Paint Me a Birmingham

This evening, we had the pleasure to visit the home and studio of Jon and Jona Van Zyle.  I knew we were in for a real treat because I was fortunate enough to have visited their home this summer when I was in Alaska for summer camp.  I was looking forward to a fun and relaxing evening, knowing that both Jon and Jona have such laid back and fun personalities.

Jon and Jona are both incredible artists. Walking through their studio, there is so much to observe and see. The walls are filled with paintings by Jon and other art mediums created by Jona.  Much of Jon’s works are paintings of Alaskan wildlife and mushing scenes.  Looking at his art, it’s easy to picture yourself in the scene, as if you’re right there next to the musher or wildlife. Not only does Jon paint artwork, but he has also painted the illustrations in many children’s books as well.

Jon is the official artist of the Iditarod, creating the official Iditarod poster each year.  The official poster of the 2019 Iditarod, Jon’s 43rd poster, was created to honor all women mushers.  

Dog mushing is a sport that is close to Jon’s heart. He has finished the Iditarod twice and has been inducted into the Iditarod Hall of Fame.  Jon loves to tell stories of Iditarods past and has a lot of information to offer when it comes to the Iditarod then and now.

One of the most fascinating things about Jon as an artist is that he has never received any formal art training or art degrees.  He is mostly self taught, and credits his wife to being the expert artist who very willingly helps him when he is stuck, even if Jon wakes her up at 3 in the morning!  Jona is a trained artist who specializes in ceramics, metal work, and graphic design.

We had an extra special treat while we were visiting with the Van Zyles: there were two bald eagles nesting in the trees outside their home.  Bald eagles return to their property year after year, nesting with their young.

I thourougly enjoyed my evening with both Jon and Jona, getting lost in their art and storytelling. If you’re ever in Alaska, plan a trip to their studio. You won’t be disappointed!