A Botanical Journey—sXc with Courtney Roth, moderated by Kai Söderström

As I began to pay closer attention to the creative processes of some of my favorite artists, I noticed that the best botanical artists out there routinely draw from life.
— CR
Courtney Roth -WeMake PDX-7501.jpg

We were excited to host local illustrator and tattoo artist Courtney Roth in for our March sketchXchange. Courtney has always been treading the line between creativity and logic, the right and the left brain, and has seen no reason to indulge just one of those seemingly opposite paths in life. While imagining and creating have always been an integral part of her life, so too was the desire to understand. 

Courtney started her plant journal in early 2017. Since then she has documented her journey by pushing herself to explore nature, hone in on her drawing skills and create a place where she could share the work. We are excited to see these journals up close and talk about her work as a tattoo artists ( @courtneyrothtattoos ) as well.  I asked Courtney a few questions about her work and process, check it out~

Photos by Rowan Bradley. See more here!

YPE You started a new project from your botanical journal called the Plant People Project. How often do you get people asking you to draw different plants? Have you got anything sent to you before announcing the project?

CR Oh gosh, almost every day! Since the beginning, I’ve been overwhelmed with requests to draw different plants. I love seeing people inspired by my work and interacting with folks over common botanical interests, so I want to accommodate requests as much as I can. In the beginning, I would try to honor all the requests that I could, targeting hikes to finding native plants and scouring local plant shops and florists for the non-natives. I’d even send my husband out on his daily runs with a list of plants to look for. It got to a point where I just didn’t have the time to hunt down all the plants people were interested in seeing, and in many cases, especially international requests, I didn’t have access to the plants at all. I hadn’t made any kind of address public until now, so I haven’t gotten anything sent to me specifically, but I’ve worked with other botanical artists that I’ve met through this nature journal project to locate live plants to use. I’m so excited to see where it takes us! I’m hoping to keep submissions open over the course of a year to get a good sampling of species in different stages of growth over all four seasons and, hopefully, across many different ecosystems worldwide.


YPE  Why did you start drawing botanicals in your journal and what inspired you to set up the IG the way that you did it?

CR I've been focusing on the natural sciences as a direction for my art for most of my life, but a few years ago I began to get serious about making a career out of my love for creating. As I began to pay closer attention to the creative processes of some of my favorite artists, I noticed that the best botanical artists out there routinely draw from life. You just see so much more dimension and detail when you're drawing from life, and I love to experience the way my subjects feel, smell, and maybe even taste. All of this informs the spirit of the plant and how I want to interpret it. I also had a personal goal to get more familiar with the native flora around me and the plant allies that I enjoyed in my teas and tinctures, so keeping a live journal (early 00's pun very much intended) was a natural way to do that. I had seen some other artists dabble in the side by side format (check out Vancouver, BC talent @leo.mortem ) and my photography style evolved as an extension of that. 

Folks seem to enjoy the research component of my botanical journal just as much as the art itself, which stemmed from my compulsive desire to learn as much as I can about our natural world while it’s still here. I have not always been a full-time artist: I spent a few years in a Ph.D. program, and while academia was not my ultimate calling, I learned a lot about how to conduct research. I love learning, and I love that the folks who follow my art do too. The fact that it marries my two greatest loves, art and science, is really what makes this botanical journal project exciting for me.

YPE Is there a favorite plant you have draw?

So many! Some of my all-time favorites are western hemlock (those tiny cones! Swoon!), salmonberries, and, of course, roses, particularly of the English garden variety. I also love documenting plants in various stages of growth. I enjoy it all, really. More than anything I love the variety that keeping a nature journal affords my art. The landscape is constantly changing and evolving throughout the year, and as a person who's pretty easily bored, I enjoy the diversity of plant life we enjoy here in Portland across our seasons. This is part of the idea behind the Plant People Project as well: to begin incorporating more different types of plants that may be tough to get a hold of locally.

YPE What came first, the plant journal or tattooing?

