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Amelia Hansen

I’ve been making pictures for my entire life.

Okay, I know that can’t possibly be true but it seems like it. I was drawing before I could read or write, though that’s not unusual, just about everybody does. Maybe it’s my long devotion to picture-making that makes it seem more like a calling than a hobby . . . there’s a photo of me at age three sitting in a booster chair at the kitchen table in my footy pajamas, a watercolor set and half-finished painting in front of me, glaring with annoyance at the camera for having had my concentration broken. Though I wanted to be a zookeeper when I grew up, it hasn’t surprised me at all that I became an illustrator instead.

Even as a little kid, my favorite subjects were animals and it seems that the struggle to make them ‘look real’ has been with me for as long as the impulse to draw them. Trying to make them ‘look real’ once only meant matching my crayon colors to the pictures in the Golden Guide, but as I’ve matured as an artist I’ve found that making an accurate representation of an animal (or plant, landscape, human being, etc.) involves so much more: anatomy and pose, habitat and lighting, composition and gesture, energy and spirit. Despite my many years of work, I feel as if the gulf between my creations and reality has not narrowed one little bit, in fact, it may be even wider! This realization can be very discouraging and frustrating. But sometimes the effort itself is almost meditation and then I’m thankful knowing that I will always have this search, this practice, in my life.

I earned a BFA in 1987 from Western Michigan University with an emphasis in watercolor and have worked as a freelance illustrator since 1989. Since becoming a professional illustrator, my focus has been on nature and natural science subjects and my images are used most frequently to reach general audiences through interpretive exhibits and books. I create my artwork primarily by hand, using watercolor, pen & ink, colored pencil, graphite, acrylic, or a combination of these — sometimes with the addition of digital techniques. I also enjoy doing panel layout and design, and just recently finished a large job in which I designed and illustrated most of the indoor exhibits for a new nature education center located near Lake Michigan.

As artist and interpreter, I feel it’s my role to draw people’s attention to the natural world. Whether it’s by explaining an ecological process, pointing out the seldom seen, or exploring the mysterious, I hope to introduce the natural world to those who are unfamiliar with it and celebrate it with those who love it as I do.