The walls of the bonus room of Brooke Foster’s childhood home are lined with representations of her immense skill.
While you’d expect them to be trophies of tournaments won or plaques for most valuable player awards, instead they are adorned with drawings.
The Northwest Nazarene University redshirt sophomore volleyball player is an avid drawer. She even recently illustrated a novel and is a promising student in the graphic design program.
“I don’t like being portrayed as just an athlete,” Foster said. “Especially because I wouldn’t consider volleyball my main passion. I’d consider art my main passion.”
The Boise, Idaho native earned honorable mention All-America honors earlier this month from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. She was named honorable mention all-West Region and first-team all-Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
The highlight of her fall, though, was partnering with her high school English teacher, Greg Hoetker, to illustrate his debut novel, "A Leg in Oklahoma City."
Hoetker, a teacher at Timberline High School in Boise, printed a first edition and then stumbled upon Foster’s art Instagram page. He reached out to his former student to see if she’d be interested in doing some sketches related to the book.
“Her sketches are pretty simple fuse line sketches,” he said. “It fit with what I wanted to do with the motif.”
Foster’s sketches ended up adorning the cover and being sandwiched throughout the love story part of the book. She created more than 20 sketches in all for the novel.
“It’s nice to have true student-athletes in the Valley,” he said. “To know that we have people in the Valley who can kick butt on the court and in the classroom, is awesome.”
Foster used one-line contour drawing in the book’s illustrations, which she learned in a drawing class with Professor Amy Gilles last semester. Foster, who likes to draw from visual samples rather than just her imagination, utilized the help of her roommate — and teammate — McKenzie Lee to take images to help inspire the book drawings.
“I was home one night and she said she really needed to take a picture of me,” said Lee, an Eagle, Idaho native. “It kind of became our every night thing. It was cool because it is really cool to help my friend out. I became super invested in it and it was fun to be a part of.”
The pair would wander campus taking different portraits of Lee. Sometimes she was sitting against a tree in the middle of the quad or laying on the ground or pretty much anything Foster could come up with.
“There was one where we have a ball pillow,” Lee said. “In the book, she is pregnant. I had to get on the bed and she backlit me with a light and I had to take some pregnancy photos. That one was pretty weird.”
It all added up, though, to a book release party at JUMP in Boise. Foster gave a speech talking about the process she used for the illustrating and then went through a question and answer time. It was a unique opportunity for a college student to have.
“It is about her foray into the world,” Hoetker said. “Sometimes getting these opportunities to perform and work as an artist outside of the classroom is really fun to see.”
Foster began her collegiate career as an elementary education major. She loves kids and wanted to be able to help them achieve their dreams, but after student teaching, she decided it wasn’t for her.
NNU volleyball coach Doug English jokingly told her that if she liked drawing so much, why didn’t she get an education in it. While English was just fooling about, it did plant a seed in Foster’s mind.
“I was kind of concerned about making my passion my career,” she said. “I’m really experimenting and the book was kind of part of that. Now that I have taken the route of illustrating, it is something I really love. I don’t know what that looks like in the future, but I know I love to draw. So, if I can do that for a career that would be really cool.”
Foster’s skills have blossomed since she has been in the graphic design program. It has taken hard work and dedication to keep her grades up, as traveling with the volleyball team takes away from her studio work.
“There have been several projects where she has come to me and said, ‘I’m going to be flying to Alaska for this match do you have any recommendations on what to do?’” said Gilles, the professor of the "Drawing and Painting in Studio Art" class. “We fitted her up with different carrying techniques for certain projects and she was working on her graphic design on the plane. She has never turned in a late assignment and they have always been really good. Some of the highest quality in the class.”
That type of dedication to her work is evident in the classroom and on the volleyball court and it is not lost on her professors or coaches.
“It’s really exciting,” Gilles said. “You have students who maybe have some natural talent or some inclination, but it is really exciting to see both of those in the same student and somebody so clearly gifted, but also willing to put the time in to improve. It is really exciting for all of us.”
And it all but guarantees the Foster family might need another room to house Brooke’s work.