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What do men with conjoined beards, jars of pickled vegetable, houses blooming out of flowers, a superhero-like beluga whale, and pair of coffee-loving mermaids have in common? They are all the whimsical artwork of Portland-based illustrator Brooke Weeber, the creator of The Little Canoe. According to the artist’s website she¬†began drawing at an early age and pursued her passion for drawing at high school and in college; she received her BFA in painting at the University of Oregon. She traded her Northwest roots for New York City, where she pursued her other passion of professional baking. After some time she began to miss her Douglas fir trees and wished for more elbow room to draw so she packed her bags and headed for Portland in 2009.

The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration

Untapped: Where did the name Little Canoe come from?
Weeber: The name Little Canoe came from my own love of oceans and rivers and all things nautical. I also felt that the canoe was a good metaphor for me and my journey in life, rowing swiftly from one phase to the next, never knowing what kinds of rough waters I might encounter along the way, always knowing that there will be smooth sailing ahead and the views will make it all worth it.

Untapped: What is the process behind each of your pieces of work?
Weeber: I don’t often enter an art piece knowing what the end result will be, unless it’s contract work. Most of the time it starts with a small idea or inspiration. Then I’ll do some research, look at pictures, write down some notes, and then get started. I like the paintings to work in an organic way, so if I need to veer from the original plan, I will. The end product is always something more emotionally driven and meaningful that way, which is often more appealing to the audience.

The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration

Untapped: Where does most of your art-making get done?
Weeber: I have a studio space that I share with another artist in the SE Industrial part of Portland. It’s a big open space with large windows that let in a lot of natural light. I have enough room to store all of my product stock with room to grow. It’s a very inspiring building with other talented artists and makers that help to motivate and encourage me.

Untapped: Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?
Weeber: I find inspiration in the world I surround myself with. This could refer to the mountains and trees that populate the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it could be the art community that I’ve found myself in, or it could be a song, a movie or a picture that I find online or in my travels. It also comes greatly from life experience. I allow myself to respond to what I’m feeling through my artwork, so there’s often a little bit of myself in each piece.

The Little Canoe - Brooke Weeber illustration

Untapped: What do you love about what you do?
Weeber: There are so many things that I love about what I do! The freedom to make my own schedule, the ability to be totally self sustaining, my complete independence. I love being creative, coming up with ideas and following through with them until completion. I love the limitless possibilities that I have with my artwork, and I love the wonderful response I get from my customers, clients, and the general public. It’s so rewarding to do what you love only to find out that other people love it, too. There’s no other feeling like it.

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Untapped: What do you do when you are not working?
Weeber: When I’m not working, which isn’t all that often, I like to explore the outdoors. This could mean traveling to another state, or simply taking advantage of Oregon’s terrain. I love hiking, swimming in rivers, walking on hilltops, biking country roads and snowshoeing icy landscapes. Then I top it off with some cold local beer!

Little Canoe

Untapped: What new things can we expect to see from you in the future?
Weeber: I expect people to start seeing Little Canoe more and more in their favorite shops and online. I’ll be doing lots of big projects this year as well as growing my inventory and product line. And if I’m really lucky, a children’s book will be finished up this year.

Expect to see more of Brooke and the Little Canoe in 2013! You can find more of her illustrations on her website and in her shops on Society 6 and on Etsy. Get in touch with the author @alicperez.

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