Hometown:Valley City, Ohio
Artistry: Pyrography, illustration and watercolor artist; BREC assistant director of natural resource management
Half is carved with delicate florals, birds and butterflies; the other half is thick with dark outlines just waiting for the knife.
It’s a week after Ida barreled into the state with near Category 5 winds, and Amanda Takacs is home for a quick lunchbreak, sitting at a large desk in her den with an 18 x 18-inch piece of grey linoleum in front of her. On the wall is a photo of three massive grizzly bears walking directly at the lens, an image she took from the back of a truck while working at Denali National Park.
As the assistant director of natural resource management at BREC, she has been working on removing downed trees and restoring the city’s parks and public pathways to usable condition. The Ohio native is used to balancing intense hours, often outdoors, with the nature-inspired watercolors and engravings she labors over at home for her BurnedInTime shop on Etsy.
“The challenge is making sure that when I do work nonstop I’m doing that because I want to be,” says the artist who grew up raising horses and copying her father’s illustrations. “What I do is a lot of detail work, and you have to get lost in it, and that takes time.”
Unlike more interpretive artists, Takacs relishes the chance to discuss the intended themes and concepts behind each piece. Her prints, shirts and greeting cards offer deliciously rendered details left like clues to a larger life narrative about the species depicted, habitat loss and ecosystem health. Whether at markets or through Instagram posts, she’s happy to help viewers put those clues together.
“I’m a naturalist, so I enjoy any opportunity to educate,” she says with a wry teacherly grin.
Takacs likes taking on and, more importantly, finishing projects, and that motivation is enough to help her work through the most challenging times as an artist.
She keeps works in progress in view around her house to remind herself there’s more to be done, even if this night owl isn’t starting until 10 p.m. If John Prine or Sia are playing, and the dishes are done, she can get inspired.
Completely self-trained, Takacs says fighting imposter syndrome is an essential step for any creative.
“I often wonder if there are certain rules I’m breaking, but it’s important to remember that art is not meant to be a formal and intimidating thing,” says the artist who began with a $20 etching tool and burned intricate designs into wood pieces she sold for $600. “You don’t necessarily need the fancy stuff, just your imagination and your effort.”