Creating a Picture of Extension

One of the ways we are letting people know that WSU Extension is turning 100 years old is with a commemorative poster (shown below). The poster creates a colorful and lasting reminder of this milestone in our state’s history.

Illustrator Robin Moline’s artwork captures the diverse beauty and geography of Washington State from east to west, from the rural to the urban landscapes. The image also speaks to the many program areas Extension is involved in, including agriculture, gardening, communities and energy.

Traces of times gone by

The commemorative Extension poster featuring Moline's artworkThe settings in Moline’s vibrant paintings have a nostalgic, yet surreal quality. She is inspired by the art of a time gone by. “The Regionalist artists of the ’20s like Grant Wood, Marvin Cone and Thomas Hart Benson inspired my folk realism style,” Moline said. “Although my color palette has a little more modern or contemporary feel and I use more saturated, intense colors.”

Love of the great outdoors also inspires Moline’s art. “I try to capture what makes a certain area unique, from the general lay of the land to how the light affects it, from the specific flora and fauna to the building style,” she said.

Tiny brushes. Big color.

Moline’s creative process is painstaking. She begins by studying reference materials on the area. “From conversations with a client, e-mails or notes I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do when I start,” she said. “I use transparent vellum paper so I can draw the image several times and move things around until they are where I want them to be.”

Moline's self portraitMoline’s technique gives her work its vivid and unique look. “I generally do an underpainting with an airbrush and then leave the areas like sky with that look alone—no added brush work,” she explains. “For the areas where I want more detail, I add brush work on top of the underpainting using tiny little brushes and blend all the colors as not to leave dark outlines,” she explains. “All the colors flow onto each other like a rainbow. Yellow, for example, never edges up against a color like red without an in-between transitional color; in this case it would be an orange. Violet to yellow would need a transitioning color of magenta, and so on. I try not to contaminate colors. It’s an elaborate process and that takes time.”

Full circle back to Extension

As a child growing up in Minnesota, Moline appreciated the 4-H experience. “My friend grew up on a farm and was very involved in 4-H, so she invited me to join her club,” Moline said. “It was great. I was rather shy when I was very young and I gained a lot of confidence in a wide range of areas because of 4-H.

“I remember loving to participate in demonstrations. Mine were often crafty, but some involved food. I learned to cook a few things quite well. I make the best pies, or so my friends and family say. I entered a lot of my artwork and photography into county fair 4-H contests. To this day, I still love going to the Minnesota State Fair and walking into that 4-H building to relive the past and see what the 4-H’ers are up to.

“I’m glad that 4-H has continued to be a good influence in the lives of young people around the country and the world.”

 By Kate Wilhite

If you would like a WSU Extension anniversary poster, you can pick one up at your county Extension office.