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Fairbanks artist Reagan shows she has a way with WORDs

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:59 pm | Updated: 11:21 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - For Brianna Reagan’s latest art project, she pushed her creativity as well as her vocabulary.

The young artist wanted to get back into sketching and illustrating with pen and ink after spending some time in traditional art mediums like acrylics and charcoals. She’s even worked on some big projects in Fairbanks, such as the peacock mural on the side of the downtown business Chartreuse.

“Painting didn’t come until fairly recently, or at least painting seriously,” her bio on her website, www.briannareaganart.com, states. “My newest paintings are more than paint on a surface — they are duality personified; they are full of juxtapositions and layers, not only in my themes but in my approach as well. Each painting is loose, yet detailed. Ambiguous, but defined. A convergence of unlike thoughts and concepts into something vaguely familiar. It is the way I cultivate my imagination and push it into new territory, as a way to come up with the unique and original works that feed my artistic cravings.”

Heavy stuff for a 26-year-old. But then you talk to Reagan, and all the deep art talk subsides as she explains her passion, creativity and how she came up with her vocabulary-inspired latest art project, called WORD. The opening reception is part of a First Friday opening at Well Street Art Company tonight, along with “Birds of Paradise” by Somer Hahm.

Early beginnings

Reagan grew up in the Bay Area of California before her family moved to Fairbanks when she was 10. As a child, she said her earliest memories were sitting down and drawing, which her parents encouraged.

“And it worked out,” she said. “My parents pushed art in my life as a skill I could rely on.”

In high school at West Valley, Reagan was a big snowboarder — her dream was to go to graphic design school and design snowboards and skateboards. After graduating, she headed to Portland, Ore., where she enrolled in a graphic design program in college. The problem was the computer — she hated it.

“I didn’t want to sit and do it with a mouse,” she said. “I wanted to do it with my hands. It wasn’t until I realized how much I hated something that I realized I loved something else.”

After a year in Portland and realizing being stuck in front of a terminal was not where she wanted to be, Reagan came back to Alaska and enrolled in the fine arts program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

At UAF, she explored all types of mediums, but two problems arose — allergies and patience. Reagan found she was allergic to oil, so she stuck with acrylics. But acrylics take a while to dry, and for Reagan, that was an issue.

“I’m efficient and fast and don’t want to wait for that paint to dry,” she said.

And that’s when she honed in on pen and ink sketching. With pen and ink, and under the guidance of cartoonist Jamie Smith, she got to expand her creativity.

“I was not relegated to still-life images,” Reagan said. “I learned a lot in his class.”

A project is born

She started her latest project, WORD., from which tonight’s show evolved, because of her love of books and literature. An avid reader, Reagan would note words in whatever she was reading if she didn’t know the definition. Knowing she wanted to get back into pushing herself with her art, she came up with an idea: Take the words she was highlighting and give herself one day to create a piece of art that illustrates the word.

“It started as an exercise to draw everyday, get the creative inks flowing (who uses juice?!), and ultimately make me stop editing myself. With this project I only had one day to create an illustration, so there was no time dismiss an idea because I thought people wouldn’t like it. There was no time to be critical of it” she wrote in an email.

She also enlisted the use of social media and technology, asking fans on her Facebook page to post words for her to create art to or would use a smartphone app called Vocabology to find new words to stretch her imagination.

For example, on her Facebook page, viewers will find words such as “bombinate,” “minatory” or “scaramouch,” and next to each word, you see the pen and ink sketch she gave herself one day to complete. “Bombinate,” a verb meaning to buzz or drone or to make a buzzing, humming noise, is accompanied by a flying insect with a shield sporting a crest.

Another example: “corvine,” of or related to crows and ravens. Reagan took the “core” from “corvine” and imagined that as the core or heart and used the raven imagery to turn the sketch into a raven that is a silhouette but you can see its skeletal system, hence, the core.

“That’s the way my imagination goes,” she said.

Her goal is to create 365 sketches, literally a word a day. So far, she’s up to 240 word sketches, all of which will be on display tonight at Well Street Art Co.

“My art has improved tremendously from this project,” she said. “I’m more efficient, my art has more spontaneity, and for the first time I feel like I’m really being true and honest to the integrity of my art.”

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at @FDNMfeatures.

IF YOU GO

What: First Friday Opening Reception for WORD. and Somer Hahm’s “Birds of Paradise”

When: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7

Where: Well Street Art Co., 1304 Well Street

Info: 452-6169

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