By Ellen Chappelle Special to the Weekly Herald
For acclaimed colored pencil artist Eileen Sorg, “it always starts with a story.”
“That is the most important part of the process,” Sorg said of her creative method. “Then it is a matter of getting the lighting just right, which is also super important. Once all that is in place I can actually draw. I like to ink in the really dark areas first and then I put down some watercolor to get rid of the white of the paper. After that I can use my colored pencils to really flesh things out and create all the wonderful detail.
“It’s a long process from start to finish (which is why I rarely have that many originals hanging around) but I enjoy every minute of it,” she said.
Sorg, an author and teacher, also incorporates her wry sense of humor into her work, as evidenced by one of her pieces depicting two birds sitting on an old View-Master eating bugs. The title? “Dinner and a Movie,” of course!
“I love seeing these bizarre visual stories come to life,” Sorg said. “It is great fun to match an image in your head to something real and tangible on paper. I also really get a kick out of seeing people react to them. I get a lot of smiles and have met a lot of interesting people.”
Born in Seattle, Sorg now lives and works just across the Sound in Kingston. She holds a degree in wildlife science from the University of Washington and studied birds and mammals as a biologist for the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service. Combining her love for nature and wildlife with her scientific training, the artist creates photograph-like detail while imbuing her wild subjects with warmth and personality.
She adds whimsy to her work by juxtaposing birds and other creatures with unique found objects. “I am always on the lookout for cool old objects. I find them at the Goodwill, antique stores, flea markets and my mom’s basement,” Sorg explained. “My sister-in-law lives in Chicago and she finds great stuff for me at the flea markets out there. I also will go on eBay when I am looking for a specific item. I recently even put out a Facebook call for a vintage jack-in-the-box so I could create a new piece. I have no pride — I will ask anyone at any time if I see or need something cool.”
Although Sorg has only been a full-time artist since 2008, she has been drawing for as long as she can remember.
“Art for me was a gradual thing. I was always doing it at some level even when I was busy doing other things like college and work,” she said. “It just sort of took on a life of its own; I started getting a lot of positive feedback from people and then one day I really looked at it as a viable career option. I eventually ended up getting an offer to write my first book and was able to leave my then-job and start creating art for a living.”
An author of several instructional books on drawing with colored pencils, Sorg also teaches classes at Winslow Art Center on Bainbridge Island and Cole Gallery in Edmonds. Her relaxed manner and sense of whimsy no doubt make her a talented instructor with the ability to nurture and guide beginning artists.
Currently, Sorg is preparing for her fourth year at the Edmonds Arts Festival. In past appearances at the festival, she has been accepted into the Juried Art Gallery and won several awards for her work. It’s clear that it’s one of her favorite festivals.
“I am just happy to be asked back for another year and I hope people enjoy my new work,” she said.
“I have to say the volunteers at EAF are some really great people,” Sorg added. “This is a big show with a lot of things going on and they pull it all together and still manage to stay smiling. I am also impressed with the fairgoers that attend Edmonds. It doesn’t matter if it is pouring rain or hail; these people will show up and shop. I have never done another show like it in that way. You do a show in California and they even talk about rain and it’s a ghost town. Edmonds has much hardier stock!”
Does Sorg have any tips for festival attendees?
“Dress for all kinds of weather, come hungry so you can enjoy all the food booths, and expect to be blown away by all the great art that is being created out there,” she said. “The hard-core festival attendees always bring their own bags, start early and stroll through all the booths before deciding what to buy. There is a reason Edmonds has been around for so long and why so many artists jockey for a booth, so don’t miss it.”
Edmonds Arts Festival
WHEN: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. June 15-16, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. June 17
WHERE: Frances Anderson Center, Seventh Avenue and Main Street, Edmonds