summer 2017

RECAP: sXc with Zach Yarrington

There’s no reason why walls should be beige.
— Zach Yarrington

Guest Writer,  Angela Bayout

Muralist Zach Yarrington is deathly afraid of heights. 

During his last Detroit mural project, he looked down from the scaffolding. He immediately regretted it. Facing that fear is worthwhile when you create such approachable public art, such as the "Everything Is Everything" mural on SE Division Street.

We learned this, his inspirations, favorite methods, and process during the August 4th sketchXchange at Tillamook Station.

Host, mentor and fellow designer Blaine Fontana grilled Zach on his passion before a sold-out crowd. Zach's sketches, organized chronologically from 2008 to today, were the backdrop, and  a sort of vertical walk down memory lane for the down-to-earth artist. 

Zach has a work ethic that's "unseen and lost today," Blaine gushed. Zach has an interesting approach as a designer. Seeing projects as puzzles or problems to work out, he embraces his brain's logical side rather than exercising a strictly free-flowing process. And, he's not afraid of the practical aspects of being a self-employed designer. He's frugal with money, a true skill for anyone.


Zach talked about his "Band years," in the design collective he cut his teeth on. Graduating from University of Oregon during one of the worst economic periods, Zach along with Josh Doll created work for clients under Band. In between projects that did whatever they wanted, making fliers and posters to put up around town. 

Over time, Zach wanted to broaden his lettering—literally. Getting cheap tempera paints, he painted the biggest letters he could. Then, Forest for the Trees happened.

Serendipitously, it was almost six years to the day that Zach and Blaine first met. For the first of Portland's Forest for the Trees, the duo was joined by with Jun Inoue. Visiting from Japan, it wasn't easy for Jun to communicate in English. But, by the end of the day, "Keep Your Chin Up" graced the side of Aladdin Finishers at NE 21st and Alberta. To Zach's great disappointment, the mural has since been vandalized, but that comes with the territory, he said. 

To this day, Zach admits he's still learning. Being open to learning is imperative when you're working on a mural in an uncontrolled environment, he says. You must be flexible and ready for anything. During the "Never Odd or Even," the palindrome mural along TriMet's Orange line in Southeast, he and Blaine worked through a few snafus.

Starting at 12:30 AM as the last train of the day rumbled by, they started up the projector. Not one of his favored methods for transferring a smaller drawing onto a huge canvas. The projector broke. It felt like a lost cause. 

The next day, they used the "pounce" method to get going. This, a classic sign-painter technique, is where Zach's "analog" abilities saved him. On a huge sheet of paper, the design is laid out and small perforations are made along lines. The sheet is arranged on the canvas, and chalk is pounded into the paper, leaving lines that the artist can follow, but that will quietly wash away.

Today, Zach looks to his "inner grandfather" and finds inspiration in the newspaper's Daily Jumble. He adores the playfulness language can allow, as seen in "Never Odd Or Even," his Sapporo subway project, and the limited-edition Scout notebooks he designed for this sketchXchange—all pieces that can be read two different directions. It's representative of the duality within all of us, he said.

When stricken by a phrase, he asks himself "What can I make out of these letters?" It's more than just letters and their shapes, he explains. It's a puzzle, a game.

With public art, comes public opinion. The audience was curious how Zach deals with negative reactions to his work, and to that he answered "I'm growing thicker skin. I hope." But his true regret? "Using gold spray paint."

Tillamook Station's neighbor, North Coast Seed Studios, keeps Zach engaged with a desk exploded with sketches and cups of coffee. With his best bud, Victor the dog, and studio mates, Zach keeps his chin up and his creativity flowing.

Photos by Rowan Bradley See more photos here

Zach's website // IG

Student Spotlight - Meet Elana Gabrielle

There are times when I am filled with inspiration and motivation and I can’t create things fast enough.

WeMake loves to showcase and support the future of the arts in our Student Spotlight Series. I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Elana Gabrielle, an illustrator and maker at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art). Her work is inspired by the natural world around her, often full of overgrown foliage and magical creatures.

She aims to combine educational, whimsical, and conceptual imagery to create fun and accessible illustrations, which can live in books, in print and on products. Elana works to emulate these themes utilizing a variety of mediums including traditional drawing, gouache, collage, printmaking, and digital programs. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon, and can most often be found wandering in bookstores, or adding to her house plant collection.

