Q&A: Holly Briggs, Metro Pulse Triage artist and art teacher at Mooreland Heights Elementary

Using twins as a concept, what are you saying about the duality of the imagery on opposing pages?

All of these pieces, whether they be drawings or paintings, come from my journal. I think it is only natural that the two opposing pages produce "twins." There are several finished pieces in the book that incorporate both pages to produce one finished piece. However, I feel that the competing nature of twin imagery speaks more to my strong suit. They can stand independently on their own, but more often than not, they work better as a pair.

You have a lovely sketch quality to some of these, yet they also feel "finished." How do you know when you've finished a piece of art?

I try to spend the same amount of time and effort on each of these paintings in my journal as I would spend on a canvas painting. I work on the art until it feels done.

For a series, one of these calls out to me as different from the others. You've got birds, trees, feathers... And patterns. How does "Twin Patterns" fit into what's ostensibly a nature series?

I understand your sentiment. However, the pieces I have selected to submit are just a few examples from a relatively full journal. I find that the portable book format allows me to work on my art virtually anywhere, at any time. The Twin Patterns collage was made using remnants of student artwork from my classroom. I often make artwork along side my students, and it is important for them to see that I am not only their teacher, but also a practicing artist. Plus, I like to shake it up! I can't just draw trees all the time!

Have you seen Portlandia's "Put a Bird On It" clip? I think they hit the nail on the head with all the damn birds everywhere. But your birds are quite different. What did you take from that comedy sketch and how do you see birds as a design motif?

I think that Portlandia is a stroke of comedic genius. It is true that birds are the "hot" motif in the art/craft world right now. They are dangerously close to becoming overwrought and cliche. Take a stroll through ETSY! It's nothing but birds, beards, mustaches, antlers, and feathers. It is a shame, really, because when studied closely, birds provide a beautiful challenge. They are intricate, complex, and diverse—and are owed much respect. I try to reflect that in my work, instead of dismissing them as the simplified symbolic nonsense that keeps appearing in pop culture.

Speaking of birds, "Twin Birds" appear to be dead birds. Why do you hate birds?

HA! These Twin Birds were painted using a taxonomy portrait of exotic birds and their feathers as a reference. They were probably dead when originally painted. So sorry! Take it up with the 19th century Naturalist who originally catalogued the animal.

I love "Twin Trees" with the totem frame. Are you saying anything particular about Native American art?

When I painted that particular picture, we were studying artwork of the Northwest Indians in my fourth-grade art class. I was inundated with Native American design, and I wanted to try and incorporate the symmetrical design in my own artwork. I also genuinely love the artwork of the Haida and the Tlingit. It is incredibly distinct! It seemed a natural fit to emulate the natural symbology and combine it with a realistic depiction of nature.