See How Gardening Is An Extension Of This Seattle Artist’s Work


Eva Isaksen stands in her studio.

Artist Eva Isaksen stands in her Seattle Studio.

Eva Isaksen’s life and work is impossible to disentangle from nature. She grew up near the Arctic Circle on the Norwegian Sea; later lived among the mountains and meadows of Montana; and eventually settled in Seattle, where her love of growing things bloomed along with her art, which is represented locally at Foster/White Gallery. “One is an extension of the other,” she says of gardening and artwork. Her studio overlooks the plot where she grows tomatoes, squash and flowers. As she works, she often moves between the spaces, finding reprieve in rotating the abstract world of her art and the very tangible realm of flora.

A painting with blue

The Blue Nights is inspired by winter light in Norway just before sunset.

An artwork has yellow, blue, and green.

Another artwork displays Isaksen's style.

A shelf holds a variety of small objects.

In her studio, a shelf holds a variety of small objects.

A bulletin board has several small objects on display.

A bulletin board serves as an inspiration board.

Eva Isaksen adjusts her large-scale piece

Artist Eva Isaksen’s large-scale piece The Earth Below Me, is composed of papers she printed.

A bin of colorful scissors belonging to Eva Isaksen

Because many of her works have some element of paper, Isaksen has many scissors.

Isaksen works in collages and monotype prints, often combining the two to create multilayered pieces. There’s an element of the unexpected in both mediums that attracts her. With monotypes, the printed image is reversed from what she assembles on the plate, so “it creates surprises,” she says. And because Isaksen uses transparent papers in her collages, hues shift and forms change as she layers. “I react to what happens on the canvas,” she adds.

While some of her earlier work was more representative of nature, today Isaksen revels in abstraction, distilling landscapes into shapes and colors. “When I’m gardening, my brain shuts off. I just see the dirt, bugs and plants,” she explains. “I bring those memories back into the studio.”

Though Isaksen predominantly paints or prints on thin Nepali papers, she is always searching for ways to develop her artwork with new materials. Some of her more recent pieces include vintage Norwegian magazine clippings from her grandfather’s bookshop, as well as table linens from her mother. These materials could be seen as reflections of Isaksen’s own life, but that’s not what she wants viewers to take away. “It’s the abstraction I’m after,” she says. “It is about colors and forms, and how they relate to each other.” For example, a recent series of collages inspired by a trip to Crete features a palette drawn from the island’s hues. One of the resulting pieces, Salt Sea Waves, is an ocean of rounded cerulean and aqua shapes crashing into each other.

She works on a piece until she finds that intangible feeling that says it’s done, but if she ever feels stuck, back to the garden she goes. “I stop thinking and put my hands in the earth,” Isaksen says. “When I return, I always see things differently.”

Photos By: Amos Morgan