Tell us all about Elana! 

I grew up on a foggy hill in San Francisco. I spent the winter months roaming the old growth forests along the coast and exploring the city. My summers were spent floating down the Yuba River and hiking in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Although I went to an arts-based high school and I loved every one of my art classes, it was not until my second year of college in Southern California that I realized I wanted to pursue an art education and career. I transferred to PNCA in Portland, Oregon, where I currently live and work. All of the places I have lived, traveled to and explored have found their way into my art, and I find myself recalling these places as a constant source of inspiration for me.

How did you find the medium that best worked for you? What was that process of discovery like?

Growing up, I tried many different tools, from weaving to woodworking. Having the opportunity to experiment was helpful in learning what drew me in. When I started art school, I primarily used gouache paint and colored pencils for my illustrations, but through taking different classes I was able play with more tools and add them my current process. Learning to use Photoshop was a breakthrough discovery for me – it gave me so much more confidence in my own work. I was able to change colors, manipulate shapes and move compositions around in ways that I could not do before. It helped me step away from being too precious with my work, giving me the freedom to let loose and allowed me the opportunity to play. I currently use a mixture of Photoshop and colored pencil for most of my illustrations. However I sometimes catch myself becoming too reliant on Photoshop. I set up small projects for myself where I only work with analog materials. Screen printing has also become a big part of my process, especially for printing on textiles. Im currently working on a little project on my Instagram – I post a weekly composition that is purely analog play- with shapes, materials, textures, and colors under the hashtag #playwithnature.

What were some of your early influences to pursue an education in the arts? Did you always want to be an artist when you were a child?

I come from a family of artists- dancers, musicians, quilters, painters, and sculptors. As part of the curriculum of my elementary and middle school I learned knitting, basketry, ceramics, drawing, painting, woodworking and metal smithing. Instead of using textbooks, we learned our lessons and then created our own textbookscomplete with essays, stories, and illustrations, and this process contributed directly to my love of childrens book illustration. When I was first applying to college I was certain that I did not want to go to an art school, but when I got to the university I found myself bargaining with my professors to make books and art projects instead of final papers. After two years it became absolutely clear to me that I wanted to pursue an education in the arts.

Outside of your art—what feeds your imagination and soul and brings you joy?

Being outside and in nature feeds my imagination and soul! Exploring the woods reminds me of my childhood, and I find so much joy and inspiration in discovering new and different landscapes. There is so much magic and unexpected treasures, and I always find something new. Did you know that there are more life forms in a handful of soil than there are people on the planet? The more I learn about the earth and its ecosystems the more I am enamoured with it all.

"Perseverance" has been a theme we are exploring here at WeMake. As an artist, what does this mean to you?

Several words come to mind when I think about perseverance –dedication, commitment, determination, endurance, stick-to-itiveness, and spunk. I have learned that in both my life and art practice there is always an ebb and flow. There are times when I am filled with inspiration and motivation and I cant create things fast enough. There are also times when there is a lull, it is hard to find motivation and I feel unproductive and slow. For me, perseverance has been the reminder that these slower times are actually helpful, a reminder to rest and that soon it will shift back again.

How do you hope your personal expression will reach others, through your art?

For my senior thesis at PNCA, I am working on a collection of goods for kids structured around the theme of endangered species. I want to explore ways that I can use illustration as a form of environmental advocacy and as a way to visually portray the intricate relationships between people and the earth. This project is about sharing, collaborating, exploring, and learning. I am currently on the hunt for local vendors to collaborate with to produce these goods. Once I do I hope that through craft and product design I can help raise awareness of endangered species and encourage stewardship of the land through interactive play.

To see more of Elana's work, visit her website at
IG: @elanagabrielle

Meet Zach Yarrington

Everything is Everything
— - Zach Yarrington

What: sketchXchange with Zach Yarrington moderated by Blaine Fontana
When: Friday, August 4 from 6-9pm
Where: Tillamook Station
Tickets: SOLD OUT

Guest Writer,  Angela Bayout

Tucked between working train tracks and the Willamette River is the North Coast Seed Building Studios and Zach Yarrington's space, which he shares with two design friends and his dog Victor. The 1911 building is quiet, orderly and serene, but this artist's tidy studio bursts with works-in-progress. Zach, WeMake's sketchXchange guest on August 4, has the simplest reason for wanting to make. 

