Painter Alice Leese in Dry Tortugas National Park



This episode of Big Blend Radio’s 1st Friday “Toast to The Arts & Parks” Show features acclaimed painter and rancher Alice Leese and her husband Rob. Hear about their 1-month National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF) residency off-grid on Loggerhead Key in Dry Tortugas National Park. Alice was also an NPAF artist-in-residence at Fort Union National Monument and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Watch their interview here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on, PodBean, or SoundCloud.

“Painting on site is a way to let the viewer feel what it is like to be in a certain spot. I’m not painting a specific area but what it feels like to be there.”— Alice Leese, NPAF Artist in Residence

Alice, raised on the ranch which has been in her family for 100 years, says that the solitude and rhythm of this particular landscape is essential to how she approaches her art: “Living out here has also given me a frame of reference for time and patience, some days we are horseback from sunup to sundown, ranches here are large and pastures are sometimes 15 square miles, it takes some patience to not rush the cattle, they go at their pace and we just follow when we are rounding-up or working them.” She says that the ranch is very remote, and even requires the occasional climb on a windmill to grab spotty cellphone reception. Though she loves being a managing partner at their ranch, she often doesn’t get the focused time to paint, so being able to focus for a solid month on her art is an amazing opportunity.


She usually paints plein air, sketching in watercolors, then taking that sketch and any other resources gathered on site, and executing a finished work in the studio most of the time, in oil. Painting on location in oil lets her capture a certain feeling, a way of seeing that has sometimes prismatic qualities. “Painting outdoors in oil, a slow drying medium, lets the artist get to mood and details, or lets the artist capture quickly the essence of an area. Don’t remember who said it but painting on site is a way to let the viewer feel what it is like to be in a certain spot. I’m not painting a specific area but what it feels like to be there.”

Dry Tortugas National Park is located almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West. The 100 square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of birdlife that frequent the area. Visitors enjoy camping, snorkeling, bird watching, fishing or just enjoying a view from the top of massive Fort Jefferson. Fort Jefferson is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States, built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the nation’s gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. More at

The Artist in Residence program is sponsored by the National Parks Arts Foundation. The National Parks Arts Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to the promotion of the National Parks of the U.S. through creating dynamic opportunities for artworks that are based in our natural and historic heritage. All NPAF programs are made possible through the philanthropic support of donors ranging from corporate sponsors, small business, art patrons and citizen supporters of the parks. Learn more at


National Parks Arts Foundatio

Park Travel Guide Visit Link Here
State Travel Guide Visit Link Here
Date Park Established October 26, 1992
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