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Beth Wilks

Visual Arts

A descendant of settler colonialists, raised on the verdant West Coast, my drawing began as I learned to walk the unceded land. Drawing evolved from my body as a way to process traumatic experiences; the high detail of my pictures both a way to appear busy to adults as a means of personal safety, and a compulsion to record the complex nature of the world. Because my work is so inextricably linked to developmental trauma in childhood, it retains elements of the naive. Painstakingly rendered fur or feathers often appear isolated on the page, floating in an empty void, like eidetic memories frozen in time.

CreatureStudies has grown from a lifelong fascination with animals as individual beings, allies, protectors, and characters in their own right. My process begins by first researching a species, looking at many reference photos, reading about specific behaviours, and what they may reveal about the personalities inherent in the photographic images. My aim is never to duplicate but to synthesize and reveal the essence of our common ground through high detail and careful rendering of facial expression unique to that species. The humble medium of coloured pencils supports this aim, requiring patient layering and increasing complexity of line, until the creature ultimately reveals itself, a process taking two to seven days.

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd; I stand and look at them long and long...
So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.”

- Walt Whitman

Written on Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw), and Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ) territories (Vancouver), BC.

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