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Interview with Artist, Amy Hook-Therrien

1. How did you get started with a career in art?

I have always been interested in art. I was always trying new things, always creating. If we traveled, I wanted to go to art museums and galleries. When it came time to go to college, I knew I had to study art. It was all I thought about. College increased that need to create. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn. Once I graduated, I had a job but painted during my free time. I started to sell my pieces at craft and art fairs, then was accepted into galleries and it has slowly grown from there.

2. What Media do you typically use? And what is your process for painting?

I work with watercolor and pen & ink. It starts with an idea, usually brought on by a photo I have taken during a walk in the woods. I map out the larger shapes roughly with pencil, then put pen to paper. I draw all the small details, taking the time to get shapes and a bit of shading right. Once all the sketching is complete, I go over with layers of watercolor. This process is where I can let go a bit and really have fun. Sometimes I will take a few days or weeks between the pen and paint processes. Every painting is a little bit different. I want to make sure that I have an idea of how I want to the mood of the painting to show before I go in with watercolor.

3. Your work is heavily influenced by the natural world, what are some of your other influences and inspirations?

I paint what makes me happy, and nature makes me happy. One of my favorite subjects to paint is birch trees. I get so excited when I find a new tree to paint. I really get inspired if they are really gnarled and haggard looking. They tell such a story; they have seen so much. When I paint nature, I try and show the “imperfections” I think that really makes a painting more relatable. It’s rare to see the perfect in nature, it’s almost odd. If I see a flower missing a petal, a tear in a leaf, that’s when inspiration hits.

4. Do you have any advice for people wanting to become better painters/artists?

Practice. Try different techniques, try different materials, try different music. Look at other artists' work, watch how-to videos, and ask other artists questions. Don’t be afraid to screw up a piece, you will always learn from it.

5. Do you keep a sketchbook or have a daily drawing practice? If so, what is that like?

I am obsessed with sketchbooks, buying them and hoarding them. I have a tough time marking them though, I love to keep their white pages perfect. There is a bit of anxiety that goes with working in a sketchbook. The thought that whatever you are working on has to be epic because it will forever exist in this little book. Lately, I have been keeping an art journal, recording things I have observed throughout the day, favorite quotes, the weather, etc. It’s a great way to get ideas and thoughts onto a page and then play with techniques and test materials.

6. Do you ever do En Plein air painting or drawing? If so, is your process different from when you’re in the studio?

En Plein air painting is something that I really would like to get better at. It’s such a romantic way to create pieces, you immerse yourself in the subject you are painting. It’s also really, really difficult. What you don’t see is the lugging of supplies, the bugs landing in your paint, the wind ripping your piece from your hands. The frigid and scorching temperatures, the ever-changing light. I prefer to work in the studio, with a cup of tea, my favorite show or movie playing in the background, and my pups lounging in the bay window. In my safe little studio, I am able to melt the stress away and get myself into a flow state. It’s not nearly as romantic, but it’s how I create.

7. How do natural sciences and environmentalism impact your work?

As an artist, I’m always thinking about how I impact the world. I think about how I might go into an environment, observe it and then leave without much of a trace. I want to show people these wild spaces, but I don’t want to trample or leave fragments of myself behind in the process. Taking care to not be a burden on the environment then makes these places more precious, and sacred. I hope that I show my love for the environment through my pieces. The more I paint nature the more I want to protect it. We need to take care of these wild spaces and work towards helping them last for generations.

8. You’ve recently been an artist in residence, what was that process like for you?

When I was chosen to be this year's Artist-In-Residence at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, I couldn’t believe it. It has been such an amazing journey so far. A pony shed converted into an artist studio is my main hideout. I get to explore the park and plan workshops. I love being able to interact with and work with the staff. My day usually starts by walking the trails and observing my surroundings. I take a ton of photos and some videos. Once I feel fully inspired, I will head back to the studio and paint for the rest of the day. Visitors will stop in ask questions and tour the studio space. Sometimes I will pull out my art journal and sketch while sitting on a side trail or on a bench. There are so many spots to explore.

9. What are you reading these days?

Lately, I have been reading a lot of fantasy. I love the pictures authors can paint of these other worlds. Right now, I’m reading the Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. I love the way she writes strong female characters. I also keep art books close at hand; I keep flipping through Luigi Lucioni: Modern Light. Lucioni is one of my favorite artists, he also loved to paint birch trees.

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