This month, SF Station spotlights work from Tory Van Wey, an artist with a botanical obsession and a wily hand for turning detailed illustrations into graphic art.
Van Wey is a self-acclaimed “social late bloomer” who has always been working with her hands in creative pursuit. “I remain in awe of how an image can convey an idea with such accuracy and poetry,” she said.
At first glance, her work can feel whimsical and chaotic, but each line and detailed transformation find a way to grow into another, in a way that creates cohesiveness, consistent with the organic content represented throughout her work.
Tory Van Wey in her studio.
Those impeccable details that feel emblematic of digital replications, sometimes lend themselves to the very tools Van Wey wields–a drafting set left by her grandfather who was an engineer, which provides precise outlines that are later filled in with Micron pens, nib pens and India ink.
“As a graphic artist, my primary concern is that the piece is visually appealing,” said Van Wey. “Once it draws the eye, my wish is that it retains the viewers attention with an interesting statement, question, or narrative.”
Van Wey’s success as a professional artist has been a meandering path, fueled a little by that “hasty romanticism” that urges artists to quit their day jobs. Upon selecting graphic design as the more logical alternative, she soon found she still couldn’t shuck that feeling she “was wearing an ill-fitting suit.”
At that point, she made the decision to take several months off from work to avoid burnout and hike the Pacific Crest Trail that winds through the Sierra Nevada.
“Jump” print by Tory Van Wey
“It was an illuminating experience, and I thought I had walked out my career demons… unfortunately, they crept back in shortly after I resumed my job.”
These days, Van Wey has committed herself to fulfilling her calling as an artist, but has also achieved a much healthier balance of creating fine art and working on design illustrations, creating work for clients like Goldenvoice Productions, which organizes the Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival, and the Ritz Carlton.
I find that making the time to produce work indiscriminately is essential to maintaining my autonomy, and creativity, as a commercial artist…my greatest desire is that my work allows someone to connect with something fleeting within themselves in a way that makes them feel more present.
“Heartonomy” print by Tory Van Wey
For her, that inspiring connection has been the natural world, which consistently makes an appearance in her art.
Currently, Van Wey has been focused on growing her business, teaching classes at Workshop SF and involving herself in apparel and pattern work, as well as some private art commissions. She has her eye out for galleries, licensing representation, and opportunities to put together a solo show.
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