Almost everyone can agree that hiking trails are a great adventure year round. For some, the goal of hiking a woodsy terrain is the exercise while others hike for the smells and sounds of Mother Nature, taking in the picturesque views.

For Jacksonville artist Kathy Stark, walking the park trails in Northeast Florida is not just an activity to pass time, but a way to express the artist she’s always been. A native Floridian, Stark paints on large canvases using both watercolor and oil.

“I work from nature, compositional sketches, studies and my own color photographs taken while hiking and kayaking,” Stark said.

She can spend close to five weeks on one individual painting as she works on canvases between 46 and 63 feet wide. Painting with watercolors transforms her realistic scenes into scenes of their own. Some landscape paintings are intricately detailed and some appear to have an abstract background with softer brushstrokes, and fewer defined details.

“Although realistic in approach, as I paint, transformations take place and the subject takes on a life of its own,” she said.

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Stark worked with One Spark in 2013 and 2014 to earn funding for her work. She’s back this year hoping to publish a book with One Spark funding.

It’s all part of her mission to paint some of the most beautiful locations of Northeast Florida. Stark began by contacting local non-profit groups like the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Timucuan Trail Reserve, the North Florida Land Trust and Greenscape for support in her art series. She collaborated and eventually integrated all of the parks’ historical and ecological backgrounds with the additional large-scale paintings into one book.

Her One Spark funding goal for this year is $50,000. The funds would go to covering all the printing expenses and publication of the book. The book would be shown at local art galleries, restaurants, businesses, airports, schools and parks in the Jacksonville area.

“A published book is the intended goal, a family version of it with activities for kids and a coffee table version with better paper quality and binding,” Stark said. “I also want to exhibit the book at local galleries, schools and even airports, so that people can learn about my work as an individual artist and also read up on history of Northeast Florida and want go there.”

Stark’s book, titled “The Wilderness of Northeast Florida,” will include a substantial amount of her watercolor landscape paintings and historical referencing summaries. With over 15 parks and reserves already included, Stark is ready to work again with One Spark on pitching her completed project idea.

“I’ve received the most support from my own endeavors — for the first One Spark I sent out a letter asking friends, family and my art collectors to support the project,” Stark said. “Their support helped me pay for framing, prints and other materials which will perpetuate in the project.”

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One of the pages from the book. Photo provided by Kathy Stark.

Some of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands are included in the book, including the Fort Caroline National Memorial located in the Timucuan Preserve, and the Kingsley Plantation, the oldest standing plantation in the state. Other pages of the book show watercolor illustrations of recreational activities, native wildlife and the Timucuan Indians.

Stark’s showcased her idea at the Southlight Gallery the first two years of One Spark and this year she will be at the public library. She believes this year’s venue will bring in many more people and help her get more votes for her project.

“It will be interesting this year too, being able to have an online fundraising campaign through One Spark (like kickstarter) which can last a month, starting the day of One Spark. People won’t have to come downtown to support the project, they can do it online,” Stark said. “And I will set up reward levels for this support.”

Another key to success is having a big group of passionate volunteers; they can spread out over One Spark and help Stark with multiplying her social networking contacts, which results in more votes and more support money.

Stark’s first year at One Spark enabled her to introduce the project and get opinions from visitors about parks they visited often. She received $1,135 for the “Wilderness of North Florida Parks” project with $624 in individual contributions.

In 2014, phase two at One Spark, Stark received $395 in crowdfund votes and $755 in individual contributions — her funding goal was $18,000 to paint eight more park paintings. She did not reach the $18,000 goal but continued to pour more into the project herself.

Coming up on her third year, Stark has built a strong relationship with all the staff in the parks surrounding Jacksonville. She has added more parks and more paintings into the book since last year’s One Spark and has embarked on new ideas for after the book is published.

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Although the One Spark project only covers the publication of her book and exhibiting her work, Stark has already began thinking of other ideas she would like to tackle. Incorporating a hands-on park depot with paintings of the trails displayed in a public space is one of her aspirations. Such a room would draw in visitors of all ages, with interactive stations and hands-on activities that are about Florida’s nature and wildlife.

“I look at the activity room as sort of a launch point to learning about the parks, and also a field trip point,” she explained, “with bright and inspiring photos and paintings of the parks that just make you want to go there.”

The display could also include photography by other well-known nature photographers such as Will Dickey from the Florida Times-Union, she said. It could be a place for other artists to show off their work of North Florida.

In fact, Dickey has talked about the idea with Stark and will be adding his own photography to displays at One Spark. His pictures will be at the Southlight Gallery during the Art Walk and One Spark event coming up in April.

“A lot of her subject matter is similar to that of my photography,” Dickey said. “She is focusing on parts of the park in general, though I would say we are drawn to the same subject matter more often than not.”

To see more of Kathy Stark’s artwork visit: http://www.kathystark.com/#home

By: Fallon Mayer, WordPress Editor