Monday, June 5, 2017

Meet Kristin Link, 2017 Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence

Every year since 2010, the Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence competitive program has paired an artist with a wilderness specialist from a particular area. Alaska’s Voices of the Wilderness residency, a combined effort by the National Park Service, Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers nearly a dozen annual residencies scattered across Alaska.

This year’s 2017 Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence on the Chugach National Forest, is science illustrator and artist Kristin Link from McCarthy, Alaska. (You can read the official news release here.)
Kristin is teaming up with a wilderness ranger in the Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area and they are bringing their combined skills to bear on stewardship projects, research, monitoring, and education. And while all that is going on, she will be creating art informed and influenced by the unique lands of the Chugach National Forest.

We asked her a few questions, hoping to get to know her a little better before she went to work.

Here's a big question: Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in a cabin outside McCarthy, Alaska on the edge of the Wrangell-St. Elias, with my partner Greg and our dog Jack. This week I’ve been working on putting in our garden, and trying to notice as many as possible of the birds and flowers that are coming backing each day. I didn’t grow up living in rural areas, but it was always a lifestyle that I admired, and I grew up doing a lot of hiking and camping and always enjoyed it. I grew up in Belgium, New Jersey, and London and moved to Alaska after graduating from college. When I was in high school I worked for a summer on an SCA (Student Conservation Association) crew, building a trail in the White Mountains, north of Fairbanks. After that experience I was fascinated by Alaska and wanted to spend a winter here, so I convinced a friend of mine to move up here with me in September. We spent our first winter working as dog handlers and learning about sled dog racing in Willow.

Some artists come to it late and some early. What’s your story? Have you always felt you would make your way as an artist or did you discover your talent?

Since I was little I’ve always loved making art, but I didn’t think I would necessarily work as an artist. Both of my grandmothers taught me a lot about making things, and my mom’s mom was a watercolor painter. She used to let my siblings and me paint in her studio and gave us our first lessons on painting and drawing. My parents aren’t very artistic, but they have always been very encouraging of me pursuing my art. I loved art classes in school. I didn’t plan to end up working as an artist, but I always enjoyed doing art so much, that it was hard to stop. I completed a double major in environmental studies and studio art, and then got a degree in science illustration. I’ve done other work in addition to being an artist, but it has always been something that is important for me to make time for.

What media do you like to work in? Do you have a favorite?

I like to work in a lot of different media. If I am sketching in the field for example I might use watercolors, colored pencils, pens, and pencils all to make one drawing simply because each tool can achieve a certain effect best. I also work with acrylic and gouache (which is basically opaque watercolor), digital media, and recently have been playing around with making cyanotypes from my drawings. I will say that I love to draw and drawing is the basis of most of my work. Even when I am painting, I tend to treat my paintbrush as a pencil. For that reason, probably my favorite medium right now is pen and ink.

What interests you about the Chugach? I see that a lot of your work pays close attention to detail, the many small things that make up the world around them. Do you think your inspiration will be similar as artist-in-residence on the Chugach National Forest?

Place plays a big role in my work. A lot of my work is about McCarthy and the Wrangell-St. Elias because I live there. It can be rewarding to step away and go somewhere new, both to see new scenery and to reflect on my usual surroundings. I’m especially excited to spend time in the Chugach because I feel connected to the stretch of land between myself and the ocean. The Nizina River that I live right next to drains in the Chitina and the Copper which drain into Prince William Sound. I’ve spent a bit of time in Prince William Sound and have been so blown away by the richness of the ecosystem there, especially coming from interior Alaska. I’m excited to spend more time there.

I do tend to observe the world up close, and most of my personal work reflects that. A single rock or clump of vegetation can tell the story of the landscape as well as a panorama, and that is where I tend to focus. I like to spend time walking around and seeing which rocks, plants, or animal signs catch my eye. I’ll record my observations in my sketchbooks but also spend a fair amount of time researching and looking up things I’ve found in field guides. Then I like to make work about the ones that seem to have stories to tell, sometimes I know the stories, sometimes I work on uncovering them as I am drawing.

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