Local illustrator’s poster features powerful message

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With summer events canceled en masse, once vibrant and colorful bulletin boards around Port Townsend now sit mostly empty.

Before the pandemic, real estate on local bulletin boards was at a premium; today it’s a buyers market. Rose Burt, local artist and illustrator, said she hopes her “Attention Citizen!” poster can bring some beauty back into these empty spaces.

Burt’s now-iconic design features what she calls an earth goddess named “Gaia Antonia,” who brings important messages of resilience to the people of Port Townsend.

The first design, which began circulating in June, features a masked and tan woman with flowing black-blue hair and a crown of flowers. She is holding a bouquet of vegetables in one arm and proudly displaying the other in a raised fist.

Burt revisited the design when protests calling for racial justice in policing began to sweep the nation and the local community. Revising the poster digitally, Burt added the words “Black Lives Matter” across the top of the and gave the goddess the scales of justice.

The posters can be found displayed in shop windows and on bulletin boards in Uptown and downtown Port Townsend.

The project started as the brainchild of local author and publisher Arendt Speser, Burt said. Speser commissioned Burt, whom he frequently works with for his publishing company, Andante Books, to create a design for a public service announcement pamphlet series titled “Attention Citizen!”

The goal was simple; a colorful image with very little text that would serve as a call to action.

The first version, titled “Our Lady of the Rona,” was designed to promote mask wearing and was originally intended to be a part of the Jeffco Cares initiative by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

Then Speser began to print and distribute the posters.

Burt said her goal was to portray wearing a mask as a powerful and simple act people can do to protect and take care of each other. She wanted Gaia Antonia to evoke an image of female empowerment and strength.

Shortly before the first large demonstration in Port Townsend against systemic racism, Burt said she wondered how her character could help to represent an even larger movement. That was when she went back to create the second version.

The original poster was done in watercolors, which is one of Burt’s main mediums along with ink, pencil and digital.

Burt attended design school at the Cornish College of the Arts, where she said they used almost entirely digital programs to create. She realized after leaving school how much she missed the physicality of pencil and paper, so she developed her style to begin in the tangible world before transferring to the digital. She said she enjoys using both mediums because they create works that have a unique human quality while also being finely tuned.

Her work is often colorful with a touch of mystical whimsy and a sketchbook style.

As a designer and illustrator, Burt does commissioned work for books, campaigns and events.

Burt said the response to the piece from the community has been very encouraging. She said it is one of the first times she has had her work so largely displayed and had so many people commenting on it.

She said she sees the poster’s message delivery as fairly unique because of how little text it displays. In contrast to a poster advertising an event that will have times, dates and places, Burt’s piece is simple.

“It’s almost just art for art’s sake. Just something to enjoy as you go about your day,” she said. “I hope she inspires people.”

Both versions of the Gaia Antonia poster can be found at www.andantebooks.com.

Contact Burt at rose.c.burt@gmail.com.

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