FAIRBANKS — An Alaska painter known for his vivid watercolors representing the 49th state has died.
Byron Birdsall, of Anchorage, long considered one of the great watercolorists in Alaska, died Sunday. His wife, Billie, confirmed via phone, saying she did not wish to comment further and that an obituary would be printed in the coming days.
As word spread late Sunday night across social media, Alaska galleries offered their condolences online.
“We at 2 Friends just heard of the death of a dear friend and one of Alaska’s most beloved artists, Byron Birdsall,” the Facebook page for 2 Friends Gallery in Anchorage read. “We will miss him and his artwork terribly. He was such a kind and gentle man with a smile for everyone. Our condolences to his family.”
Born in Arizona on Dec. 18, 1937, and raised in California, Birdsall came to Alaska in 1975, where he became a self-taught painter.
According to his biography listed at Annie Kaill’s Fine Art & Graft Gallery in Juneau, Birdsall was best known for his variety of and the drama in his landscapes and his use of light to capture Northern life. Besides landscapes, Birdsall produced florals, still-lifes and period pieces and was known as a prolific artist, according to the gallery’s bio.
Tennys Owens, owner of Artique Ltd. Gallery in Anchorage, said in a phone call late Sunday night she worked with Birdsall for 30 years and considered him a friend.
“He was a wonderful man to work with,” Owens said. “His quote was, ‘I live to paint.’ He was a remarkable artist. He could do anything he put his mind to.”
In Fairbanks, Tammy Phillips, owner of Phillips Studio & Gallery, recalled Birdsall as a family friend whom she met via her in-laws. Phillips, also a watercolorist, said she was shocked to hear of his death.
“He was a kind, humble gentleman,” Phillips said. “He called with such kind words when my mother-in-law passed away. My thoughts are with his wife tonight. I admired his painting skills and creativity. He would always have amazing and beautiful paintings at every show. I remember one show he had turtles, bamboo and Mount McKinley all together in one painting. He was incredibly creative.”
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter: @FDNMfeatures.