Nikki Frumkin is inspired by mountains—and not just as a climber, backpacker and mountaineer. Her love for mountains finds its way onto a page via watercolors, pens and pencils. Originally from Switzerland, she now calls Washington home, and doesn't head out for an alpine adventure without her trusty sketchbook. We caught up with her to learn a bit more about her creative process and the adventures she has along the way to making her art. You can follow her on Instagram @DrawnToHighPlaces.
"My art is inspired by my time spent backpacking, climbing and mountaineering in the PNW. I usually bring my sketchbook with me on climbing adventures. In this picture, I am trying to keep my fingers warm as I draw the endless Emmental Alp sback home in Switzerland from 8,000 feet."
"On my adventures, I usually bring a backpacking watercolor kit, a handful of pens, a sketchbook, and a tin of watercolors. I recently discovered water brushes like the ones in this picture. They’re great because they make it easy to leave no trace. All of the water I use stays in the handle of the brushes or goes directly onto my painting. These two were inspired by my love for winter camping (and by a photograph taken by @scott_kranz of @mitchpittman having dinner at Mt. Rainier). There is something about a snowy wonderland and a sky full of stars that makes me feel connected to the world. I try to invoke that in my art."
"The Cascades are one of my favorite places to explore. This winter, I brought watercolors on most of my ski and snowshoeing trips. I learned that it is really difficult to draw and paint while it is snowing because the snowflakes leave wet patterns on the page. In this little painting, I embraced the wet patterns and let them make up the bluebird texture of the sky."
"My favorite paintings come from working en plein air. Sometimes I finish a whole painting outside, but I also bring sketches back to my loft studio and finish working inside. This painting is one I woke up early to make outside on Vancouver Island. I sat on a log drawing while the warm morning light came up around me. I usually do the black line work first and add the watercolor after. In this piece, I experimented with a gold sky to show the arriving dawn."
"On my birthday this year @runningbelay and I packed our tent and headed to Enchanted Valley. When I saw something moving by the chalet I said “Look a cow!” but it was really a little black bear. I watched him roam in and out of view as I painted the enchanted valley chalet. After a while he disappeared into the trees and we went to sleep. After a long bear-filled day, nothing beats zipping your sleeping bag to your partner’s underneath the stars."
"With a summer of outdoor climbing ahead of me I am grateful to have a place like the Mountaineers Wall in Seattle to practice multi-pitch and rescue skills in a safe place. On this visit, I also got to hear Don McGrath, author of Vertical Mind, talk about the psychology and thought patterns that contribute to climbing accidents. By the end of the evening, I had a new painting and a new mantra: One move at a time."
"As I geared up for a ski tour of Mount Adams last weekend, I took some time to draw out my packing list. There are a few things that I didn’t have time to draw like my art supplies, my ice ax and crampons, but I got most of the gear down. It was a nice ritual to draw everything that would be on my back before a long weekend of climbing. What do you think about illustrated gear lists for some of your favorite adventures? Let me know which kind of gear list you’d like to see."
"Even though I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, I snuggled into my down sleeping bag to draw my friend Scott’s tent in front of Mount Adams. The tent and the volcano have a similar shape that I really liked. It felt so luxurious to have hours of time to draw at 9000ft, without needing to boil snow for water or do other camp duties."
"This painting of Mount Saint Helens is part of a series of starry night mountains I am making. I painted this a few weeks before our ski tour of the volcano for someone who had named their child after the mountain. When we decided to ski the volcano, I made a print of the painting to bring to the summit with me and did a sketch of Mount Rainier from the summit on the back. This print was auctioned to support @nwacus and all the good work they do avalanche forecasting and educating."
"I didn’t always know how to combine my love for adventuring and painting. This photograph by @runningbelay shows me drawing in our tent on the first adventure I took my sketchbook on. After this Valentine's Day snowshoe to Artist Point next to Mt. Baker, I realized I could make art in the mountains and that made me really happy. Since then, I have brought my sketchbook on every adventure."
"I feel so lucky that I get to spend my time exploring and painting outside. There is so much joy in sharing my art with people who have a similar love for adventure. I love painting my own adventures, but I also love being commissioned to make paintings because it gives me a window into your wandering hearts. Sharing our stories makes the world a better and more interconnected place. This little snapshot from my studio shows some of my PNW landscape prints. What is your favorite PNW adventure?"
"Thanks so much for following along with me! I hope you have lots of adventuring (and art making) ahead of you."