Critical Lines: Andrea Trimble’s Art Merges Natural, Built Worlds

January 2, 2023 By Matt Kelly, Matt Kelly,

In Andrea Trimble’s drawings, worlds merge. The built environment stakes its claim and nature presses its inevitability. Sometimes structure morphs into nature through the slender black lines that capture what she’s seen and where she’s been.

“I use pen and ink mostly to depict different locations that I see in my travels, usually something that captures my eye,” Trimble said.

Once an architect, Trimble is interested in the built environment of buildings and streetscapes. Many of her drawings are representational, but she views some hyper-realistically – utility poles may morph into trees – and others in the abstract.

“I draw abstract trees and lately I have been incorporating more of them into my work with connections to ideas about climate change,” she said, citing pieces she is preparing for a March show at Charlottesville’s McGuffey Art Center. “Those end up being a lot of utility poles turning into trees and streetscapes with nature taking over. I explore the idea of built environment and natural environment and how they interact in a little more abstract way.”

Trimble, director of UVA’s Office for Sustainability, usually makes smaller drawings, but is experimenting with larger sizes in her upcoming show, “Critical Lines,” preparing some pieces up to 5 feet wide. Her work is expanding in other directions as well.

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Art work clipped to a string hanging on the wall
Trimble’s art surrounds her in her home studio. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

“I have been experimenting with color a little bit more,” she said. “Something that stands out, like the way the sky is framed and there is blue in there, or a tree is coming into the built environment and there is some green there.”

Trimble’s art is about how she sees the world.

“I think a lot of my art is stopping and really looking at something that we pass by everyday,” she said. “Or really looking at the relationships between things a lot more deliberately.”

A sketch of a street in a city

Trimble’s art is drawn from her own experiences and travels. (Contributed drawing)

This has brought her to capture some of the yin and yang of human constructs versus nature.

“For a while it really was about ‘How does the built environment bring meaning to us?’” she said. “It is different for everybody. What is the interaction between human-built environment and the natural environment? What does it mean when the humans are gone? Nature takes back over eventually, ruins where nature is taking over. Some of my art lately has been nature combined with a built environment, focused on commentary about our changing climate.”

Trimble’s studio is on the second floor of the Charlottesville home she shares with her husband and two children. One-third of the room is her office she uses when she works remotely for UVA Sustainability. The rest is her studio. A drafting table created from a door, cans full of pens and brushes, trays of watercolor paints, sketch pads and note cards filled with thin-lined pen-and-ink drawings attest to her life as an artist. On one side of the room is a four-drawer art cabinet, its top covered with her children’s Harry Potter Lego structures. Trimble’s drawings and watercolors surround her in this world.

Trimble aspired early to be an artist, working with painting, batik and sculpture in high school and later settling on the thin black lines during architecture school, a career that she practiced in Boston.

Sketch of a view from a window looking outt at roof tops and clotheslines

Trimble translates what she sees into detailed line drawings. (Contributed drawing)

“You are using the right side of your brain, being creative, but there is also a very practical left-brained aspect to architecture where you are measuring dimensions that need to fit or drawing in perspective,” she said. “Collaboration is also integral, an aspect that I value in my role in UVA Sustainability. You are a member of a team, working for someone who is asking you to design something.”

Architecture is an important part of Trimble’s work because it is all around and always changing, giving meaning and memories through houses, workplaces and public buildings.

“A lot of the art I have been doing tries to capture that sense of place, even if it is temporarily through travel,” she said.

While she has been an artist most of her life, Trimble decided to go public with her work only a few years ago.

“I think it was the pandemic, really,” she said. “That feeling of ‘Life is short and going by really fast and what am I waiting for? Am I waiting until I am established?’

Close up of Trimble's desk covered in sketches
Trimble fills notebooks and sheets of paper with her visions of the built and natural world in her drawing table. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

“I hear a lot of artists say their work is not good enough or it’s not ready. I started doing it and stopped worrying about whether other people liked it. I just put it out there because I like creating art.”

Trimble praised Charlottesville’s strong and vibrant arts community for its support.

“It is nerve-wracking to put it out there and thinking that people are going to think it’s bad. There are so many amazing artists in Charlottesville.” she said. “It went much better than I thought.”

Trimble credited Debbie White and the StARTup Studio, funded by the Jefferson Trust with in-kind support from the Batten Institute at UVA’s Darden School of Business, for helping artists cope with the business side of things.

It's closer than you think. University of Virginia Northern Virginia
It's closer than you think. University of Virginia Northern Virginia

“Debbie White got artists together to do workshops and she really encouraged artists to put their work out there and be a little bit braver,” Trimble said.

Trimble and fellow artist Jessica Livingston, student affairs director at UVA’s School of Education and Human Development, started a community art project called Draw Charlottesville.

“We hold events, exhibitions and workshops to encourage community members of all ages to draw, particularly drawings of places that are important to them in the Charlottesville area,” Trimble said.

Trimble’s evolving art is available on her website.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications