Natalia Rojas-Gómez: Art Found Me

“It’s never too late… you can change paths many times.”

Bird illustrations

Natalia Rojas Gómez is the co-illustrator of the popular bird-centric game, “Wingspan,” and a beautiful new companion book, “Celebrating Birds: An Interactive Field Guide Featuring Art from Wingspan.”

With great care and prowess, she creates intricate portrayals of birds in the various captivating stances of their lives; in flight, hunting or at rest. She also draws people and other beings, with a rapt attentiveness that conveys the unique vitality of each subject. In our interview, below, she talks about her journey to professional artmaking, the support of the birding and gaming communities, parenting and working at home during the pandemic, and more.

This is probably one of the most complex questions for me — along with: Who are you? — probably because, in my case, the answers are tied. What is art, and, who am I, are questions I have tried to answer for a long time.

I never pursued an artistic career, nor did I see myself as an artist because drawing was something I always did as an escape from the real world. Creating and drawing was natural to me. If it was a part of who I am, then how could something so natural be extraordinary? I was looking for a career everywhere except in art. I did not find art, art found me. But it took me 30 years to realize I could not be something else but an artist because that is also who I am.

Art, for me, is emotion. It might be positive or negative, and the purpose of an artist is to express that feeling or emotion in an artistic form, whether it makes sense or not. There are no right or wrong kinds of art. Some days, it can be cheerful and, sometimes, it can be depressive, especially for emotional people, like myself. Art evolves with you as your emotions change. I might say, art is a reflection of how you are feeling and, as an always growing individual who is constantly learning and changing, I could relate to my art today but despise it tomorrow. Art is a contradiction!

When I was a kid, I loved to draw manga characters from the TV shows I used to watch. Later, when I was in high school, I was interested in drawing nudes and understanding the human anatomy. For some time, I was interested in drawing horses and still life, then I moved to portraits of meaningful moments or objects from my own life, like the town square where I first lived in United States, my daughter’s shoes, a pretty butterfly I photographed in a trip to Costa Rica or my kid’s portraits.

Looking back, I realize I am moved by images I find attractive to replicate because they have a meaning or just because they are beautiful. In 2017, I accepted my first paid commissions, and I started drawing graphite portraits and pets to make an income with my art I also joined my partner Ana Martinez to create art for her nature-inspired company to sell and distribute art canvasses in the United States.

I am working on the next series of birds for, “Wingspan,” because we have a commitment to draw an expansion per continent and because it is a very fulfilling job. I have learned a lot from all the different bird species I have drawn, and the birding and gaming communities have been incredibly supportive of my work.

I am also doing private bird commissions because I am fascinated by the wonderful stories behind my commissions. People look for my work because birds are important to them. It reminds them of people, places or stories they love, and I am always honored to bring to life a concept that will be treasured for many years to come. The biggest honor is to know that something I created will bring joy to my clients.

I am a mother of two wonderful girls who are studying from home, and that leaves me with zero free time for personal projects, but I find pleasure in drawing my birds. Fortunately, I keep the creative license to choose my models, and I am always looking for images that are aligned to what I want to explore with each drawing.

Ana and I recently created a company to continue to work together doing scientific illustrations exploring other subjects of the natural world and to sell our original drawings, as well as prints and other products related to our work. I hope to continue to grow as an artist and as an entrepreneur.

I would like to say that is never too late to find the path that works best for you, and that you can change paths many times.

(b. 1985) is a self-taught artist from Medellin, Colombia, currently living in Tampa, Florida. Natalia has been drawing since her early childhood but did not pursue art as her professional career until 2015, when she realized, after dropping three different careers, that she was an artist at heart and decided to commit to cultivate her skills and grow as an artist.

Natalia specializes in highly-detailed and realistic drawings using colored pencils and graphite. She is best known for her colored pencil illustrations of birds featured in the board game, “Wingspan,” and the book, “Celebrating Birds.”

Find Natalia Rojas-Gómez on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Check out the previous Ask Artists interview with Ana María Martínez Jaramillo, the second illustrator of “Wingspan.”

Learn more about the Ask Artists interview series and submissions.

Julia Travers, Instagram

I’m a writer who runs the Ask Artists interview series. Find interviews here along with some other stories. More of my work: https://linktr.ee/JuliaTravers

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