Changing Palettes

by Jeri Magg

THE LATE MORNING SUN casts subtle shades of blue-green on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico as Randon Eddy puts the finishing touches on her latest work. Today, like most Thursdays, the wildlife artist/illustrator is “painting out.” “I love getting away from the studio and working alongside other artists. It gives me a chance to observe different people and learn from them.”

Learning is part of the fun for this New Hampshire native. With little proper art training, this former educator loved to sketch and started painting and selling in the late 1980s. A member of the New Hampshire Art League and the Durham Art League, her work was inspired by the abundant wildlife dominating her surroundings.
She completed her Master’s Naturalist Course and participated in workshops sponsored by Rookery Bay Coastal Training. “I loved the mountains, the trees, and the cool, earthy-toned palette of New England. But because of the light in Florida, that palette has changed since I began living here.”

Randon arrived on Sanibel ten years ago and immediately took advantage of an incredible opportunity to enhance her artistic abilities. There are currently 13 different Art Leagues in the area, and she’s been involved with many of them, most recently serving as the President of the Sanibel-Captiva Art League.

Under the tutelage of art masters such as Frank Webb, Greg Biolchini and Don Andrews, Randon found new ways of expression through art. Though in the past, four area galleries displayed her paintings, after the banking scandal, things changed. “I know exactly when the economy took a dive. Many of the art galleries closed, and my house became a massive inventory for a large quantity of work.” But the artist’s spirits and enthusiasm are higher than ever, because now she paints for herself. “I used to worry about the tourist appeal for my works. Now I thrill at the challenges I take on. Sales of art works are the fringe benefits.”

The recent proud owner of a fixed income known as Social Security, Randon’s financial worries are somewhat abated. “This ease and laid-back feeling shows in the liveliness of my painting. People say my art is more colorful, wild and funky.” This new funkiness must be popular with local art lovers. The day of this interview a tourist bought one of Randon’s paintings before it was even dry. The piece depicted a wonderful scene of glistening sand and colorful flora overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Randon started her career using watercolors, but today she thinks that these earlier works look so stiff with every feather of the bird evident in most wildlife pictures. After coming to Sanibel and learning from some of the masters, she loosened up and switched to acrylics. “It was great. If I made a mistake, I could paint over it.”

After studying with several nationally known artists, last summer she rediscovered watercolors. Randon likes the process of learning and observing better artists. “I sit beside them and watch before interpreting it my way. I’m always asking why something is done a certain way, or how can I express this better.”

Randon finds herself at a wonderful time in the cycle of life and has taken on some new projects in an effort to add to a continuing repertoire of learning. Having completed a special training course with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation in partnership with Captiva Cruises, she is currently delighting tourists as a docent on Cayo Costa. In years past, Randon has also led a number of bird watching walks for the Audubon Society and SCCF.

For the last three summers she taught children at the Barrier Island Group of the Arts (BIG Arts). “I take the kids through the Phillips Gallery and explain the various pieces. When they question me about purple skies and orange trees, I tell them to paint whatever color they want. Be free with color.”

Randon became an illustrator of children’s books in 2006 with the publication of “Dillo – A Baby Armadillo’s Adventures on Sanibel Island,” written by Kyle Miller. The story centers around a baby armadillo born with a permanent smile on her face living on Sanibel Island. Her jealous sisters abandon her in Bailey Tract wildlife refuge where Snout, the alligator lives. On her sometimes frightening journey home, Dillo makes friends, becomes courageous, and forgives those who mean her harm. As a companion to the book, Randon created “Dillo – The Coloring Book.” At this year’s Fort Myers Reading Festival, these books were again best sellers.

In 2007, she wrote and illustrated her first children’s picture book, The Mysterious Creature. The story is about rumors and features brown bears, panthers, prairie dogs, and Tiny Mouse whose rumors about a mysterious creature spread panic in the forest until they finally meet the creature. “It made me laugh,” chuckles the artist.

Her latest illustrations can be seen in Kyle Miller’s new book, “Snow Pea and the Ghost Crab” which should be in stores and libraries by early fall.

With all these accomplishments, she was nominated in 2008 by the Lee County Alliance of the Arts for the Angel of the Arts Award for Visual Artist of the Year.

In search of her ancestral roots, Randon is planning to visit England the first two weeks in July to meet the people and paint the countryside. An easel and a vivid imagination will allow her to transfer all those wonderful scenes to paper. She hopes to knock the socks off those Brits with her wild colors. “In England I’ll have to consider combining a cooler palette with my wild colors.”

Looking forward, Randon intends to spend much of her time observing and enjoying the life around her — and then trying to express it through art.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy their work like I do. Painting is my heart and soul.” •

from the July-August 2010 issue

"I know exactly when
the economy took a dive.
Many of the art galleries
closed, and my house
became a massive inventory
for a large quantity of work".
"Everyone should have
the opprtunity to enjoy
their work like I do.
Painting is my heart
and soul."