By Robin Lindley, Street News Service
With an X-Acto knife in hand, Nikki McClure deftly cuts from a single sheet of black paper each of her iconic images that celebrate community, nature, sustenance, parenting, and activism. At a Ballard Library event in June, she displayed the focus of a brain surgeon and the skill of an expert drafter as she cut a beautifully intricate image in minutes for a throng of attentive admirers.
In her new children’s picture book, “Mama is it Summer Yet?” — inspired by a question raised by her toddler son during a long, cold spring (sound familiar?) — McClure movingly depicts clues of impending summer and a warm relationship between mother and child.
The book has been praised for its poetry and, as noted in Booklist review, artwork that “is captivating, capturing both the subtle seasonal changes as well as the love and shared joy between mother and son. Just when you wonder if summer will ever come, read this and make your heart happy.”
McClure grew up in Kirkland, Wash., and earned a B.S. in natural history at Evergreen State College. A self-taught artist, her work is fueled by her knowledge of nature and her skills of scientific observation.
Her first published book illustrations were bold linoleum block prints of nature scenes for “Wetland Tales” in 1991, a publication of the Washington State Department of Ecology. She published zines and small books after that, and embraced the art of paper cutting in 1996. McClure’s art became increasingly popular with her beloved calendars that have found an international audience.
In addition to her new picture book, McClure made a lavish book of her calendar art, “Collect Raindrops” (2007), and she illustrated “All in a Day” (2009) by Newbery-award winning children’s writer Cynthia Rylant. Her illustrations also have appeared in numerous publications, from The Progressive to Punk Planet.
McClure also was a prominent visual artist with Olympia-based record labels K and Kill Rock Stars, as well as a performance artist during the Riot Grrrl movement in the early ‘90s.
McClure recently discussed her art from her studio in Olympia.
Robin Lindley: Did you like art as a child?
Nikki McClure: I’d draw all the time, or watch ants march in the grass. I’d spend all day drawing fantastically huge, complicated scenes. I didn’t think you could actually be an artist because I didn’t have role models for that.
I didn’t know about an art major. At Evergreen there are no majors. I was in science, and knew you could do that as an occupation.
It may be a limitation to not have an art education, but I feel I understand art in a way that’s not so “arty.” My pictures are for people to enrich their daily lives, to provide nourishment. And (provide) hope for them for a positive future, and help get them there through positive action. Continue reading