Finally, after thirty years, I have started looking at some of our old photos, pretending that I am standing in my old tracks and painting. The old photos have lost color, so I put on the same headset I have when standing outdoors here in California...I enhance colors, I edit out everything that is not part of the story and paint my feeling of the place.
I keep the picture below in my studio. It sits in front of me to remind me of the grandeur of Alaska. It reminds me that Alaska offers a feeling of distance, of thin air that might allow you to see a destination far away. Even if you have no idea of how you are going to get there, there is still a feeling that there is a path for you to take. It is what keeps some people sane and drives others to live to the edge.
When I come back to Alaska I am often surrounded with people who are comfortable out of the mainstream, and honor who they are. People who have had to step outside of their comfort zone to share their gifts with others. As writers, artists, musicians, and individuals, we have to find a way to honor who we really are, the view we have from our own piece of land, while balancing all of that with family, unknown new directions with no beaten path. We must pursue our careers regardless of income, supplementing when we need to, but going back to our passions as soon as possible. My husband is a wonderful example of that...he is an amazing general contractor, but saves time for hunting, gardening, meat-making and cooking, and saves time for gathering with friends to tell stories...these are the people I want to be with...those who have seen something in the distance that connects with their past, and are willing to forge a path, or to brush out an overgrown path on which to take their trips, to get to their next summit or camp. And those are the people who have stories to share, whether they are about the physical, emotional or spiritual world.
I go back to places of distance, like Alaska, as often as possible, to feel small enough to travel through the open space of my own ideas with a knowledge that I am headed through a beautiful landscape on my journey. And often, when I’m sitting in a small plane, staring out the window, driving down the Kenai, if I pay attention, my subconscious is telling me a story, creating an image for me to re-create. Distance and white noise always help me tune in to who I am and Alaska continues to provide a canvas for new paintings and stories.
Teri Sloat has been writing and illustrating children’s books for almost twenty years, with over twenty trade books published with Dutton, Orchard, DK Ink, Holt, Putnam and Alaska Northwest Books. She has also worked as a freelancer in illustration and educational publishing and enjoyed a visiting professorship with Hollins University, teaching MFA students in Children’s Book Writing and Art. Her books have been awarded by the American Booksellers Association, the New York Times, the American Library Association, the Children’s Book Center, Sesame Street, and State Reading Associations. She lives with her husband, Bob, a very small farm in Sebastopol, CA. For more info go to www.terisloat.com and www.terisloat.blogspot.com