CR The plant journal, but not by too large of a margin. I had always focused on natural science in my work, but for a few years I was more inspired by the avian world (I'm sure I'll talk your ears off about my time working at a raptor center at the SketchXChange event). I’ve been focusing on drawing flora form life for a few years now but only began sharing my plant journal on Instagram when I was on the cusp of getting my tattooing license. Before tattooing, I worked in styles and media that were much more gestural and freeform, but once I got serious about tattooing I began focusing on cleaning up my linework and working primarily with ink. The plant journal project evolved out of those goals. I hadn’t been big on sharing my work on social media before then, but I knew that if I wanted to make a real career out of tattooing, I had to get used to it. It was scary at first, but needless to say, I’m humbled and honored by the reception that it’s gotten, the friends I’ve made through it, and all that I’ve learned along the way.


YPE Are you looking to focus more in botanicals in your tattooing or would you tattoo anything?

CR I only accept tattoo projects that fall within the realm of the natural sciences. Botanicals are my bread and butter, but I'm finding that tattooing presents a very unique opportunity to engage people with art in a way that's unlike any other medium. When you tattoo an image on someone, the story that goes along with that tattoo is going to be a conversation piece for that person for the rest of their life. As an avid, lifelong conservationist, I’m very excited by the idea that my tattoo pieces can provide a platform for discussing our natural world. Like so many, I’m floored by what’s happening to our planet and how easys it is for most people to live their lives without really engaging with the species we share it with and the natural cycles that it follows. Focusing on flora that people identify with in one way or another is a great way to enhance that connection to our natural world and get people talking about it. 


Back in the fall, after the Eagle Creek Fire, I turned to art and research as a way to deal with my own mourning over the loss of so much of our unique natural space. I created a series of five tattoo pieces that illustrated the stages of forest recovery after a devastating fire and response was overwhelming; people snapped them up within minutes of posting. So many people loved the story the pieces told together, and together we raised $1,150 for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a nonprofit dedicated to gorge conservation. This really opened my eyes to how engaged people want to be with the flora and fauna around us and how powerful tattooing is as a medium to facilitate conversations about our natural spaces. This project is my favorite thing I’ve done as a tattooer to date, and I’m hoping to clear some time in my schedule in the coming months to create more like it.

Since then, I’ve also had clients who have been inspired by this project and have worked with me to create pieces that tell stories about other ecosystems as well. For example, I do many pieces themed around various ecosystems within the PNW, and have a Bob Marshall Wilderness tribute piece coming up that I’m very stoked on. These projects that raise awareness and incite conversation about the natural world are the direction I want to take my work going forward, and I’m humbled to be able to impact real-world conversations in this way.

YPE Why do you make?

CR Short answer: I have to. Long answer: I’ve been making my entire life, for as long as I can remember. While most kids were playing sports, I was drawing. However, I did not grow up in a creative community and listened to the whole “you can’t make a career out of art” thing early in my adult life (it’s a lie!), but found that all I ever wanted to do was create. I’d sketch whenever coworkers weren’t looking, draw under the desk in meetings, and constantly try to engineer my time so that I could spend as much of it making as possible. It’s meditation for me. It forces my active mind to slow down and appreciate what’s in front of me. Now, I can use that process that feeds my soul to create meaningful pieces for others that contribute to collective conversations about our natural world, something I’ve always been passionate about. Making allows you to have complete autonomy over what you do and why you do it, which is an absolute dream. I am infinitely grateful to be on the creative path that I’m on and for the supportive community that makes it possible. 

About the moderator, Kai Söderström

Kai Söderström is a local Portland tattoo artist and visual artist of many mediums. Her true loves are clean lines, vibrant, unique colours, and bold black ink.  She's a survivor and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and trauma, and aims to use tattooing as a way to heal and empower others to reclaim their bodies, minds, hearts, and souls from oppressive modern day systems. She is also an advocate for accessible arts programming for kids of all ages and deeply believes the power of art can change and save lives. She has a passion for nature, and the inherent magic within it, as well as a particular fascination with the divinity inside of us all. You can find more of her work at

Colortime with Nick Stokes—sketchXchange

My happiness as a human being is wholly dependent on making things. It’s the best way to hold my fragile ego together. Also, I’m not good at much else.
Nick Stokes - Rowan Bradley-7310_preview.jpeg

Written by Morgan Braaten, Photos by Rowan  Bradley

WeMake was excited to welcome illustrator and art director Nick Stokes for our second sketchXchange of 2018. His talk was moderated by friend, coworker and poet extraordinaire, Becca Wadlinger.

Nick’s playful work was a great indication of what the night would hold - there were plenty of stories and laughs, all with a clever, intentional edge. Topics included everything from his early doodling days to directing his first Super Bowl commercial for Wieden+Kennedy (and being pranked fantastically while doing so).

