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Community Spotlight: Courtney Wirthit, BKB Queensbridge

We spotlight Courtney Wirthit, our #WCW, illustrator, and kickass team member at BKB Queensbridge in Long Island City. Fun fact: she’s published a graphic novel, which is on sale at Forbidden Planet.

Courtney Wirhit, illustrator & BKB Queensbridge team member.
Courtney Wirhit, illustrator & BKB Queensbridge team member.

Who are you and how did you get to Brooklyn Boulders?
I am Courtney Wirthit, born and raised in Maryland, studied illustration in Savannah, Georgia, and moved up to New York two days after I graduated. I’ve lived here for almost four years now, and after leaving my sedentary 9-5 office job as a graphic designer to pursue freelance more, I found I needed another physical outlet. Freelance has me working at home a lot, and I like interacting and meeting new people. As I started climbing more, I decided to join the team and really bring climbing more into my life and still illustrate in my own time.

How did you start climbing?
I spent a lot of my childhood climbing trees if I weren’t in ballet class and on the rock walls in summer camp. When I went away for an outdoor camp, my favorite activities were anything that involved us climbing too. I actually went to another climbing gym one day in the city two years ago once with an old friend and I really enjoyed it. At the time, I didn’t know other people who climbed as much and didn’t have a lot of extra money to pursue the interest. Finally, in mid-December 2015, I saw another friend of mine was bouldering at BKB Queensbridge on his Instagram, and he invited me. I picked it up quickly again, within a week joined as a member and started coming in as often as I could.

Courtney, bouldering at BKB Queensbridge in Long Island City.
Courtney, bouldering at BKB Queensbridge in Long Island City.

What is your climbing philosophy?

It’s comparable to how I approach my own personal projects in art. I don’t compare myself to other people and other artists, I focus on myself and my own growth. I always want to try to focus on improving and experiment with a different approach to how I may finish a project or piece of art and be really proud of myself as the outcome. It takes discipline and technique, and some days aren’t your best days, if it’s with climbing or drawing. I also used to have bad anxiety built from remnants from a toxic relationship, which is why I needed a physical routine to help bring back my focus. Because I’ve found something that’s so different from my career in art but still so similar in philosophy, I have grown to be happier in life and with myself as a person.

What are your current biggest projects, on and off the wall?

My biggest projects tend to be on the 30 and 45 walls at BKB OG and also ones that involve big power moves. Off the wall, I’ve been juggling various projects with clients such as Thrillist, but also starting the second issue of my personal graphic novel series, “Fragments“. I started “Fragments” as a form of art therapy for myself in October, and to share various autobiographical short stories with people I felt could relate. I like drawing intimate moments and when I see how much people like it because they can see themselves in it, it’s really inspiring for me. I completed the first issue back in December and have received great feedback from it, so I am motivated to begin the next collection of short stories to add to it.

Can you talk more about “Fragments”?
I had been wanting to do a graphic novel for a long time, but never felt like I had a good idea to share and I also feared losing interest in the process of drawing it if I spent too much time drafting it. I finally realized that I could draw from what I know, because that’s what I have always done as an illustrator and that maybe I could work on a compilation of short stories that way it could keep my attention and excitement. I sat on the idea for several months until I was freelancing full time in the fall of 2015. I was battling a lot of inner demons at the same time, so I finally pushed myself to start the project and gave myself of a hard deadline to complete it.
Fragments, a graphic novel by Courtney Wirthit
Fragments, a graphic novel by Courtney Wirthit, on sale at Forbidden Planet
The stories are autobiographical and served as an emotional purge for me. They aren’t told in chronological order because it plays on the idea of how memories come back to you – sporadic and fragmented. There’s symbolism dispersed throughout it, like the color purple and reasons why I created certain pages the way I did and so on. When people I know read it, I’m always curious to see if they caught any of them. I have a list of questions to ask, like what story they liked the most and why, what stood out to them, etc. I learned a lot about myself as I worked on it and for the first time since school, I remembered how cathartic drawing is for me. Eventually, as I print more issues with new stories, I’d like for them all to be compiled into one book.

Who or what inspires you?

Music is always my main source of inspiration. I am constantly listening to music when I work, and I love how it’s another art form that’s so universal in language. Recently I am stuck on Whitney Houston to Timecop1983 to Grimes. I cover a broad range of musical genres, but lately I like music that has a good beat I can dance around to and keep me up with positive vibes or I can zone out and work to.

courtney wirthit illustrator 1

My parents also inspire me. They’re both very different people and on opposite ends of the country, but despite differences between them and their divorce, they worked hard together to support me and all of the interests and hobbies I found. They’re both consistently proud of me and have never denied my aspirations or made me feel small for dreaming big.

Say hi to Courtney next time you’re at Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge!

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