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This Fairbanks artist’s unique ink drawings blend scientific illustrations and magical realism

  • Author: Cheyenne Mathews
  • Updated: December 14, 2018
  • Published December 14, 2018

Elizabeth Lent stands in front of one of her ink drawings. (Courtesy Elizabeth Lent)

Elizabeth Lent is a jack of all trades and a master of one.

While she’s been recognized for her writing and photography prowess, she’s starting to make a name for herself in Alaska through her ink drawings. That name, however, is not Elizabeth Lent. Instead, she uses the name van Lent as a way of reconnecting with her Dutch heritage.

A Fairbanks resident, Lent was introduced to her pseudonym after her father had come across a book about their Dutch family as they settled in America.

“There’s a little bit of silliness to it and like no particular reason for anything and this one gentleman that came over from Holland on that ship said, ‘You know what, I’m going to take any name and that name is going to be van Lent.’ And that is the person who went forth and had all this land and children,” Lent said. “And then land disappeared and our name disappeared too with the land, and we’re just the Lents. And van Lent has been lost.”

The story resonated with Lent and she’s used the name on her ink drawings since.

’Pacific Golden Nutrients ’ (Courtesy Elizabeth Lent)

“In reclaiming that name, I’ve come to realize how many other stories I have to reclaim as well,” Lent said. “That’s just one path of my history on my father’s side. I think mostly it’s been really valuable in realizing how much there is to learn.”

Lent’s curiosity is reflected in her ink drawings. She likes to research the environment around her to make a cross between scientific illustrations and magical realism. Most of her pieces feature staples of Alaskan wildlife and plant life, from salmon to mushrooms. One of the most popular pieces from Lent’s showcase at Snow City in July was a drawing of the salmon life cycle.

“While I am here and making art and Alaskan people are seeing my art, I am definitely drawing Alaskan flora and fauna, and I’m doing the research and doing my best to be as well informed as I can to draw it as well as I possibly can,” Lent said. “But it would change if I was traveling somewhere else for a period of time because I would get curious about the things around me.”

Lent’s passion for ink drawings started while she was in college studying fine arts and writing at the Art Institute of Chicago. She studied abroad at a small college in Ireland for a part of her university experience, and that’s where she started really connecting with ink drawings.

Before college, 22-year-old Lent had never considered herself an artist. While she enjoyed art courses in high school, she never felt like she was anything more than just a creative person. After she finished her degree at the Art Institute, Lent was looking for any creative endeavors when she came across an application for the photography competition Rarefied Light.

“I was just looking for anything to do, any opportunity I could apply for just to get back in the game of art after taking a break,” Lent said.

’Salmon Life Cycle ’ (Courtesy Elizabeth Lent)

The Alaska Photographic Center said they received 610 entries to the competition from 91 artists. Lent was among the 34 artists recognized at the show.

While she is passionate about photography, Lent says it’s her ink drawings that she spends most of her time working on. After her solo show in July, van Lent received commissions on everything from her life cycle drawings to requests for illustrations on marriage certificates.

Lent will be displaying her work at the Christmas Village marketplace at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. She will have original illustrations, prints, sweatshirts, T-shirts, cards and enamel pins for sale.

Lent’s next big project is an exhibition at Fat Ptarmigan in March featuring birds and botanicals. For more information about Lent’s work, visit her website at