We also had the chance to ask Nick a few questions of our own, which resulted in the perfect combination of inspiration, process and Kanye poetry. Check out his answers below:

MB Your style is so playful and full of color. Was that a natural approach for you, or did it develop over time?

NS My disposition overall is pretty upbeat and positive. I think my work is naturally an extension of that.  Bright and bold colors have always been something I’ve been attracted to, and it’s been a shorthand for communicating fun and playfulness. I’m sure a huge part of it comes from watching so many cartoons as a kid where everything is bold and colorful.

MB How has incorporating animated elements into your work changed your process?

NS I like to think of animation as another tool in the drawing toolbox. If an idea works better as an illustration I’ll keep it an illustration, but sometimes the story is better told through an animation. It’s been really great experience adding animation to my workflow thought. There is something I like about tediously drawing frame after frame in an animation that's so mundane, tranquil and therapeutic.

 Also, animation adds some cool production value and wow factor to the work.

MB You’ve worked with some amazing clients. Can you tell us a little bit about a favorite project that you’ve worked on? What made it special?

NS Yeah I have been very lucky so far. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it may be IGN, the video game and pop culture website. They found my work a couple of years ago through a personal project my good friend Eric Swanson and I created called 'What Ye is it?'. It was a website that featured a new Kanye West looping animation for everyday of the week. They found that project and asked if I could create a similar series of animations for their social media channels. They gave me free reign to create whatever animations I wanted based on my favorite TV shows, movies, video games and pop culture moments. The nerd inside of me couldn’t have been more excited.

MB On the flip side of that - if you were given the opportunity to work for anyone on anything, what would it be and why?

NS Oh man. My bucket list is a long one. I think on the short term I would love to design a beer can or a series of cans. I have ideas I’ve been bouncing around in my head for the last few years that I’d love to get out. I would love to work with the publishing company Nobrow too. They put out such an amazing collection of work. It would be a blast to work with Nike or Adidas again. Both of those companies do such great work with illustrators. I would love to do an illustrated identity for a band, work in cartoons, design toys, direct music videos, design tattoos and do another another skateboard series. I mean the list is endless. I could sit here and add to this for days.

MB What or who do you find yourself drawing inspiration from recently?

NS Recently I’ve been really into French illustration. Folks like Moebius, Hergé, Jean Jullien, and Je Andre. There’s a really cool style the French use called ligne claire that uses fine black outlines and bold eye catching color palettes. I love how clean and crisp it is.

 I’ve also been really into 1980s New York city. There was an awesome grime and grit to it that had so much character and charm. All the hand painted storefront signs, garbage, graffiti, steam from sewer grates, and traffic add so much life to the city. It’s been a big inspiration in several of my personal projects.


MB You seem to be constantly creating. Have you ever experienced burnout, and if so, how do you overcome it? What do you do to prevent it?

NS I get burnout from advertising work for sure. The industry is really intense with crazy timelines and that can be a total drag. It helps that I have my own personal work. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced burn out from that. Drawing is my favorite thing to do. It's how I charge my batteries.

MB Can you please write us a short poem about Kanye?

Kanye West you are the best.

Aladdin had a purple vest.

Had I three wishes from a magical genie,

I'd use all three to see your weenie.


MB Why do you make?

NS My happiness as a human being is wholly dependent on making things. It’s the best way to hold my fragile ego together. Also, I’m not good at much else.



RECAP—sXc with Eric Nyffeler

I guess I had accidently become an illustrator.

Written by Morgan Braaten

Designer and illustrator Eric Nyffeler joined WeMake for our first sketchXchange of 2018. The walls were covered in a cascade of his colorfully textured music posters and illustrations, covering nearly every inch of white space there was to offer.  The moderator for the evening was Eric’s long-time friend and fellow Midwesterner, Brett Stenson.

Eric has built up an incredibly impressive and diverse portfolio of work for some of the world’s most exciting bands, brands and publications. While he had always had an interest in art, it was not something he ever planned on pursuing; originally, Eric was working towards a degree in music. By chance he ended up in a couple of entry level art and design courses. Something clicked, and soon-after he changed his majors to visual communication, design and print-making. However, still set on being a rock star, Eric viewed these courses as practical skills he could apply to his band as opposed to something he wanted to pursue as a career.

