My faith is in people. There is always extraordinariness in ordinary life, and there is always a story to tell. The stories I find myself returning to are about family, shared work, growth, the seasons, and a sense of community or place.
Children are a constant source of inspiration. They have inherent creative power, raw courage to experiment, and they ask astonishing — and altogether ordinary — questions. Much of my artwork has a playful, childlike exuberance to it, and often my stories come directly from things kids say or do:
But ducks don’t have lips!
Originally an oil painter and printmaker, I am drawn to the disciplined process of color and layer but the spirit of recycled and street art. I also have a strong practical bent that wants creativity to be useful. These are the reasons I gravitate to public art and picture books, both of which make art accessible — imperative really — to everyday life. Both forms allow me to meet people of all ages and backgrounds and chase ideas through place and time. And I get to read like a fiend and call it “research.”
Addie Boswell was raised in Corning, Iowa, a product of generations of farmers. She spent her childhood tromping around fields, nursing piglets, calves, and kittens, and reading for hours. After writing her first story (The Very Big Nose of Annabel Rose) in Mrs. Morris’ 7th grade class, she recalls thinking that she would be “an author, an artist, an actress, or a pianist” when she grew up. At art school in Washington, DC, she fell in love with oil painting and printmaking, played rugby, and travelled to Africa and Europe, drawing all the while.
When she moved to Portland in her twenties, Boswell discovered a creative mecca of artists and freelancers, cheap rent, and plenty of thrift stores and forests to get lost in. She started selling mail-order cards and paintings through galleries and art fairs, volunteering at a little recycling store named SCRAP, and teaching at various community-based programs, including The Boys & Girls Club, Campfire USA, and the Right Brain Initiative. She interned with award-winning author Elizabeth Rusch for two years and joined her decade-long critique group, Viva Scriva.
In 2008, Boswell was awarded her first public art contract: a large paper mural at the Tualatin Children’s Library. Since then, she’s created more than twenty public pieces in paint, paper, and metal for schools, hospitals, libraries, and non-profits. Her specialty is collaborative projects that answer a need for the community, such as the I-Spy murals she made for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, designed with nurses to distract and engage their child patients. She often works with local artists, art committees, and hundreds of kids and adults when making murals.
Boswell published her first picture book, The Rain Stomper in 2008 (Marshall Cavendish, now in its fifth edition). Her story Go, Bikes, Go! was featured in the Oregon Reads Aloud Anthology (Graphic Arts, 2016) and will be published as a stand-alone board book (Little Bigfoot, 2019). Her first young adult novel, a coming-of-age story titled Essa Vida/That Life, took her on residency to the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Her books focus on strong characters and spare language to capture the inherent creative power of being young. Her writing has won two Oregon Literary Fellowships, an Oregon Arts Commission grant, an Oregon Spirit Award, and a Caldera Artist Residency. While her sweet spot is picture books, she’s also currently excited about a non-fiction graphic novel on the circus, and a children’s theater piece set in a candy factory.
Boswell lives with her husband, daughter, and two cats in Portland, Oregon. She loves the rainy season, which lets her read, write, color, build things, and watch movies with impunity. She has worked for and with so many public and non-profit organizations in the city, her resume is a study in acronyms. When not working in her home studio, she leads murals and teaches workshops to kids and adults around the country.