present...but the bright and sparkly packing, though exciting, is waste and can do a lot of damage.All boxes and rigid mailers I use are made out of 100% recycled and recyclable materials by Ecoenclose - a socially conscious company. They are also naturally biodegradable (no glitter)!Although there is some non-recycled material in the plastic sleeves I use to protect your prints, I want you to enjoy and keep your prints safe. I’ve researched biodegradable sleeves as well, but haven’t found any yet that are acid-free. If I use the biodegradable sleeves on the market now, your prints would yellow over time. As soon as there is an option that works - you know I’ll be all over it.I use craft paper stickers made with recycled brown paper material for package labeling, and recycled brown paper for all of the identification and education cards I add to your prints.Every piece of packaging you see wrapped around your Drawn to Ecology prints or holding them safe on their way to you has been chosen because of its relative sustainability and lower impact, while still performing its function of getting your art to you.
My Creative Process
There are some landscape artists and illustrators who can go into a place, sit in it and simply begin to create. They paint or they draw or they sketch their pieces as they sit in the middle of the outdoors and record what their eyes see.That seems so nice to me sometimes. It’s like...relaxing and pastoral and lovely, right?That’s not what I do.The nerd in me won’t allow it. When I’m in those wide-open, enchanting spaces...I want to know everything about them before I begin creating.“What kind of tree is that? Does it have opposite or alternate branches? How is that fungi supporting the ecosystem? Is that an invasive or native species?!”
The rest of my process looks something like this:
1) First, I see something cool. And then I’m like, “Ooooo! That’s a cool bug...or look at this fungi...or weird formation.”
2) That’s when I start researching that cool thing inside of that unique ecosystem, and I start taking notes upon notes and sketching.
3) Learn Learn Learn Learn4) Then I become obsessed and start thinking about how I can portray it all, graphically: does it need to be a series or can it be a straight-up collection, where I can let my creativity go a little bit crazier and make a lot more things?
5) After I’ve sketched and learned and gathered all of the details I can find, I start making...and it can be a difficult process. I want to communicate the magic of the thing, while being scientifically accurate and those two things don’t always go together.6) So I draw, and I draw, and I draw - sometimes the same exact tree, because it’s just not quite right. I’m looking at you, Giant Sequoia!7) The final step is sometimes lightning fast, and it all just works the first time. Other times, it takes me awhile to develop exactly what I want to do to finish it.
8) For drawings of individual species and landscape details, I usually stick with simple line drawings. Larger landscapes and communities need a pop of color or a photograph to truly embody the feeling of the whole space. This is where the artistry comes in...I work until it just feels right, and then I know.
9) The final(ish) step is making it all into something that I can deliver to you. I often have an idea in mind about what the final product will look like, before I hit this step: “This mushroom will make the cutest sticker!” But sometimes I get here and realize a whole new medium that will work perfectly for the illustration. It’s the luck of the draw sometimes (har har har...draw).
My process may be a bit more excessive or at least less carefree and relaxing than the processes of some landscape illustrators, but it works for what I love to do and for my mission.Because in the end, what I want to do is to learn what’s cool about these places we explore, share with you how we can enjoy them safely and without hurting them and then together protect the magic we can find there - the thing that inspired me in the first place.I want you to see the communities and relationships of a place. I want you to feel the elevation and topography and how those things affect the life that grows there.I want you to feel the shape of the bark, notice the branching patterns, the needle and leaf formations, and marvel at the seed or pollen dispersal methods these plants have devised.I get to know them intimately, and I know that the true beauty of our natural world exists in those details. I want you to know them like I do and love those things too, because they’re freakin’ awesome.Plants are so intricate and unique and beautiful, and I am awestruck by them every single time I truly see them. You can look at these amazing things, but you can’t truly see them unless those details and that intimacy is there. I want you to see it!