Eric took everything he learned in his design classes and tried to figure out how he could use them to take his band to the next level. He recalls approaching a senior in his design program and asking if he would teach him how to screen print so he could make flyers for an upcoming show. “And for some reason, he said yes,” Eric said.

Unfortunately, not everyone was so helpful. Eric recalls a professor telling him that the work he was enjoying the most wasn’t realistic for a career in design. “I had a professor tell me, ‘Graphic design isn’t about making posters for bands – it’s business cards and cereal boxes.’ But to be fair, I would design the s*#% out of a cereal box,” Eric said.

Despite the naysayers, Eric continued to pursue the kind of work he enjoyed most. He started off creating posters for his own band, until eventually a venue he was performing at began asking him to make posters for other performers as well. This led to him being asked directly by bands to work on tour posters and official merchandise. His client base expanded from there to include bands like Mogwai, The Black Keys, Gotye, Phish and many, many more.

Eventually, Eric expanded his work to include editorial illustrations. Usually, this transition would be a hard one; art directors are looking for illustrators who have already done editorial work, so getting a break at the beginning can be difficult. However, one of the posters Eric did for Andrew Bird caught the eye of an art director, who believed that his colorful, clever illustration style would translate well into the editorial world. This led to Eric’s first of many opportunities in the industry. “I guess I had accidently become an illustrator,” Nyffeler said.


Since then, Eric has expanded his creative focus to include typography, icons and more. He recently started working with a guitar pedal company on pedal graphics, tradeshow booths and animations. “In a lot of way it makes sense that I’m working on little colorful boxes that people want to spend money on, because what are these but colorful boxes people want to spend money on?” He said, pointing to the wall of posters behind him.

The talk ended with an incredibly tough question – The Smiths or Nick Cave? The look on Eric’s face made it obvious that that was a painful decision to have to make, but Nick Cave came away with the victory. Morrissey is likely to write a very sad song about the loss.

Everyone who attended the talk walked away with an original 9x9”, 3 color screen print that was created specifically for WeMake. For 2018, each speaker will be coming up with a custom design that is only available at their respective sketchXchange.

WeMake couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the New Year. Eric is not only an incredibly inspiring creative, but also an interesting, humble and genuine guy. We can’t wait to see what he does next.

Photos by Rowan Bradley, See more here


The handy work of Eric Nyffeler— our January sXc guest

Every single texture I use is something that I made myself by hand. I’ve never even played with any sort of brush or texture pack or whatever they’re called.
— Eric Nyffeler

The art of local designer and illustrator Eric Nyffeler is unique in style and in process. His work is gritty (in a good way), textured, and colorful. With influences from mid-century design, the gig-poster era and the complexity of silk screened art, Eric has created a look that has garnered attention from an array of clients in the editorial world, the music industry, and beyond.

Please join us for our first sketchXchange of 2018

WHEN: Friday, January 5th, 2018
WHERE: 6-9pm at Tillamook Station
COST: $15—Includes a limited edition silk-screened poster

Eric Nyffeler - Rowan Bradley-2528_preview.jpeg

Our photographer Rowan Bradley got an opportunity to visit Eric in his studio and I had a chance to ask him a few questions on process—check it out!

YPE Your work is layered with texture, and so representative of your style. Has it always been a key factor or something you have developed over time?

EN Texture and distress have always been an essential part of my work, pretty much from the first day of my first design class. I've never been able to fully explain why my brain responds so positively to it, but things never felt finished or complete to me until they had some wear and tear on them. Nothing feels better when building a composition or illustration, and then slowly working in the textures and distress—everything falls into place.

YPE How often do you create the textures in the computer verse by hand? If they are created by hand, do you have system/library of go to backgrounds and textures or do you create new ones each time?

EN Every single texture I use is something that I made myself by hand. I've never even played with any sort of brush or texture pack or whatever they're called. My process is definitely more time consuming, but I feel like the results speak for themselves and it’s worth the extra time and effort.

My main texturing process involves the usage of a couple of 20-30 year old copy machines, but I do have a handful of other texture tricks involving lacquer thinner, paint brushes, graphite, or any number of other dirt-ifying processes. While I have been slowly assembling an ever-growing library of my textures, patterns, and worn shapes that I use to expedite some steps or to fill out background areas, (if I have the time), I will always build the main/important areas with bespoke (lol, I've always wanted to use that word) textures.

