East Naples artist continues activism with new series of paintings
In the year since Naples artist Dora Knuteson sold out her first “Clean Our Seas” series of wildlife paintings, a lot has changed.
“Clean Our Seas” comprised 22 paintings. Almost $2,000 of the proceeds from their sale went to environmental action nonprofit Captains for Clean Water with a GivingTuesday match bringing that total closer to $3,000. At the time, Knuteson painted when she wasn’t working remotely as an art director for a marketing agency based in her native Wisconsin, pouring as much time and energy into developing her craft as she could muster.
Now, she’s creating a second edition of her series, titled “Clean Our Seas II,” benefitting Friends of Rookery Bay as their Featured Artist of the Year.
Between this year’s series and the last, Knuteson’s circumstances have changed drastically. She left her job with the marketing agency and focuses full-time on her art — something she wouldn’t have expected this time last year.
From last year: Naples artist paints fish in her own version of activism
“My dream was always to be able to do that and I never expected that to happen so quickly,” she said.
On any given day, you might find her working out of the second bedroom-turned-studio in her East Naples apartment. Renting a studio is a hope for the future. For now, she makes do with what she has.
A sheet of plastic is draped across a wall behind a metal mount. You might find Knuteson sitting cross-legged, an apron wrapped around her torso, loading her brush with acrylic paints from the palette at her side and layering them onto the canvas.
On a day in late November, that’s exactly what Knuteson is doing. She has two canvases mounted, the lowest one within easy reach of the world of colors that lay waiting, ready, between the bristles of her paintbrush. On a table behind her sit a dozen canvases, starfish dominating the compositions, that still need to be varnished, signed and stamped. To her right is another, smaller canvas, a turtle-in-progress. Between the futon and the walls are more, unused canvasses, waiting for their artist.
Fans of her work, like Jan Marchuk, enjoy Knuteson’s distinct, free-flowing style. Marchuk, in an interview last year, said she and Knuteson met through work.
“It’s peaceful. It’s colorful. It just makes you feel like you have sunshine coming from inside out,” Marchuk said.
Others in Knuteson’s life, like her husband John, see the passion and joy she derives from creating art.
“Once she focuses on something, there’s not a whole lot that’s going to stop her,” John Knuteson said. “She’s always happy. She starts crying when she sees little baby turtles and that’s Dora.”
Though much in Knuteson’s life has changed, one constant has been her passion for the environment, spurring her to create the second edition of her series in her own idea of activism. Red tide is once again beginning to creep its way onto the shores of Southwest Florida, and Knuteson is becoming distraught much like she did during last year’s crisis. It makes her work feel more urgent, she said.
“This year I thought wasn’t as bad as last year, so I was really surprised and depressed,” she said. “I feel like I’m making a difference.”