Driven to Create: South Seattle’s “Bunny Loving” Artist Nakisha Elsje VanderHoeven

Sky Lanterns by Nakisha Vanderhoeven.
Sky Lanterns by Nakisha Elsje VanderHoeven.

Whether it be sublime paintings, dynamic sculptures, or animal spirit tarot cards South Seattle artist Nakisha Elsje VanderHoeven has always harbored an obsession to create. The eclectic artisan and animalphile, who lives in Upper Rainier Beach with an array of four legged friends, brings her one-of-kind bunny portraits to Artwalk Rainier Beach this Saturday. The Emerald caught up with her to talk about the creative process, the South End’s appeal to artist, and what the tarot cards say is in store for Saturday’s event.

Q: As a sculptor, painter, animator and writer it would be an understatement to say you’re multi-talented. Where does your compulsion to create via so many different mediums come from?

I think my approach is pretty much the same, whether I am creating a sculpture, painting or even when I am cooking. I have always been driven to make things. I have a pretty strong vision in my head and desire to make something the way I see it. It doesn’t always turn out exactly as I see it but the process is enjoyable.

Q: You were born in California, raised in New York and spent the last two decades in Seattle. How have these locations influenced your artwork?

I think a lot of my work is influenced by light and atmosphere, the three states I’ve lived in all have very different light. There are a lot of places I’ve visited and lived that inevitably make it into my work. I work almost entirely out of my head rather than using models or photographs, so much of what I paint is based loosely on memories of those places.

Q: Animals and nature feature heavily in your work. What is it about the two that acts as muse for you?

The farm I lived on in New York State was very isolated, and I spent much of my time with my dogs and horses and other animals. I saw them as more than pets, but as friends and companions. I have cherished memories of being out in the woods, just me, my horse and my dog. I’d have a million stories about animals in my head growing up, I think I have always been inspired by animals.

Q: Speaking of your love for animals, how is it you currently own no rabbits?

That’s easy, I have a dog that loves to kill small furry things, I’m sure she would love a rabbit but not in a nice way. I hate keeping things in cages, so if I ever had a rabbit again I’d want a house bunny, and that’s not in the cards with my dog Laika running around.

Q: The South End has a fairly large concentration of artists. What do you think attracts artists such as your yourself to it, and why do you think they stick around?

I think there are a lot of things that appeal to artists here. The cost of housing is a factor, sure, but also there is such a diverse group of people down here there is a lot of freedom of expression and inspiration.

Q: As we mentioned, you are a current day Renaissance Woman in terms of practicing multiple forms of art. What is your favorite?

I think sculpting will always be my favorite by a small margin. I would love to do more large scale pieces in the future.

Q: You design animal art tarot cards. What do the cards say is in store for anyone passing by your booth at Art Walk Rainier Beach on Saturday?

The bunnies say Joy, Discovery and Love.

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