Meet an Artist Fellow: Illustrator, Courtney Ahn

Hi, I’m Courtney, but everybody calls me Courn! I’m a multidisciplinary designer, illustrator, and freelance creative based in Portland, Oregon. My direct experience as a Korean American has largely shaped my career philosophy, serving as inspiration for the social justice advocacy present in my creative work. Through my freelance studio, Courtney Ahn Design, I aim to provide accessible design services for small BIPOC business owners and partner with organizations working directly in the equity space as a force for good. In the past year, I’ve found purpose in using art as a tool for activism, sharing weekly posts navigating antiracism and oppressive systems through my Instagram account, @courtneyahndesign.

I’ve always felt an immense connection to nature growing up in the PNW; from as early as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by climbing forests of evergreens, winding hiking paths, and never more than a couple minutes away from the beach. Through the years, much of that connection was lost as I pursued a career in the design industry, switching to long work schedules, spending weekends managing my freelance business, and being too burnt out to do anything else in my free time. But it’s been such an empowering decision to make more time for myself the past year and reconnect in so many ways I was unable to before: actually having weekends off to enjoy the outdoors, making time in my day to walk my dog/actually work outside(weather permitting!), and being able to take more intentional trips to the outdoors. This reconnection has been incredibly impactful for me in sustaining my creative work and taking better care of myself.

I quite enjoyed it! I wish I could say I came up with this great big idea while I was away, but it was quite the opposite. I thought about nothing creative or work-related…and that was really empowering for me. As someone whose mind and body is always racing a million miles a minute for the next deadline, it’s incredibly challenging to turn it all off. I guess it took quite literally not being able to connect to it to remove myself from those worries. And while I can’t say that I’ve found a new lease on life after a couple days away, I will say that the intentional break in my schedule has really let me slow down and re-evaluate the pace at which I was working unsustainably.

You can keep up with Courtney’s work on her Instagram and her website.

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