Montana-native Isaac Lowe-Anker grew up with the Rockies in his backyard, raised in a family that instilled an appreciation for both the outdoors and art at an early age. (His mother is an artist, and his stepfather and late father both made their names as mountaineers.) For “Whale Watching,” Isaac dreamed up a scene featuring two of his favorite things to draw: whales and the Pacific Northwest. Isaac currently goes to school in northwest Washington state, which allows him to escape to the San Juan Islands and British Columbia for a breath of fresh ocean air and inspiration for his skillfully stippled illustrations.
Isaac took a brief break from filling his field notebook in the Olympic Peninsula to chat with us about “Whale Watching,” his illustration for United By Blue’s inaugural Artist Series, and about what first inspired him to pick up a pen.
"I’d get so into a drawing on the side of my notes I’d miss half of a lecture. I always find that the drawings I’m most fond of are the ones that start off as the least significant. I think the less pressure there is to draw something good the better the drawing turns out.
"In the past year or so I’ve started to bring small sketchbooks with me whenever I went adventuring outside. At first the objective was to get better at drawing freehand landscapes, but before long I started to realize the value in taking that extra time to really soak in the moment and appreciate where you are. In the age of mobile phones and social media, it’s difficult to be present and mentally engaged in the physical spaces in which you spend your time.
I used to draw primarily with pencils and was somewhat afraid of the unforgiving nature of ink. Once I became more comfortable with pens, they quickly became my favorite tool to use. With every sketch, doodle, or drawing I make, I feel as though I learn something new.”
What’s your favorite thing to do outside?
Since I was very young, my parents have taken my brothers and I into the mountains surrounding our home in Bozeman, Montana. We’d only have to travel 20 miles to ski and mere hours to enjoy Yellowstone National Park. I feel so grateful to have grown up with the Rockies in my backyard and with parents who instilled me with a love for the natural world. To this day I’d say skiing, trail running, and hiking/backpacking are my favorite things to do outside.
What are you listening to right now?
“Scythian Empires” by Andrew Bird. I saw him in Seattle in September and the experience undoubtedly solidified his place as my number one musician.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Backpacking and sea kayaking with my two older brothers along the coast of British Columbia, specifically within the Great Bear Rainforest. I had the opportunity to see Paul Nicklen speak at Mountainfilm in Telluride, CO, and he shared photos from the rainforest and the extraordinary wildlife that call it home. I’ve wanted to go ever since. Something about the temperate rainforests up here in the Pacific Northwest draw me in more than any other biome.