For MK MacNaughton, what began as a summer job selling hot dogs in Juneau turned into a lifelong love of Alaska and its residents.
Having run out of money while traveling in Australia in 1989, MacNaughton accepted a summer concession stand job and soon realized it was a great way to meet people. She began networking, and later got a job working at a domestic violence shelter, facilitating support groups.
At the shelter, MacNaughton used art to get conversations going. “This [experience] has had a big influence on the artwork that I do to this day,” she said, in an interview with blogger Lindsay Carron. “I think that art helps us leap into real conversation in a more meaningful and intimate way.”
Today, MacNaughton is a teaching and exhibiting artist working out of her studio, Sketch, in Juneau. She paints a wide selection of subjects, including portraits and landscapes. Most of her work is brightly-colored, impressionistic oil-on-canvas.
In 2012, MacNaughton took a break from her usual studio work, becoming the Noatak National Preserve Voices of the Wilderness resident artist. She hiked, sketched, painted, and “soaked in as much of the vibrant fall color as [her] memory could carry.”
Having spent her childhood in Portland, Oregon, and the past 25 years in verdant southeast Alaska, visiting the arctic terrain of Noatak gave MacNaughton “a glimpse of an entirely different landscape.”
“Alaska is such a breathtakingly huge state, it is hard to fathom how different the geography, flora and fauna of our state is,” MacNaughton said. “Visiting the Noatak in the fall presented colors I don't usually get to see. We felt and saw glorious warm sunny days, burning red and orange tundra, icy rain, hail, and dustings of snow during the days we camped at Copter Peak.”
MacNaughton sketched and painted every day, enjoying the novelty of making art in the field. When she returned to her studio, the artist found that her field sketches sometimes offered more detail than photographs.
“Because I took the time to sketch the world around me while I was in the field, I learned a lot about the landscape,” she said. “I became personally acquainted with the landscape.”