Sketching Life Stories

Each piece on the wall is someone’s story.

It could be that of the artist, the model, or someone else entirely, but each detailed image is inspired by a human story, and it clearly shines through in the intricate stylings of the ballpoint pen pieces by Dawson artist Amanda King.

Twenty pictures hang, evenly spaced, on the walls in the latest installment of art at Gallery 22. Titled Once Upon a Pen, it is composed entirely of black-and-white pen drawings on textured paper, or prints thereof, each with a title and caption beneath.

The monochromatic nature of the pieces leaves the eye free to follow the delicate shadings and the complex details of the faces and bodies that are the main focus of each piece.

Expressive eyes and haunting faces peer from among waves, limbs and branches, while female bodies, often nude, twine, twist and recline in a myriad of poses.

Of the 20 pieces, 19 feature women while two depict men. For King, they are a way of capturing feelings and impressions stirred by the stories of others, or by her own experiences.

“I take people I’ve met, their stories, and I try to tell their story in one picture, which is kind of how the gallery’s name came about,” she says.

“I’ve constantly got ideas and stories in my head, both mine and others’… so for some [of the pictures] I’ve used other peoples’ stories, and some are just a way to get my feelings out… like if I’m angry I can leave the anger behind in a picture. It’s so rewarding.”

When sketching a picture of someone else’s story, King finds she still has to relate to it in some way, to be able to capture the feeling behind it. She cites this as the reason that most of her pictures feature women as their subjects.

“I better relate to them and to their stories, of course, because I’m a woman,” she says.

“I have to relate to the story just a little in order to draw it… though in the last two pieces I’ve introduced men, because I just wanted to challenge myself. It was different because you can be a bit rougher when drawing men.”

King began her studies in art at an early age in her native New Zealand.

“I grew up in a very arty community, much like Dawson. The school curriculum was very art-based and there was lots of encouragement, it was hard to come out of school and not be an artist.”

She began to put her artistic skills to use in the unorthodox field of floristry, arranging bouquets in what she describes as “really different structures”.

She continued to practise other forms of art, although it was only after moving to the Yukon around five years ago that she finally decided on the current direction and medium of her work.

King, like many others, was first inspired by a natural northern scene.

“I was sitting by a creek and I saw a branch sort of falling into the water and I just visualized a woman trapping herself in its branches,” she says.

“After that I’ve constantly had these ideas in my head.”

King finds her current ballpoint medium is perfect for communicating those ideas.

“Now that’s my thing. I’ve been working with pen for so long, so I know what I can do with it. Before I start a picture, I know what it will look like at the end.”

She admits there are both pros and cons to the black-and-white style, saying she’s not entirely happy with the lack of colour.

“I’m going to try to come up with a solution, because black-and-white is great, but I love colour. I want to meld the two, but I don’t want to lose the detailing of the pen.”

Because she has been living in relatively remote areas, first in Watson Lake and then in Dawson City, King has been emailing photos back and forth in order to work with her models, though she hopes to move soon to finding local models for her work.

“I want to use local men and women in the future; I’d like to keep challenging myself,” she says.

“And I’d like to gather stories locally. There’s lots of inspiration here in Dawson with the dancing girls and the brothels, et cetera. I’d like to maybe do some cool pieces in that old-world feel.”

Though her first-ever art show took place in the U.S. state of Georgia, this is King’s first Yukon gallery exhibit.

“It was awesome to see all the women up there together on the wall,” she says.

King hopes viewers will be able to relate to something in her work.

“I hope that people will relate to one picture, will really feel it,” she says. “I hope that at least one picture will call to you.”

Once Upon a Pen opened on July 26 and will run until August 18.

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