Erin McKittrick and Valisa Higman


My Coyote Nose and Ptarmigan Toes
Written by Erin McKittrick, Artwork by Valisa Higman
First Friday reception: 5-7 p.m. Friday, March 3
Exhibit dates: March 3–28, 2017

A collaboration between sisters-in-law, this “almost true Alaskan adventure,” was inspired by an Expedition Erin and her family undertook around Cook Inlet. The long journey with small children was daunting, but Erin was impressed by her son's ability to use his imagination to get through challenges along the way. Returning home, the book came to life over the course of many dinner conversations. Valisa lives on the same property as Erin and her family, making it easy to bring their heads together.  

"We are excited to present, for the first time, the original work from the children's book, published by Sasquatch Publishing out of Seattle, WA. Along with the finished pages, we wanted to give viewers a glimpse into the process of making a book. Sketches, manuscripts, e-mails, edits and inspirations will be presented alongside framed pieces."

Erin McKittrick Biography:

Erin regularly explores the forests, mountains and coastlines of Alaska with her husband Hig and children Katmai and Lituya. Their exploits range from weekly hikes with the town's preschoolers to multi-month wilderness expeditions. My Coyote Nose and Ptarmigan Toes was inspired by a three-and-a-half month journey the family took around the shores of Cook Inlet, when four-year-old Katmai transformed himself into a mammoth to weather an unseasonable blizzard.

“Over the years I've hiked with everything from unicorns and mammoths to eagles and wolves. Imagination is a child's greatest power. While an adult may approach a challenge with her rational mind, a child can solve the same problem—more joyfully—by pretending,” says Erin.

Erin is the author of three adult nonfiction books about her family's adventures, A Long Trek Home and Small Feet Big Land, and newly released Mud Flats and Fish Camps: 800 Miles Around Cook Inlet. This was her first children's book, though there is a second one in the works.  

Valisa Higman Biography:

Valisa’s artwork is inspired by a deep connection to both her natural surroundings and her community. She has always enjoyed playing with knives and scissors, and grew up watching her mom hand cut silk-screens and her dad carve intricate images in wood. Seeing the possibilities, she combined her background in drawing and her love of bold saturated colors with the medium of cut-paper. 

Her images start as a single sheet of black paper. Carving away at the background using an xacto-knife, her images are revealed in an intricate lacework of lines. Using the black as her foreground, she fills the negative space by piecing together layers of paper in vibrant colors and textures. As a finishing touch, she adds the last details and shading with watercolor. 

Valisa was born and raised in Seldovia, Alaska, and studied psychology and art at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She returned to Seldovia in 2012, and currently rows to work at Schooner Beach on Seldovia Bay where she has repurposed her dad’s old wood shop into a studio space.