By Christina Whiting
Fourteen years ago, dreaming of a simple life in a tight knit, creative community, 23-year-old Torie Rhyan moved to Homer with four dollars in her pocket and a set of fine point pens, pencils and a sketch pad in her suitcase.
“It was time for a change and I wanted to live somewhere where people worked and pulled together and took care of one another,” she said.
Inspired by the working artists around her, Rhyan is now pursuing the life of a full, time working artist for herself.
Rhyan began creating fine point pen and pencil drawings at a very young age, encouraged by an art teacher who recognized her talent and passion.
“An only child, drawing was escapism for me and was a way to express my inner world,” she said.
Last year, wanting to play with more color than pen and pencil drawings allow, Rhyan taught herself acrylic painting. Intimidated by the painting process, she began by focusing on brush strokes and shading and studying geometry to learn to create images by putting shapes together.
Her creative process begins when she takes photographs of what inspires her, which is primarily marine life and wildlife, from moose in her yard to otters in the bay. With a photograph in hand, she sits on the floor in front of a bright window, either in her 12 foot x 16 foot cabin or at her boyfriend’s house, with her dog at her side and her paints and easel in front of her. She lightly outlines her drawing in pencil, paints the background base colors and then paints in the base colors for the image.
“The images become more and more alive with each layer of paint added,” she said. “Every layer helps to bring the piece to life. It’s challenging, but I love seeing what a paintbrush can do.”
Last year, at the encouragement of friends, Rhyan showed her work in a solo exhibit at K Bay Caffe, displaying nine paintings that were a mix of acrylic, watercolor and fine point pen. Three paintings sold during the opening reception and by the close of her exhibit, another four had sold, nurturing her dream of pursuing a living as a full time artist.
“Sharing was the first step, but having my work be so successful really encouraged me,” she said.
This June, Rhyan will showcase her latest body of work at K Bay Caffe. Fun, Fine Art by Torie Rhyan is an exhibit of acrylic paintings incorporating metallic acrylic and sparkle paints, with subject matters including marine life, wildlife and a few surprises, like a retro cow, inspired by a photograph of a Scottish Highland cow.
With one solo exhibit to her credit and another to take place, Rhyan is moving closer to her goal of becoming a professional, working artist. Along with creating and displaying bodies of work, she is also offering custom, commission drawings and paintings.
Her first commission piece was a large caricature of a man’s wife, drawing the woman as a mermaid. The husband loved the drawing so much that he commissioned her to draw his entire family. These four paintings hang in the family’s arctic entryway.
Rhyan’s work is also on display year round at The Washboard laundromat, where she has worked since she moved to Homer, after spending five weeks in Alaska with her father in 1995, exploring gold mining camps north of Fairbanks.
“When I went home, Alaska stayed with me,” she said. “I was hooked.”
Searching the Internet for a ‘small Alaskan town that was on the water and had an active arts scene’, Rhyan found Homer.
“Being in Homer felt like being wrapped in a comfortable blanket,” she said. It still does.”
She is grateful for the community support that has further nurtured her creativity.
“When Michael opened up his colorful walls at K Bay, it allowed someone like me who has been quiet about my art to feel more comfortable about displaying my art,” she said. “Now that I know it’s okay and that people are supportive, there’s a fire underneath me.”
Helping to fan the flames of her creative fire are local artists she admires, like Bill Kitzmiler.
“Bill is an amazing artist who is so dedicated to his art,” she said. “His background in biology and how he applies it to the accuracy in anatomy within the natural world inspires me to want to get in to scientific drawings.”
In addition to trying her hand at scientific drawings, she would also like to create a book that teaches others to learn to draw.
“I hear people say that they can’t draw, but by teaching myself to paint, I’ve learned that anyone can learn,” she said. “It’s all about how you approach it.”
Fourteen years, ago, Torie Rhyan came to Homer a broke, 23 year old girl with a dream of living the artist’s life. Today, she is making her dream come true.
Fun, Fine Art by Torie Rhyan opens at K Bay Caffe on Friday, June 6 with a reception 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and will be on display through the month of June.
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