Amanda Zito, also known as @Blindthistle is a wilderness-loving, motorcycle-riding, adventuring artist who captures the beauty of the Northern states in her amazing watercolor works and sketches. Learn about her journey as an art adventurer and hear the fantastic story of her first Pentalic journal in her artist interview. It’s not one to miss!
1) What was the inspiration to your art journey?
I’ve drawn for most of my life, my closest brother (six years older than me), would come home and teach me what he learned in art class. I really enjoyed drawing, but I actually wanted to be a jockey until 5th grade, when a girl moved to my school from California. She of course knew a lot more about horse racing than I did, and told me I was too ‘big’ to be a Jockey. I kind of “resigned” my 5th grader brain to shift focus onto doing everything possible to become an artist. I was totally dedicated to my goal. I actually started looking at art schools by 8th grade, I went to Portfolio reviews starting my Sophmore year of high school, I spent all of my free time my senior year to apply for scholarships.
2) Your art is focused mostly on nature, where did the passion for the outdoors come from?
I was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, I am one of six kids and my family owns a ranch there. Montana has a huge effect on my work, and I visit every few months. My first friends were cows and I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. I used to pretend to be a feral child in the woods and hid all kinds of “treasures” all over the property. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was also heavily influenced by Charles Russell and Bev Doolittle paintings.
3) Did art school help you find your style? What was the best thing about art school and what was the worst?
I firmly believe that I would not have progressed as quickly had it not been for art school. I believe that the environment of art school provides a lot of room for experimentation with mediums and tools that you wouldn’t necessarily have access to or even thought to try outside of that environment. It forces you to consider different ways to approach projects.
The best thing about art school was the environment, being surrounded by so many other artists was incredible. Growing up in a small town with a lot of… non-creative people, it was amazing to be surrounded by people who were also nerdy about paper quality and new art materials.
The worst thing about art school was definitely Thesis. It was something that hung over our heads leading up to Senior year, then was a source of endless anxiety and stress throughout Senior year. Finals are bad ya, but Thesis was terrible.
4) Tell us the story of your first Pentalic notebook!
I purchased my first Pentalic sketchbook my first year at Pacific Northwest College of Art. It was a neon green sketchbook (what I believe is the Illustrator’s Sketchbook, or the equivalent) and it was the first sketchbook that I had ever owned that had such a nice cover and wasn’t from a Walmart or a Michael’s. I felt so overwhelmed by how nice it was that I didn’t feel like my art was good enough. I kept it safe and wrapped up for six years, through graduating art school, and a tattoo apprenticeship until 2016. I quit my job at the tattoo shop, and I finally felt like I was “good enough” to draw in it. I carried it almost 6k miles on my motorcycle while I lived on the road for 2 1/2 months.
5) Have you overcome some of your artistic perfectionism overtime?
I think if anything, I have become even more critical of myself. I think the pressure of creating two-three finished pieces of work a week in art school, made me a little sloppy. I often sacrificed quality in order to finish work on time. Since I graduated in 2014, I’ve had so much more time to work on personal pieces until they’re at a point of polish that I’m much happier with than before. I also feel like I’ve developed a better sense of creating a finished image that doesn’t look like I did it in 3 hours!
6) How have you combined your two loves of art and motorcycles?
When I got back from living on the road, I was bound and determined to work somewhere where I could be involved with motorcycles, and I kind of fell into the perfect job working for Latus Harley-Davidson and Triumph in Gladstone. I make all of their event fliers, as well as get paid to ride for store events.
I have created a kind of niche for myself in the motorcycle community creating Event Posters and Shirt Designs on the side. I’ve done work for PNW Dual Sport, The Dream Roll, Motolady. I never would have thought this is where my art career was headed, but it’s been very challenging and rewarding at the same time.
7) What’s your favorite Pentalic product?
Right now I’m absolutely in love with the Aqua Journal. The paper quality is fantastic, and the compact sizes are fantastic for travel. I can put layer upon layer of watercolor on the paper without it peeling,
8) Any advice for artists who want to create while they travel?
I would say get yourself some compact sketchbooks, and restrict your tools. You really don’t need more than one or two pencils, an eraser, a sharpener, and your favorite compact sketchbook (ideally 6×9 or smaller). Watercolor is the same, you don’t need more than 8 watercolor half pans and two-three brushes/water brushes to create really great work.
And the most cliche but true advice; Practice Practice Practice. Materials only go so far, the rest is the skill you have to use them.