September 22, 2019

“The Tomatoes Were Resilient”: Georgina Brooks Talks Overcoming Fears, Making Mistakes, and Growth as a Rite of Passage

At the age of four, Georgina Brooks was so excited by colors that she developed the inconvenient habit of breaking crayons. As a silkscreen printer and cartoonist today, she is just as captivated with colors, preferring to print on colored paper over “boring” white paper. She is an enthusiastic outdoor explorer, and her whimsical comics, zines, and prints often feature images found in nature. As Georgina explains, “That’s how I find myself relating to the world. It’s just how I am in relation to nature.”

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Georgina grew up in a multiracial family and identifies as a half black, half Filipinx artist. She has been a vital participant in the East Portland Arts and Literary Festival (EPALF) for the past two years, and her presence and work is much anticipated at this year’s 3PALF. Nevertheless, Georgina identifies her discovery of Portland’s vibrant creative community and emergence and growth as an artist and screen printer within it as fairly recent.

Several years ago, Georgina was still a full-time working student at Mt. Hood Community College when she stumbled upon a Craigslist ad posted by Daria Tessler, a cartoonist and printmaker seeking extra assistance. Before Georgina learned screen printing from Daria, she had been primarily working with watercolors, “Screen printing, to me...was like magic,” she recalls, “I like that it’s all hands-on. It’s all me.” Georgina currently works at Seizure Palace Screen Printing, and she emphasizes the importance of having a job that nourishes her passion and supplements the considerable amount of time she devotes to creating and self-publishing her own work.

“Screen printing to me...was like magic.”

Georgina’s evolution as an artist has also involved learning to identify, proclaim, and share herself as an artist. She recounts struggling to consider herself an artist until she gained the approval of her parents with the sale of her first prints at a comic festival. Further describing the impact of discovering and attending independent publishing events like “Lineworks NW,” Georgina recalls, “I didn’t know that you could just put your stuff out there and share it. In my eyes, it was like, to be an artist, you had to have your stuff in a gallery.” The guidance of Daria and other artists has also been indispensable to helping her gain the confidence and skills to communicate her stories to a broader audience. However, mastering this leap has also made Georgina wary of becoming too affected by the opinion of others. As she reflects: “I have to ask myself: ‘Am I being true?’ That’s why I try to make prints that are just based off of how I felt just being by myself.”

Most recently, Georgina was featured as one of the artists in the The Creeping Museum Artist Market in August. Describing the significance of discovering a supportive network of artists of color, she recalls her limited exposure to POC-centric events growing up and affirms the importance of making accessible and expanding such spaces in Portland: “It makes me think: ‘Who's going to want to listen to my story?’” Explaining her current focus on POC markets, she goes on to say, “POC...really understand the stories that we have, that we share, you know?”

Often based off of personal stories and memories, Georgina’s distinctive prints and artwork humanize and represent raw emotion through humor. “I really want to show how human I am. I’m not perfect. I feel like other people would benefit from knowing, ‘Oh, I’ve done the same mistakes,” she explains, after launching into a story about accidentally killing most of the plants she was attempting to grow on her apartment patio. Afterwards, she detailed the unfortunate event in a comic. “But the tomatoes survived. They were resilient,” she laughs. In addition to making light of life’s everyday blunders, Georgina also conquers and processes fear through her work. One of her most popular prints features the peaceful coexistence of a squid and a diver deep in the ocean. Once deeply disturbed by their tentacles and suckers, Georgina explains “I drew a squid because I have a fear of squids. I was like, ‘I gotta overcome this,’” describing how creating the print helped her understand her “misjudgment” of the squid.

“I really want to show how human I am.”

When asked what the theme of this year’s 3PALF, “PASSAGES,” means to her, Georgina puts forth her interpretation of the “rite of passage.” “It means growing up. It means finally going to the place that I think I want to be...For me, passage is getting over my anxieties and wanting to share myself with everyone and be true instead of fearful.” From grappling with a fear of tentacles, to conquering her driving anxiety after returning from a year in New Zealand, Georgina’s confrontation of the everyday apprehensions we all experience has fueled her growth as an artist and the way she shares herself with the world.

“For me, “passage” is getting over my anxieties and wanting to share myself with everyone and be true instead of fearful.”

Despite her trepidations, Georgina is learning to embrace the discomfort of change and growth. She reflects on her ever-changing intentions, mediums, and style and expresses her goal to move from screenprinting to representing POC communities in big public spaces through mural work. Pulling out her phone, she shows me one of her favorite projects, “Chopped.” The print depicts a short white tree trunk with vines of tiny green leaves emerging from its slits as red mushrooms surround its base. She recalls creating the print after a particularly difficult heartbreak and falling out with her mom. As I study the piece, she remarks, “This is me feeling hurt but still growing from everything.”

Check out Georgina’s website and art portfolio here:

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