Yolanda Gonzalez translates nature into design

Yolanda Gonzalez translates nature into design

PRESERVED! Artist Interview Series

Yolanda Gonzalez frequents natural areas seeking inspiration close to the earth. Rather than landscapes, she prefers to study individual plants and insects for their unique intricacies.

Yolanda Gonzalez. Image: M-Buck Studio, LLC.

“I love to get really up close and personal to whatever plants, flowers, seedlings and things like that,” Gonzalez said. “There’s some kind of magical beauty in nature. You can see it when you’re looking at a landscape, but you can really see it when you’re looking up close.”

She ventures outdoors with a camera, sketchbook and sometimes a watercolor set and sits near the ground, documenting the delicate and mathematical patterns she finds in her natural subjects. A student of graphic design, she looks for design elements expressed in nature, noting that design and nature are not so separate.

“I don’t see a difference between design-design and the natural world,” Gonzalez said. “I think we draw inspiration from what we see in the natural world to create the artificial designs we make.”

Gonzalez takes what she gathers from the parks and preserves back to her studio, where she sketches them in different media—ink, pencil, watercolor—to discover which silhouette will lend itself best to a print. 

“I like to see what happens when I draw the same little leaf, or plant object with a different material,” Gonzalez said. “A pencil-drawn thing has a different feel than something done in watercolor or ink with a brush.”

Once she’s created a design she thinks works, she carves it into a linoleum block and then experiments with printing patterns. She has a sketchbook she’s working on filling with experimental arrangements of her growing collection of printing blocks. Her finished pieces for Preserved! may end up printed on linen or handmade paper.

Gonzalez is a graphic designer and illustrator by trade. Her eye is trained for simplicity and clean lines. Her work strives to distill the complex patterns she finds in nature into an abstract, pleasingly designed form. 

“It’s not easy to do something representational,” Gonzalez said. “But I find doing something that’s simple and abstract harder than that. It’s more challenging to get the least amount of lines to represent the object you’re drawing and still be recognizable.”

Gonzalez sees a symmetry between the work the Land Conservancy does and her own work of depicting little pieces of the natural areas she visits. Through Preserved!, she’s visited a number of nature preserves, rendering the likes of lupine, hepatica and prickly pear into whimsical, simple designs.

“I like what the conservancy does in preserving even weird little plots of land, saving little bits at a time for future generations. I think my work is a bit like that,” Gonzalez said. “I like the idea that what I’m doing is recording what’s there, because it could change in the very near future.”

You can see Gonzalez’s designs this fall at the Preserved! gallery receptions and exhibits. Learn more here.

All images courtesy Yolanda Gonzalez, unless otherwise credited.

Gonzalez prepares her ink while creating artwork en plein air at The Highlands Community Celebration. Image courtesy Yolanda Gonzalez.

Marie Orttenburger
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