Artist Profile: Traz Hill
The winning design for the new Seal of the City and Borough of Sitka was announced Tuesday night, October 13th at the Assembly Meeting. The design was created by Aaron Traz Hill. Hill - who goes by “Traz” – is a 30-year old tattoo artist who grew up in Sitka and now lives with his
The winning design for the new Seal of the City and Borough of Sitka was announced Tuesday night, October 13th at the Assembly Meeting. The design was created by Aaron Traz Hill.
Hill – who goes by “Traz” – is a 30-year old tattoo artist who grew up in Sitka and now lives with his wife and two kids in Oklahoma.
Traz attended Blatchley Middle School and graduated from Sitka High School in 2008. He moved to Sitka in 2001 with his parents Sonja & Ron Conner, who came to Sitka through work with their church. Sonja works for AK Air and Ron for Sitka Electric.
In early October, Traz received an “unofficial” notification from CBS that his design had been selected; this was followed shortly by the $1,000 prize check, but it “really seemed real when I heard my name announced at the at the Assembly Meeting.”
How did Hill first hear about the City Seal Contest? “I was here with my wife and kids visiting my folks earlier in this spring, and they brought it to my attention.” Traz says he has traveled to Sitka a couple of times this year – the second time, sadly, for the funeral of his grandma Ursula Zertuche, who died in May. Zertuche (a naturalized U.S. citizen originally born in Germany) lived in Sitka for several years in the 80s and from 2013 until her death in 2020. In early October, Traz received an “unofficial” notification from CBS that his design had been selected; this was followed shortly by the $1,000 prize check, but it “really seemed real when I heard my name announced at the at the Assembly Meeting.”
Traz admits, “It was pretty difficult traveling (with the Covid-19 restrictions) but we were just careful and it was ok.”
Traz says growing up here influenced him as an artist and “filled me with a lot of the qualities of Sitka.” His career as a professional tattoo artist started “about seven years ago. I had dabbled before that but was not initially drawn to (that field) maybe partly because of my religious upbringing.” He has done art his “whole life, coloring and drawing from a young age.” He attended Sitka Fine Arts Camp, where besides art classes, he played percussion in jazz band, and was active in Sitka baseball.
Later on, Traz took some college art classes and “learned a lot.” He got his professional tattoo license in 2014, and is presently licensed in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Alaska.
When asked if he still draws on paper, Traz affirmed, “Every day!” His parents and grandmother were “always very supportive.” He particularly remembers “watching Bob Ross in the late 80s on PBS on grandma’s TV.” He was inspired by Ross’ show “The Joy of Painting” with its “real time” demos of oil painting techniques. Hill recalls Ross’ intimate speaking style and obvious appreciation for Alaska’s natural world.
When asked about how he came up with his city seal design, Traz said how vital it was to him to include Alaska Native design elements, because “There wouldn’t be a Sitka without Natives because they lived here first.” Thus, the prominent totem pole in the foreground of the design. The young artist also attended a “Native carving course at Fine Arts Camp (and learned that) the design elements and the process were very structured.”
“I also wanted to include both the bridge and fishing; I couldn’t decide between them.” He and one of his brothers worked in seining and tendering. ‘It was about more than (making) money,” said Hill. “There was a feeling of tranquility out on the water.”
“And I needed to get the Coast Guard (into the design), somehow, since they rescued my brother Chatham, after a potentially fatal accident.” Hence, the helicopter in the sky in Hill’s creation.
When asked about a couple of slightly different designs he had produced for the seal, Traz said that his original design had brighter colors (a notably bright orange sky). “Sitka has some really pretty days and sunsets,” he admitted. But when the City Seal committee asked the finalists to make revisions, the artist came up with his “revised design with more muted tones, for a timeless, more official feel.”
The new CBS City Seal was selected (in a blind selection process, where artists were not identified), and involved input from both the public, the City Design Review Committee, local boards and commissions, and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
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