Artist Interview - Olympic Medalist Abbey Weitzeil
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Abbey Weitzeil, I am 4x Olympic Swimming Medalist. I graduated from Cal Berkeley and I love spending time with my family and rescue dog, Weylin. I enjoy being creative, drawing, and restoring vintage furniture pieces.
Why do you do what you do?
I am passionate about competing and breaking barriers for women in sport. I love stepping up to the blocks to see how fast I can go in the water. I just finished competing in Tokyo, my second Olympic Games.
What inspires your art?
I enjoy the mind shift when I am engaged with something creative. My life is full of structure with swimming and training, so it’s nice to have a creative outlet to provide balance.
How and when did you get into art?
I took an art class during my freshman year of high school. It was there that I figured out I could draw a bit, and I soon fell in love with the process. My sister is really artistic, it’s fun to see her work.
How has your practice changed over time?
I started with just sketching, my favorite is pencil sketching. I did paint for a while, but this transformed mostly into making art for other people…portraits of famous people, I really enjoy doing portraits. I can’t make up a face, but I can duplicate a face. I recently painted a large textured plaster canvas for my friend Natalie’s house. It was challenging and rewarding to create with different materials.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?
One of my favorite pieces of art is the first painting I ever did during my freshman year of high school, a portrait of Heath Ledger. I also like a drawing I made for my previous swim coach who loved Angels baseball.
What is your favorite Strathmore paper? Why?
It really depends on what I’m doing, but I like working with the textured ”medium surface paper.”
What art materials do you always have with you?
A sketchbook and pencils. I travel frequently for swim competitions and sponsor events, and these items are easy to keep with me.
Who are your biggest influences (or who were when you started doing art)?
I honestly did not have one primary influence or significant artist who inspired me. I like to explore various artists and techniques online and find inspiration from a variety of different sources.
How does art help you cope with your rigorous schedule and relieve stress?
Art takes my mind off athletics by engaging me in different ways. Getting creative with a project is something I look forward to in my day, and it offers balance with my training schedule.
What is your favorite time and place to do art?
Mostly in my home. I don’t really like other people to watch me when I’m creating, so maybe I’ll venture out to my backyard. I enjoy the chance to work alone.
Do you have any mindfulness tricks to help yourself get into an artistic mindset?
I definitely have to be in a mood. Often, I like to have a TV show/movie on in the background, which creates a relaxing atmosphere for me.
What is your favorite Olympic memory?
At the 2016 Rio Olympics and also during this year’s Tokyo Olympics, all of the swimmers sang as a team in the courtyard of the Athlete Village in Tokyo. It was an incredibly powerful moment to share with my teammates. Other Team USA athletes from different sports came out of their rooms to their balcony to sing with us, America the Beautiful led by Coach Dave Durden. It was very emotional and memorable. Each swim event of the Olympics was written on a piece of paper. One by one, each event was called separately, and then represented by an American flag that was staked in the ground. This experience truly captured a unique moment in time for me.
What did you most look forward to at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
I was so proud to represent Team USA at my second Olympic Games in Tokyo. Especially on the backend of such an unusual time due to COVID, I was happy simply to have the opportunity to compete and represent my country.
How does art help you prepare for a big event like the Olympics?
Art allows my mind to relax so I am not thinking about swimming 24/7.
What’s it like to be at the Olympics as an athlete? Do you have any events that you like to check out as a spectator?
I especially like to watch gymnastics, track & field, synchronized swimming, surfing, and beach volleyball.
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