It’s easy to think of something you wish you had more time for, but it’s February and the New Year’s resolution to ‘read more’ or ‘find more time for yoga’ may have stayed in January. This balancing act is something Leslie Byrd knows well.
Byrd, who works a full-time job with Kenai Peninsula College, is a painter. From now until April, her work will be on display throughout the shelves at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Soldotna Public Library.
She isn’t an artist by trade, but by passion, having found both motivation and inspiration when she moved to Alaska in 2013.
“I took a bunch of art classes when I was young, but then I got to college and thought I should be sensible and chose another major to study,” Byrd said on Tuesday night at the library, during an opening reception for the show. “Then I moved up here in 2013 and when I went home to visit a friend that Christmas she took me to a paint and sip art event. It just rekindled everything.”
From there, Byrd sought out inspiration in her surroundings and looked for time to bring that inspiration to life on the canvas.
“I have a lot of ideas, I just don’t have the time,” Byrd said. “… I did a mash up last year of ‘Starry Night’ with Mount Redoubt in the forefront and it was such a big hit. People really like it, so I’ve been thinking of more mashups.”
The art on display, acrylic paintings, are a diverse bunch. A triptych titled ‘Piping Hot’ graces the far wall and shows the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
“I went on a trip with some friends and was really inspired by the pipeline,” Byrd said on Tuesday night, during an opening reception held at the library. “So I painted this scene on three panels, but made it so that if I find the time I’ll expand on the panels.”
Across the wall from “Piping Hot” is the solar system, drawn to scale.
“I pulled out my ruler and was measuring down, being really precise with it,” Byrd said. For the sun, though, just a portion of it is painted.
“If I did the whole sun, to scale, it would have been huge,” Byrd said.
Byrd goes beyond celestial bodies, though, and said she really enjoys painting human figures. Although they, sometimes, can be a little too risky for the public library, she had several on display during the opening reception.
“I really do like painting those,” Byrd said. “And they turn out to be really popular… Although they aren’t really based off of anyone in particular, usually just photos I find on the internet.”
Byrd’s paintings will be on display through April, or you can find her at several of the area craft shows throughout the year, alongside her fellow local artists.
“I try to connect with other medium artists, it’s always helpful,” Byrd said. “And I’ve gotten a lot of help from the Soldotna Library Friends to help set this up.”
The Soldotna Library Friends are always looking for new artists to feature in the library, according to City Librarian Rachel Nash.
“It’s for any artist and we love working with emerging artists to get the word out there about their work,” Nash said. “We have an art committee through them, and people basically can email or drop off their submissions here,” Nash said. Interested artists can visit SoldotnaLF.wordpress.com for more information on being featured in the library, or to help with organizing the art displays.
“The other fun thing is that if there are artists that are interested in helping,” Nash said. “They review the submissions and organize the displays. they also come in and help set them up and take them down.
Byrd said that once her artwork comes down, a new artist will be on display for the summer and then another for the fall.
In the meantime, she’ll be looking for more time to pick up the paintbrush.
“I wish I could do it a lot more often, because I’ve gotten a lot of requests to do certain things and I love that,” she said. “I love when people ask me to do a painting, and I do it and they like it, but it’s just trying to work in the time.”