ROBERT ROWE

Peggy West’s avowed mission is to educate and appreciate the “wild things that can be found in city and suburban landscapes”. Engraver, master naturalist and educator, West creates mixed media prints and collages that feature delicately rendered representations of common plant and animal species native to our region: the humble dandelion, ubiquitous milkweed, ubiquitous beetles and butterflies. royal monarchs. His attention to natural elements that often go unnoticed stems from a deep commitment to responsible and sustainable management of the environment and a belief that significant change can occur at the local or “grassroots” level.

Calling the animal or plant by its name is fundamental to West’s philosophy. Dragonflies, leeches, jack-in-the-pulpit, and Dutch breeches are just a few of the local flora and fauna featured in his work. She says, “If you know him by name, you already have a relationship with him. “

Many of his prints use a drypoint engraving combined with pages torn from dictionaries or field guides. Both genus and species or common name can be imprinted on the image. This combination of perceptual drawing paired with pages of scientific literature places his work at the crossroads of art and science, evoking a rich tradition dating back to medieval herbal books and the work of famous artists / naturalists, such as John James Audubon.

As a certified Master Naturalist, she is more than just an observer. She holds a master’s degree in museum studies from Western Illinois University and a doctorate in educational technology from Kansas State University. She studied for three years to obtain a certificate in botanical art and illustration from the Morton Arboretum in Chicago and remains active in the Guild of Nature Artists. She also studied printmaking at Western Illinois University with Don Crouch and Bill Howard.

Peggy West, Limited Edition Handmade Typography Book of Native Plants and Animals. (IMAGE PROVIDED)

A residency at the Prairie Center of the Arts in Peoria was a pivotal point in the development of the West style. The residence provided access to a range of presses and other printing equipment. His explorations in typography began to involve whimsical arrangements of hand-printed metallic type with precise pressure and multi-colored registration. Letterpress printing also allows her to produce multiples in the form of cards, small print and other ephemeral documents that she uses to reach a wider audience. These are available on its website WildPeoria.com.

As Resident Artist at the Peoria Art Guild in 2020, West helped the Guild raise funds to acquire all the equipment needed to set up a full typography shop from which she was able to donate. printing and book art classes. She is also an assistant instructor at Bradley University, teaching book arts and drawing.

West has felt connected to nature her entire life, dating back to her childhood vacation in the Ozark area of ​​Missouri. “My interest in the outdoors came from my father; he was an outdoor enthusiast who raised three daughters, ”she says. “As a child, I was an outdoors person with an affinity for art. In her most recent works of art, which she calls “wall books”, she incorporates childhood memories and associations with precise observation of natural forms. The “wall books” consist of prints and collages on raised, roughly square panels, with a small, handmade book attached to each panel via a flexible cord.

Using her artwork and outreach through Wild Peoria and Wild Type Press, Peggy West advocates not only for nature in wild places, but also for wilderness in the most mundane places. Environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. It can start in your own backyard by growing native plants that support a multitude of native wildlife. The Peoria area is full of parks, meadows, and woodlands where you can see native plants and animals making a comeback. As Henry David Thoreau, a proto-environmentalist author, wrote over 150 years ago: “All good things are wild and free.

Peggy west

Recent work by Peggy West titled “Enlightenment II”. Raised print and mixed media collage with a handmade book. (IMAGE PROVIDED)