“I think there’s definitely an inherent human quality to wanting to make things,” Zach says. But what it all comes down to when asked why he makes, he answers, “Why not?”

Zach draws inspiration from Portland’s supportive design community and admires the work of large-scale artists like Barry McGee, Steve Powers, and what comes out of Sagmeister and Walsh. Unlike the perception of New York and LA being competitive, difficult-to-break-into creative worlds, Zach describes Portland as a place where artists support each other, refer each other, are genuinely interested in what everyone is doing and will easily pay forward a shout out.

Born and raised in Detroit, Zach’s family held jobs that were creative in different kinds of ways: mortgage lending, steel milling and old-school corporate tech. As a kid, he was “definitely a doodler, always drawing,” with encouragement from his mom. While other boys wanted to be firefighters, it was clear to Zach from an early age that he simply wanted to work for himself. Self-discipline and frugal living came easy to Zach as he built and continues to manage his design career.

The man from Michigan made his way out West – like a magnet was pulling him, there was just something about it that calling to him.

“Being a midwest kid I had an unreasonable, romantic idea of the West Coast,” he says. His mom’s advice: "Just don’t move to California. It's too expensive."

In 2005, he ended up at the University of Oregon’s art program. He loved it for being a concept-based program that allows students to explore their own directions. Fun and lighthearted is how Zach describes his own direction. After picking up a paintbrush and doing lettering, he never looked back. Things came to a finer point when he was invited to join Forest for the Trees, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of contemporary public art.

Zach’s first public mural was done as part of the first Forest for the Trees festival in 2013. Friend and founder of FFTT Gage Hamilton brought in Zach, knowing he had shown interest in mural painting while they were both students in Eugene. In collaboration with Jun Inoue and Blaine Fontana the “Keep Your Chin Up” mural was made. Found on NE Alberta and 21st, the mural’s message is in memory to a friend. The “K” spans over a pipe on the building—an ideal example of going with the flow in mural painting.

Zach returned to FFTT the following year to paint “Everything Is Everything” across 2121 SE 6th Avenue, a humbling message seen by Amtrak conductors and TriMet passengers everyday.

Zach's portfolio includes a live-mural for an adidas/Damian Lillard event and packaging design for Portland Bee Balm —much smaller than a mural, but has a bit of Zach in there, too.

When it comes to how to work, he likes to “find something on the wall and use it, while leveraging existing grid lines and size. First he sketches by hand and then refines a plan digitally — until real life happens.

“With every single job there’s always some unexpected thing,” he says. This was never truer than when he actually went to the site of his “This Is Your Day,” a 400-foot long mural in Sapporo, Japan’s underground. Discovering that his plans laid in Portland, which were based on photos of the Sapporo subway corridor, had to be reworked, Zach went with the flow. This approach matched the playful nature of the mural itself. Meant to be read forwards or backyards, in Japanese or English, this piece is a prime example of the pro’s use of space and understanding of how people interact with their urban surroundings daily.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain to relatives what you do for a living or what you for a side hustle when it’s creative work. Sometimes it’s hard even to explain to yourself.

Zach's mom said of his mural work: “I’m not sure what you’re doing, but I feel like it’s the right thing.”

Follow Zach.
IG: @zachumz


RECAP: sXc with Erik Marinovich

Don’t feed the pigeons; they’ll shit on your doorstep. 
— Erik Marinovich

Guest Writer,  Angela Bayout

Erik Marinovich spoke to a packed house about vulnerability, sacrifice, and dedication at WeMake's June sketchXchange. It was hot, but the hand-letterer blushed over a “Marry, Fuck, Kill?” - inspired design game called "Collaborate, Collect, Curse" thought up by friend and moderator Nishat Akhtar. Though it’s hard to believe, he claims he still doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s humble as fuck.

As guests arrived, they were drawn straight to the floor-to-ceiling installation of sketches. Erik curated a show of process and progress from hundreds of drafts going back years. As the curious milled about, Instagramming and pointing out favorites, the delicate sheets fluttered like leaves on a sapling. Though they lead to a finished project or are waiting to flourish, Erik’s sketches stand on their own.

Erik is accomplished, no doubt. The freelance San Francisco hand-letterer definitely had a crew of Portland fans and followers in the house. But, he’s immediately disarming. When he first started in design, fresh from community college and the University of California San Luis Obispo, he says he was a “terrible” designer. Eventually, with an ache to design based on his passions rather than a paycheck, he took the leap into freelance in 2009.