YPE There is an underlining tone of playful mischief that runs through your work. Do you ever get resistance from clients or do they expect to see a trace of it in the work you do for them?

EN Thankfully I rarely have any pushback with my weirdness. At this point, it definitely seems like people seek me out for that exact reason and often ask me to push things even weirder. I guess it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise when clients are paying me to draw robots or candy-colored skulls, they're going to have some sense of humor!

Eric Nyffeler - Rowan Bradley-2400_preview.jpeg

YPE What or who have been inspirations to you? 

EN The single biggest inspiration in my career and my work has been the friends and collaborators I’ve made in the gigposter/screenprinted poster scene, which can be directly traced back to the (sadly now defunct) website. The sheer variety of techniques and styles and aesthetics and talents and personalities is truly jaw-dropping and it was guaranteed that I would learn something every single time I interacted or hung out with someone from that community. There is no motivation greater than being friends with people who are staggeringly more talented than yourself and kicking your own ass to try to keep up with them. Apart from that, I have found huge inspiration in a wide number of the classic mid-century designers, such as Herb Lubalin and Saul Bass, or Alain Grée and Charlie Harper.

YPE You work with so many colors when you’re setting up something to be silkscreened. Do you feel like you are pushing the limits to that process or are there ways you are challenging yourself to do so?

EN Compared to some of work that is being done in the poster world, my work is vastly less complex, that doesn't mean that I’m not still trying to push my own limits at making prints which are bolder, brighter and denser than anything I’ve previously made.

Eric Nyffeler - Rowan Bradley-2492_preview.jpeg

YPE Who would you like to design for and why? 

EN My number one bucket list band to work with would be Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I think I could make something perfectly dark and pretty with just enough of a sarcastic wink to it. As far as editorial clients go, I could die a happy man if I ever had a chance to draw something for National Geographic. Some of my earliest ever memories are thumbing open the yellow cover and instantly being transported all over the world. Also, someone needs to hire me to draw some beer labels for them! Who wouldn't want to drink a beer with some psychedelic colored space castle on it?!

YPE Why do you make?

EN Is there really a choice? It’s the only thing I really know how to do!


Eric has a client list that is long and impressive. He's worked with the likes of: AARP, Adweek, Airbnb, American Greetings, Austin City Limits/PBS, Bon Appétit Magazine, Bonnaroo, CBS Films, Earnest, ESPN, Facebook, Fast Company, Freehub Magazine, Hasbro, iHeartRadio, Mental Floss Magazine, Merge Records, Mondo, Nike, National Public Radio, Portland Art Museum, Target, University of North Carolina, The Washington Post, Whole Foods Market, Writer’s Chronicle

Andrew Bird, The Avett Brothers, The Black Keys, Dave Matthews Band, The Decemberists, Philip Glass, Gotye, The Head & The Heart, Iron & Wine, Mogwai, The Mountain Goats, Phish, The Roots, St. Vincent, Superchunk

And been featured in and or awarded by : Communication Arts, Print Magazine, IdN Magazine, Graphis, HOW Magazine, Society of Illustrators, American Illustration 35, Uppercase Magazine, DPI Magazine, Advanced Photoshop Magazine, The Fox is Black, Underconsideration, HOW, Design Work Life, FPO, Illustration Age, BLDGWLF, OMGPosters,: A Decade of Rock Art, Gig Posters: Volume 2, Playful Type 2, Rock Poster Art, Low Tech Print, Damn Good, Big Book of Green Design, 1000 Indie Rock Posters,  The Wall: Inside the Poster Studio, AIGA 365 Publication

We are thrilled to add Eric to our sketchXchange roster and can't wait to share the limited edition poster with attendees. Grab your spot now, space is limited.

Elli Lume— Klume House Workshop

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Ellie Lume is a maker and a teacher. She started Klum House studio because teaching is fulfilling, and she loves curating fun, educational, and empowering experiences that encourage people to be adventurous with their own creativity. She encourages and inspires people to make their ideas a reality, whether that takes the form of handmade products or a creative business.  We were not only beyond thrilled to have Ellie and her team make our custom conference bags, but also host a workshop so attendees could make their very own bag, in three hours no less!

Photos by Rowan Bradley. See more here!