Cover Artist

Nantz McMillen

The bartender said, “I can’t find the pumpkin butter!” So Nantz couldn’t get their pumpkin spiced booze at Obsidian and had to settle for some other hot spice-drink. Well you know what they say: you can’t choke a fly.  I always drink a vodka with grapefruit. Speaking with Nantz, it’s almost like they only speak in aphoristic phrases. Nantz taught me some things during our conversation. It turns out wolf packs are a family unit. The alpha/beta distinction is bullshit! And aquatic mammals have huge nose cavities that help diffuse the cold air across a larger surface. And how observation is the foundation of change. I’ve been mulling over this last point and wondering about how I look at the world and all that I don’t see through the blinders of privilege, location, time, etc.

Why is Nantz our feature in this issue? They’re an artist who’s been making science illustrations and animations since they could hold a crayon. Well, the animations started in 2015 when they came to Evergreen but the rest is history. A science illustration can be defined as a detailed and sometimes technical drawing of an organism that shows a specific part or action of that organism. It’s often something that photography can’t capture. Photos are just two-dimensional images and sometimes the thing that makes an organism special is hidden behind feathers or fur. A lot of science illustration fodder come from behavioral observations of an organism.

I began writing up the results of our interview but soon realized the clarity and coherency of Nantz’ words. I’ve decided to leave much of what they said intact and let the artist speak for themself. What follows is their brief art-life story, relationship to the natural world and sharing it with others, and a reflection on the effects of humanism and capitalism.

“I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I’m just drawing the things I love. Honestly it’s the only thing that keeps my mental health okay. I grew up in a household that wanted to go outside and go camping. I know I was lucky and that it’s a privilege a lot of people don’t have and I understand why people are so estranged from the natural world.”

I’ll just be walking around outside and be like, ‘Wow [I’m] an insignificant person. It doesn’t matter; but look how beautiful everything is. I think I’m trying to use my art to show other people how beautiful the world is—how beautiful the tiny things are that people don’t pay attention to. The way people change their mind isn’t by guilting or shaming them into caring. It’s through [personal] observation. Once you notice something, it completely changes the way you think about it and you start seeing it more and more.”

“What I make is really indicative of what makes me really happy. If you ever walk around in the woods with me and I’m screaming at everything I think is neat—’oh my god look at that mushroom! oh my god look at that thing! aggh it’s a bird!’—obviously I’m enthusiastic about the same thing that I’m making and I try to share that enthusiasm with other people. It’s okay to care about that beetle. You don’t have to kick it. Maybe look at the ground a little bit more.”