Visually Speaking: Echo Nara

Anna Horsnell

Echo Nara’s artwork reaches out and stops you in your tracks. The portraits silence time with a sideways glance, waiting, with an unwavering intensity. Her figures pose questions, often in angled layers of varying perspective. Each painting or drawing of the human form bears witness to the forethought taken by the artist, the questions asked, the answers translated into colour and shape and light.

Raised in Ontario, Nara settled in Nova Scotia shortly after university where she earned a degree in English and creative writing. Restless for a change, she switched things up by studying and teaching yoga, and then trained and competed in mixed martial arts. When she decided to step away from this world, the move was very difficult. Her sense of identity was shaken until her older brother (also an artist) suggested she start drawing again, as they had as children. She found joy. “It felt like the place where I could be exactly who I am, and where I could be most connected to other people.”

Great art comes from great understanding. For Nara, that understanding is the human body. “Faces just feel like home —they are the first thing I draw when I’m trying a new medium or feel insecure in any other way. The human form feels very natural to me as well. I was raised to be comfortable in my skin, and have loved my body through yoga and MMA. Anatomy of all forms is beautiful and mysterious to me, including spiders, birds, and plants. I suppose I see anatomy itself as a reflection of our relationship with the soul. When I examine the fine details of a face in a photograph, the micro-expressions become very clear, so I can sense the fullness of life behind a look. I think we connect quickly with subjects whose eyes are the main focus of a drawing. Perhaps eyes have evolved for the quick transmission of information between beings that don’t necessarily know each other well. That being said, the eyes are like any other part of the body—they reflect our connection with ourselves. When I was wrestling, I was always amazed at how much I could tell about a person by how they used their body on the mat.”

She continues, “I create best when I have good balance in my life. Although many artists are able to work after their day jobs with very little sleep, I find it very hard on my body (and I’ve learned to side with my body in those arguments). So, I’m happiest when I have lots of time to focus exclusively on creating. All of that being said, I feel successful when a piece resonates – either with others or myself.”

What ‘s next for Echo Nara, the artist? “I’m in the process of learning photography and digital drawing. I would like to be able to take good-quality photos for my own references, and photography is a new, exciting medium to me with lots of possibilities. Digital drawing, like every new medium, changes my style and the values I’m able to express. I have healed so much over the last couple of years and I want to express joy. Working with a computer produces an incredibly soft effect, which is wonderful when drawing the body. So, I would like to create a world that depicts pleasure, respect, and appreciation of our bodies, while also examining our planet’s changing era, post-Holocene.”

See more of Echo Nara’s work at echonara.art or on Facebook and Instagram. Any inquiries may be directed to echo.nara.art@gmail.com.