by Jennifer Yarbrough
We live in a beautiful area. The sandy shores of our local beaches provide sunsets that seem painted across the sky with beautiful pinks, oranges, and blues. The murky depths of the St. Johns River with its flora and fauna beckon us to pause and look and listen and view the beauty of nature. With all of this natural beauty, it is no surprise that local artists are inspired to create!
The two artists profiled below took different paths to find themselves here in Northeast Florida, they use different mediums to express their creativity, but they both have a passion for looking around them, capturing what they see and sharing it with others.
Josh Phares, Valen Artwork, Painter
Josh Phares was born in Orange Park and moved to Jacksonville Beach at six years old, and that was when his love of the ocean, the sea, the beach began. He recalls fondly spending time at the beach as a kid and how his mom bought a boogie board for him and his brother and told them that if they learned how to stand on it and ride it, then they would get a real surfboard---the goal of every beach kid! Well, those days at the beach and the painting of Van Gogh’s, “Starry, Starry Night,” hanging on the wall at home, provided inspiration for the pieces of art that he creates today.
He is an artist that is constantly challenging himself and experimenting with new techniques, what he calls “Happy Accidents,” referring to American Painting legend, Bob Ross. His older works show “stenciled” images of fish and sea turtles on realistic backgrounds, his newer ones, are “non-objective,” a mix of abstract and realistic that “allow your eye to move around the canvas,” a goal of his. His paintings of surfers and the pier and sea life painted in this style hearken back to VanGogh and the Impressionists. He looks to Rick Piper, Paul Jenkins and Jackson Pollock as inspirations, even joking that he sometimes refers to himself as “Jacksonville Pollock.” And one can see the style, colors and subject matter of all three of those artists in Phares work. He currently offers his work through Facebook, “Valen Artwork” and Instagram, valen_art and occasionally offers giveaways. He also takes clients photos and turns them into one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Josh Phares is a creative local artist that paints interesting, unique works of art, reflecting the beauty of our area.
Shannon Dunham, Artist
Shannon Dunham was born and raised in Wisconsin and visited the seashore in Florida for the first time in the 3rd Grade. As they say, once you get the Florida sand in your shoes, you can’t shake it out. and it’s inevitable that you will one day return. She took trips over the years back to Florida with her own daughters and husband, making more memories and falling more in love. After a particularly brutal winter in Wisconsin three years ago, her family decided to make the Sunshine State their permanent home, settling down in Durbin Creek.
In the past two years, the beaches, the nautical history and the old world charm of St. Augustine have provided the inspiration for her jewelry, photographs, painting and crafts. Her jewelry is made from seaglass that she finds on our beaches, wraps with silver and sometimes gold wire and turns into wearable art. Her paintings are inspired by the sea; her painting, “Dark to Day,” is a beautiful representation of dawn over the ocean with soft muted grays and blues and white. She photographs a wide variety of subjects—the sea, birds, historic places in St. Augustine. She looks for the details when taking photos and enjoys shooting with her daughters because she says they tend to stop and see things that adults might miss. An example of this is a beautiful photograph of water droplets on grass that she took, the droplets glisten and gleam and seem like glass up close.
All of her various styles and works of art are limited in production and displayed exclusively at Salty Restorations in Mandarin, ensuring you a unique piece created locally by an artist with a love and passion for our area.
St. Johns Magazine