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ELEVEN: How did art come into your life? Did you receive formal training, or are you self-taught?

AWAKE: My mother was always very crafty, sewing and crocheting constantly. She always had a project she was working on and taught me to do all of that. I got into skateboarding in middle school. I never got very good and didn’t love getting hurt but connected with the art, subscribing to multiple skate magazines. Mostly self taught, I took a few art classes in high school and dropped out after a year at a university. I took a couple entry level courses there.

11: Are you originally from Portland or the PNW? How did you find yourself creating here?

A: I’m not. Originally I’m from Utah. I’m in my fourth year living here and I love it. It’s my home now. During that second semester at college, I started posting my art online and started making friends who live here. I was hating school and thankfully realized I could drop out and spend my money pursuing art my own way and decided to to chase that.

11: Your style is eclectic, colorful and somewhat abstract – how did you develop your style and what inspires you?

A: Thanks! Yeah I love colors and building color palettes. The style has been an evolution. Lots of experimentation, testing new mediums and trying out ideas. It’s always been very cathartic and motivated by self reflection. I paint most every day, and it’s become important for me to have a visual of my time. It also makes hours melt, which I really love too.

11: It seems that most of your focus is on portraits. When you see someone that inspires you, how does that process of interpreting their features make its way to paper?

A: I’ve been painting portraits for just about a year and have done 133 of them so far. It’s been so rewarding both technically and socially. I’ve always depicted facial features and hands in my work, but once I started rendering from life, things started to develop and become much more robust. They are all painted mostly in cafes and over conversation, so sometimes, depending on the person, there can be a lot of movement. It’s been incredible to feel the support of the people in Portland willing and excited to sit with me. It’s become one of the most important and impactful experiences of my life.

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images used Courtesy of Harry Smith Archives

11: Can you tell us a little about your “hang tags” project? What inspired its inception?

A: The hang tags. It sounds weird but I find — I kid you not — a lot of fortune cookie fortunes. Like dirty, stepped on, discarded fortunes. I find them in the wildest places, and sometimes the message on it is exactly what I’ve needed to hear at that particular time in my life. Like, little messages from the universe encouraging me and pointing me in the right direction. I just want more people to find that, so I make them. I’ve hung up and given away well over 3,000 at this point. All of them handwritten.

11: Where can we find some of your most recent work?

A: I don’t have any shows coming up that I can think of, but I’m always posting new work on Instagram: @awake_pdx. I’m sure I’ll have a few shows pop up, and I’ll post all that information there. I usually paint in public spaces, so if you ever see me, say hi! I’m friendly, just a little shy, and would be happy to meet you.

Photo by Mercy McNab