I have spent the last twenty five years living and working in Alaska. In a market that favors landscapes and wildlife, my painting has focused on still life, florals and figures. Perhaps my favorite aspect of painting in Alaska is the low angle of the sun in summer and winter. Never directly overhead, it creates beautiful, long shadows that are constantly changing. In May Alaska sheds its winter skin and almost overnight Anchorage is showing off gardens of begonias, giant dahlias and a profusion of other blooms. Flowers and those lovely shadows have long been a favorite subject of mine. And of course, plein air opportunities in Alaska are remarkable.
I have now traded seemingly endless winters in Alaska for the warmth and sunshine of a seasonal home in Fort Myers, Florida. Besides providing great weather and endless subject matter, I found an active art community. There are plein air groups, excellent workshops, and regular opportunities to work from a model. In the last month, I have set up my easel on Sanibel, the Six Mile Cypress Slough boardwalk, and the docks of nearby marinas. In my new studio are portraits in progress, a large painting of palms newly completed and colorful bromeliads on my easel.
Becoming a “bipolar” artist has led me to contemplate the impact of place on one’s art. It goes beyond subject matter. In Alaska, there is the isolation of the market where gaining local exposure is not difficult but the national scene is a bit removed. There are many opportunities to have the spotlight on your art at local charity events and in the arts section of local publications. Your work can become easily recognized.In the relative quiet of Alaska, it has been simple and natural for me to find my identity as an artist. Less distraction and less noise yield better focus.
Florida has opened up new opportunities, but it has also introduced more noise and distraction. I now contemplate a wide variety of markets and generally find myself presented with numerous opportunities not available to me in Alaska. I am also exposed to a wider spectrum of original art here, and of course there is the matter of moving from a small puddle into the much bigger national pond. How do I move forward in this new environment?
I truly did not anticipate how substantial – at times wonderfully different, at times a bit distracting and unsettling – these issues of place would be. I find the solid foundation I have built in Alaska trembling a bit, as I consider how I should shake things up to fit my new circumstances. I am still working all this out, but I think that most of the solution lies right here, in my studio working, doing what I love to do.
This article was written by Susan Lindsey, one of the original nine signature members of NOAPS. She splits her painting time between Anchorage, Alaska and Fort Myers, Florida.