Local artist Georgina Brooks grew up with art and food interwoven throughout her life. Her family instilled in her a deep love and understanding for growing food, and she now uses cooking to connect with her roots and loved ones. This affection for the natural world inspires much of her multi-media artwork, which spans from silkscreen printing to comic design and watercolor painting.
Georgina’s passion and skills were a perfect match for Portland Farmers Market. We asked her to create designs for our new tote bag and T-shirt, and she blew us away. The images Georgina cultivated tap into her memories and speak to the shared experiences we all have, from the smell of an herb to the sight of fresh fruit in the summer.
Both of Georgina’s parents grew up on farms, and as a child she helped tend a small garden in their backyard. Tomatoes, strawberries, squash, peppers – her family grew it all. “We also had a cherry tree, plum tree, and blueberry bushes,” Georgina recalls. “My mom’s rosemary bush is probably 13 years old now and absolutely enormous. Mom and I also used to pick cherries together and at 40 she was still climbing our tree to get the top ripe fruits!”
After moving out, Georgina started growing her own garden on her balcony, which later inspired her zine Grow Baby Grow. Georgina says, “I try to grow tomatoes and peppers from seed on a vertical garden I made from a discarded wood pallet. So when I was asked to design for Portland Farmers Market, I was very excited because I’ve been working on my green thumb.”
Georgina began her design process with a long list of fruits and vegetables. “My first step was organizing them into seasons, and then by colors, as I knew I would have a limited color palette.” To get herself in the flow, she just started sketching with an open mind, freely letting the ideas come until she was able to narrow down her choices.
“Mushrooms are so fascinating I just had to make a design about them,” she says. “I love how each has unique textures and shapes. My mom cooks enoki and shiitake in her dishes, and I love having a roasted portobello with a salad.”
As the tote design began to take form, Georgina next created visual balance in the piece. “I set them on a woodcut to bring them together. The oyster and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms contrast against the morel’s rough texture, while the beech compliments the enoki’s long slender shoots on the opposite side of the woodcut.”
For the summer produce T-shirt, Georgina envisioned a sweet and spicy theme. “My partner always wants extra spicy,” she says. “He usually throws a couple habaneros in whatever dish he’s making.” But fresh fruits and vegetables always remind Georgina of home and summer. She remembers picking berries in the sun and baking cherry pies. “The fruits are what we grew in my backyard as a kid,” she says, “although the watermelon we grew was substantially smaller!”
The shapes Georgina creates are loose and lively, with painterly brushstrokes that invoke depth and motion. She finds herself drawn to a limited color palette, because, she says, “I like to see how far I can stretch the colors. I try to express as much as I can with my linework and utilize the negative space, keeping in mind less is more when it comes to design.”
Georgina’s path as an artist has grown naturally along with her style: free-flowing, intuitive, and personal.
As a kid, Georgina was always drawing and creating, from digital painting to watercolors and acrylics. When she decided to become more confident drawing in pen, she utilized what she had at hand. “On my bus ride to work or school, I’d sketch other passengers,” she says. “I’d go to street markets and car shows to draw people because everyone was lively and interesting, and that helped me work true to life in the feeling and not necessarily their visual copy.”
This process means she had to work fast and, in her words, ‘by heart’. Her favorite part was surprising performers with sketches she made of them.
As a self-described introvert, these moments are deeply meaningful. “Art allows me to make connections with others,” she explains. “It means a great deal to me when someone tells me my work makes them feel something, be it laughter or intrigue.”
Now a professional screen printer and freelance artist, Georgina shares her prints and zines with the community at art fairs across Portland. “A lot of people pick up my zine Grow Baby Grow because it makes them laugh and relate to how frustrating and fulfilling growing something can be and it’s great to hear their stories. That’s why I like to draw about life experiences.”
The mushroom tote bag is available now at PSU, Lents International, King and Shemanski Park Farmers Markets.
The summer produce T-shirt available at PSU and King Farmers Market locations.
Both designs were printed by Little Red Press, a local, woman-owned screen-printing shop in the Kenton neighborhood.