You know when it rains and you feel like it must be raining everywhere else in the world too, even though, logically, you know that there are many climates, elevations, weather systems and even seasons going on in just this very same state you're in?
Well, it's raining here, and I'm having a bit of a day and there's absolutely no better way to remind myself that things are still pretty good, but a cup of rose hip-nettle-cardamom-tea with honey, the new Head&The Heart album and looking at some of Phoebe Wahl's life-celebrating art.
As a long-time reader of Ms. Wahl's blog, I have a an endless list of favorites from her art. Not just finished paintings, but sketches, envelopes, notebook covers, animations and even fabric swathes.
Wahl's art makes me feel like she must be a kindred spirit of some kind, and I'm ever surprised by how each new piece she showcases is yet another one I'd hang on my wall in a heartbeat. A feminist, a gardener, maker of homes and food, lover of fairytales, vegetables, flowers and PNW woods (she's originally from Bellingham), Wahl's work totally strikes a chord with me.
Wahl's style seems equal parts half-remembered illustrations to a childhood 70s-80s books, those hand-lettered early homesteader zines, the letters and notebooks and envelopes of your teenage years, nostalgic, yet totally original and contemporary at the same time. The details are rich and painstakingly crafted, the themes varied and surprising, and it would seem that just about everything about Ms. Wahl's life gives rise to another little piece of art.
As a resigned "ugly watercolorist" I'm totally in awe of her skill with that medium, as well as how she mixes other mediums in with it. In fact Wahl's chosen mediums are my very favorites. She paints watercolors with collage, in a variety of forms and I'm particularly enamored by her stop-motion animations, a craft I've loved sinceI first discovered at age nine and have carried with me ever since. Looking at her carefully crafted little animations always makes me want to experiment with them again. Her creations, the tiny worlds and characters carefully crafted from felt and fabric and thread can't help but bring a smile to your face, reminding you of the childhood awe of seeing art, or theatre for the first time, how magical it seemed for something to become something completely different.
I love her manifestations of the common themes on family, imagination and the endless wonders of our natural universe. Beyond just pretty pictures of flowers, there's a real wildness about her works. In fact, as the title of this post implies she seems to feel that tug between domesticity and adventure, wilderness and the homestead, reality and the dreamworld and somehow mesh the two together as seamlessly as we all wish we could in our lives.
Her art has a pointed relevance to our current moment, in spite of its nostalgic appearance. A lot of her work addresses the issues young folks face these days and some of it even has an overtly political message. Wahl's not afraid to work in the nitty-grity personal stuff that makes up the our values: food, love, family, sexual politics. This is what truly sets her apart from many artists and makers of her generation. While fine art can be willfully obtuse, or painfully obvious about these topics, a lot art in the realm of illustration, design and maker-hood, is often oddly sanitized from anything that could be considered an actual opinion.
Wahl on the other hand, is not afraid to "say" what's on her mind and I like that about her.
At the same time, there's a delightful playfulness and joy about these images, they're not self-serious, or preachy, they just seem to embody these moments when life was good and magical. A little reminder of that daily in the form of a card, or a print could definitely be something to hang by my bed.
Recently, Wahl has unveiled a few very exciting projects. She's designed her own fabric for her sister's wedding present, which is also available for the rest of us here. I'm definitely saving up for some t make pillowcases to replace the ones we had to get rid of during our move. A regular contributor to Taproot Magazine, Wahl also created a 2014 wall calendar, making it easy for those of us who always have trouble picking which kind of calendar to get (and end up not getting one 'till february). She sells her cards and prints on etsy and you can read more about her adventures in painting, making and nature on her blog.
Here's to a better rainy day! Looking at these pictures is already working for me, how about you?
All images by and from Phoebe Wahl