There’s no shortage of nature on Long Island’s East End. From miles and miles of tranquil woodlands to picturesque views of the Peconic Bay, it captivates the hearts and minds of locals and tourists alike. For centuries, the North and South forks have served as a haven for artists and other creatives looking for solitude and inspiration.
Today, the natural landscapes of the East End continue to serve as a muse for creators across the arts. We’ve highlighted five local artists who draw inspiration from the land and sea around them.
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COURTESY CHRISTINA SUN
Christina Sun has always been drawn to the water. The East Marion resident and illustrator was born and raised in New York City, where she’s worked as a deckhand on all kinds of boats, from schooners to hydrographic survey vessels.
Her work as an illustrator is inspired by these ships — her portfolio is filled with vibrant illustrations of tugboats, sail boats, ferries and more. Sun moved to the East End to have a quiet place to draw and immerse herself in its rich shipbuilding history. “I just was tired of the city. I needed to come out and be in clean waters,” she explained.
When a visiting ship comes to Greenport, she’ll sit at the port and draw it live, using pens that she makes by cutting bamboo reeds. For ink, she’ll use black walnuts that she gathers while biking around the North Fork. “I love it here so much,” she said. “There’s so much nautical history.” Each part of her ships are drawn separately, then carefully pieced together using Photoshop. Once her designs are fully formed, she uses watercolors to bring them to life.
Her work can be seen on Instagram @bowsprite and purchased on Etsy.
COURTESY PETER SPACEK
Peter Spacek was chasing waves when he first experienced the natural beauty of the East End. Born and raised in California, the avid surfer was living in Manhattan and working as an illustrator when he decided to check out Montauk’s legendary surfing scene. In 1994, he moved to Montauk full time to be closer to the ocean.
Spacek has many talents; he’s an illustrator, a cartoonist for the East Hampton Star and the author of a book on surfing etiquette. His true passion, however, is making scrimshaw art out of old surfboards. “I don’t want to ruin rideable boards,” he explained. “All of these are crumbled or the resin has become so sun damaged that they’re not viable anymore.”
Using an X-Acto knife, he carefully carves into the boards, which he fetches from the local dump, to create whimsical sea creatures. One of his most impressive pieces is a board that he’s transformed into a giant swordfish that’s almost twice his size. He also makes a variety of other fish, like sharks, melting down plastic to form their teeth and creating resin eyeballs.
His goal is to create art that’s light-hearted and resembles these creatures but is still recognizable as a surfboard. “I’m not trying to make it a taxidermy piece,” he explained. “I just hope to bring some joy with my work and that it reflects what the natural world has to offer.” To learn more about his work, visit peterspacekart.com or follow @peterspacekart on Instagram.
COURTESY SCOTT BLUEDORN
Scott Bluedorn’s art starts with a direct observation of the world around him and ends with a fanciful twist. The East Hampton-based artist combines aspects of the East End’s natural world with myth and magic to create art that’s rooted in magical realism.
“The majority of my work is based on a lot of local themes like local culture, oceans, fishing, whaling and the architecture of the South Fork,” he explained. “Then I also take it into this surreal realm and that’s kind of where my creativity flows.”
One of his more recent works, for example, is “Hyperfungi” — a colossal watercolor mushroom made up of dozens of other mushroom species. “Although it’s a painting, it’s kind of like a collage of every mushroom that I’ve ever found,” he explained. “It’s this massive entity that’s based on pure observation.”
Bluedorn works across a variety of media, including drawing, painting, print process and collage. Another aspect of his work is found object assemblage. “I do a lot of beachcombing and have for a long time,” he explained. Using found materials that he finds on the beach like small pieces of plastic, shoe soles and driftwood materials, he creates abstract sculptures.
“In general, animals and plants are huge interests of mine and that’s becoming more and more [a part of] my work,” he said. “It’s kind of an ongoing exploration of the natural world and how civilization or modern society interacts with it.” To learn more about Bluedorn’s work, follow @theo_blue on Instagram or visit his website at scottbluedorn.com.
COURTESY MELISSA HYATT
Melissa Hyatt is a watercolor artist, surface pattern designer and illustrator. After working in New York City for 15 years as a fabric designer for textile companies, she moved out east and started taking watercolor classes at a local library. “I became completely obsessed with it,” she said.
In 2015, Hyatt launched her own brand, using watercolors to create unique designs for fabrics, notecards, wedding invitations, tea towels and more. Inspired by the North Fork’s natural beauty, Hyatt’s work consists mostly of lively coastal scenes, countryside flora and sea creatures like blue crabs and lobsters.
“I go on walks every day with my dog and a lot of times I take pictures,” she said. “Many of them end up becoming pieces of art that I create.” Each year, Hyatt self-publishes a calendar that features North-Fork-inspired elements in her signature watercolor style.
You may recognize her designs from local stores like Arni Paperie in Southold or Clarke’s Garden in Greenport, where she sells her notecards, calendars and other works. Hyatt also teaches watercolor classes, both in person and online, to help people of all ages improve their watercolor techniques. To learn more about her classes or her work, visit her website at melissahyatt.com or follow her on Instagram @melissajanehyatt.
COURTESY ESTEFANY MOLINA
Estefany Molina is a photographer and content creator who uses local waters to photograph her subjects in a unique, mystical and vulnerable way.
Using a Hasselblad film camera, she captures her subjects as they swim, at night, in almost complete darkness. This photo series, entitled “Nightswimming,” is inspired by memories, relationships and connections that have been cultivated on the North Fork, like jumping off a Greenport dock in the middle of summer. “My entire life has revolved around the North Fork, specifically Greenport,” Molina said. “It has been the landscape for all the loves and throes of my life, making it an inherent part of my own nature.”
In her artist statement, Molina writes that the water itself takes on a new meaning — it’s a symbol of rebirth. “‘Nightswimming’ is a meditation on connection and transience through the vulnerability of the subject,” she writes. “In the night, with the sea, through time; the images become intimate glimpses through glitch and grain of the unspoken awareness of the human experience.”
As a part of the series, she prints the images on a polycarbonate material and puts them on display inside of 3-foot-by-3-foot glowing mahogany LED lightboxes built by Stephen Klipp. “Initially, I strongly felt that the work was not meant to be shown on a wall,” she said. “I didn’t want people to interact with the work with their shoulders perpendicular to a gallery wall.”
In the past, the Greenport artist has showcased this work with an exhibit at Matchbook Distilling Co. She plans on continuing this series and is in the process of creating an exhibit in Brooklyn. To learn more about Molina and her project “Nightswimming,” you can visit estefanymolina.com or follow her on Instagram at @yosoyestefany.