Today, his portfolio includes pieces inspired by Frank Ocean tracks, a mural on the wall of a low-key sushi joint he did for a little fee, and the menu for the coolest coffee shop in SF’s Mission neighborhood. But how did he get this far?

"Never question the time it takes to foster and feed your curiosity," Erik stated. He needs time to fuel, flourish, and foster his vision. He quit his full-time graphic design job for a lower paying part-time gig just to pay the rent as he spent spare time practicing—and geeking out over the lost art of hand-lettering. He was constantly grateful for the support of his wife and circle of friends, which included Nishat.

Without shame, Erik admitted how he made connections in the design communities. “Make friends with people who are better than you at what you do,” he suggested, relating stories of following, on foot and in the shadows, his inspirations and mentors. Everyone is shy to some degree, he reminded the crowd in his totally unpretentious tone.

And if you ever feel nervous about the uncertainty of freelancing, you're 100% not alone. Even for Erik, sometimes "the phone doesn't ring." He certainly gets a creative block. And, like all of us, sometimes life gets in the way. 

But, as a dad in the pricey city of San Francisco, rather than pushing a culture of Pinterest guilt and perfection, he’s forgiving. Of currently unfinished projects like the Frank Ocean series, he reminded us that “it’s okay to stop and pause.”

How does he get his work to stand out? He stays on top of trends and forecasts, but, to pull words of wisdom from his Croatian father, “Don’t feed the pigeons; they'll shit on your doorstep.” 

Erik thrives on community. He supports other designers and honors those who came before him. He thrives on designing to rally a community, as evidenced by his popular “Hate Has No Home Here” poster. And he asks himself, “What does 60-year-old-me want?”

After Q and A, the more than 70 guests gravitated back to Erik’s installation of sketches, got selfies with the gracious dude, and, surely, asked themselves what their 60-year-old-selves want.

Photos by Alyse Gilbert (see more here)

Erik's website // IG

Student Spotlight - Meet Clara Dudley

WeMake loves to showcase and support the future of the arts in our Student Spotlight Series. I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Clara Dudley, an imaginative designer at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art) with a love for color, screen printing and her pet boas. Clara's not afraid to get wild with her whimsical characters and it's impossible not to smile while in their company.

Clara! Put the snake down and tell us about yourself.
I'm from SE Portland and also currently live in SW Portland with my three pet snakes. My favorites medium is silkscreen. I love the look and feel of it, and how it is both hand made and mass-produced. Most of my screen prints were designed in Adobe Illustrator. I also love designing posters, logos and motifs in Adobe Illustrator.

How did you find the medium that best worked for you? What was that process of discovery like?
I took a screen printing class on a whim and fell in love with the process. In the beginning I made my silkscreen stencils out of rubylith or tinted mylar, but didn't like that I couldn't micromanage certain things. Then I started making stencils in Adobe Illustrator, which gave me the freedom to knit-pick as much as I wanted. It's a really nice blend of illustration and printmaking.

Tiger and Python - three color silkscreen

Tiger and Python - three color silkscreen

What were some of your early influences to pursue an education in the arts? Did you always want to be an artist when you were a child?
One of my first influences was cartoons. I grew up knowing that animators made a lot of money, and therefore a career in either art or design could be a practical option for me. I was really bad at most of my classes in high school, but really liked art. I was hesitant to pursue a career in illustration at first, but ultimately made the right choice.

Outside of your art—what feeds your imagination and soul, and brings you joy?
i love to go antiquing! Objects from another time or place bring me a lot of inspiration. Curating my collection of knickknacks brings me a lot of joy. I also love biology! I love learning about animals and spending time with my snakes. I have two Kenyan sand boas (Boo and Pearl) and an Arabian sand boa (Moby).

Pompadour - Digital

Pompadour - Digital

One of our themes for this year is "perseverance". As an artist, what does this mean to you?
I always aim to create an image that lasts in the viewer's mind. An image that "perseveres" despite all the other visual stimuli the viewer sees.

How do you hope your personal expression will reach others, through your art?
My work is about playfulness and having fun. I want my art to make people feel good!

Great to meet you Clara! We wish you all the best!

To see more of Clara's work, visit her website at
IG: @sClaramonstera