“I am jealous of seeing people doing projects over quarantine. For me, the first 9 months of the pandemic were the most critical in my life!” Austin is a painter, and for a stable income, he works in a hospital registering patients. Even so, he managed to save 7 or 8 hours a week for his painting, whether at night, after his wife and daughter went to sleep, or using his lunch breaks in the hospital. “Knowing how limited my time is, I have learned to make the most of every minute,” he says.
In his garage, where he takes the interview, beside tall SUVs, there are art supplies everywhere, mixed with gym equipment that he uses when he takes breaks from painting. On the easel is his latest painting, a nude pregnant woman lit by the typical red sunset light in Alaska, against the cool blueish shadows of the ice and snow. It took him 8 months to complete, although he also did tiny paintings in the hospital during lunch breaks.
Homer is a fishing town with a huge bay and attracts many artists. He opens the door of the garage to show me what it's like outside. There are one and a half meters of snow, trees, and no neighboring houses close enough to be seen. No one wears masks here; you can walk for one hour and not see anyone. In this period, there is light for 15 hours, but in winter, it's just a continuous, dark night. “It doesn't affect me, I keep busy, and I know that the light will eventually come,” he says.
I ask Austin how he found himself in Alaska, being originally from Colorado, and he tells me that he graduated just after the big economic recession of 2008. There were not many chances to make a decent living. A friend of his told him that he had secured a decently paid job in Alaska, so Austin decided to move and got his job in the hospital. Although for his paintings, the lower U.S states are a better market, stability here is the key.