Art in the Mountains

Behind the work of Artist and Alpinist Nikki Frumkin.

Sloan Peak painting by Nikki Frumkin

This week our Seattle store just got even cooler with the addition of an art installation showcasing the work of local artist, Nikki Frumkin. We are hosting a little reception tonight (6/23/16 at 6:00PM), and her work will be on display through July 20th. If you can't swing by in person, here is an interview with Nikki about her art, Seattle, and her awesome adventures. .

Mountains, Volcanoes and other high places. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, don’t be surprised to find Nikki sitting on her backpack surrounded by the snowy cascades and drawing in her sketchbook.

What inspired you to start painting?

I have been painting since I was a small kid. There is something inside of me that needs to represent my ideas about the world on drawing paper. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest three years ago, I found myself in the midst of the most stunning landscapes and mountains. They just begged me to climb and paint outside.

I am lucky to have found what I love and do. A professor in college once told me my art would never go anywhere, but I’ve always know drawing and painting is part of who I am.

How did you end up in Seattle, and how has this place influenced your work?

I actually grew up in New York State which is so different than Washington. When I left New Paltz, NY I ended up in Seattle on a whim. I had no idea I would fall so hard for Washington. I like to joke that Seattle is like a mini Switzerland, embraced by the Cascades and Olympics. I feel really at home here.

My art tries to capture the wonder I feel when I am in our mountains. Because our landscapes are so unique and beautiful it is really easy to feel connected to the wild here. I am so inspired by people who say my work speaks to their relationship with a mountain I have painted. Hearing that I have captured the magic of what makes someone’s favorite mountain unique is so awesome to me.

Nikki Frumkin painting in the swiss alps

Your paintings and sketches have gained a strong following on social media. How did that start, and how has the online community impacted your art?

Social media (and instagram specifically) is a really powerful visual storytelling tool. It allows me and other painters, photographers, writers and artists to tell a unique story that might not otherwise be heard.

I like to think people feel the joy of the mountains when they look at my paintings. I really appreciate all the encouragement I am getting when people leave kind words or buy art. It is such a joy to be able to make art and adventure in the wild.

With so many beautiful things in nature that you could paint, why are mountains your primary focus?

Mountain lines really captivate me. There is a powerful and calm energy in the mountains. I just can’t stop.

Mount Rainier Painting by Nikki Frumkin

When you make a new piece, what does the creative process usually look like?

My favorite way to make a new painting is at camp, in the mountains! When everyone drops their packs for a lunch break, I usually pull out my sketchbook too. It is these moments in high places that drive me to keep painting and exploring.

I almost always bring my sketchbook and watercolors with me into the mountains, even if it is only one piece of paper and a pen. The best times to paint are on lunch breaks or at camp. Then I like to wrap myself in my puffiest jacket and start drawing. I use strong black lines to capture the movement and energy of the mountains. If I am painting, I bring a water brush because it has a reservoir of water in the handle that allows me to paint without needing a cup of water. In this way following leave no trace principles is super easy.

How do you balance outdoor adventure, art, and work?

It takes a lot of energy! I usually adventure on the weekends because I am a preschool teacher at a play based program in Seattle that shares my values of learning through play and in nature. Luckily, I get to take time off preschool to go to the mountains and paint. I also make and sell prints and original paintings. I love to do commissions for people based on their favorite mountains and landscapes.

Nikki Painting at Artists Point, Mount Baker

What advice do you have for someone interested in painting outside?

Just do it! Pull some pens out of that messy drawer in your kitchen and stick ‘em in your pack. If you can, get a friend to go with you so you can draw together!

I wrote an article for The Outbound about how I got started trail painting. You can read it here: The Out Bound: How I took My Painting to the Trail

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a bigger painting on Mount Adams based on a ski tour we did earlier in the year! It was an awesome summit! The moment when you reach the summit and can see to the other side is humbling. On that trip I found the time to make 3 drawings in just two days of climbing and skiing.

I am also have a few commissions in progress that I am excited about. Some from mountains I have climbed and others not.

Head over to my instagram: @drawntohighplaces and my website www.drawntohighplaces.com/prints.

Nikki Frumkin stretch at mount rainier