Works of Heart: Settling down helped nomadic artist find creative success
Artist Justin Alsedek of Gypsea Arts poses with a self-portrait of himself titled “I Wear Cause I Care,” center, as some of his other work, including “Mood Swings,” right, and “Neon Sally,” left center, are shown in his studio, 8th Avenue Gallery, on Northeast 8th Avenue in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, August 13, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
“It was very fun,” he recalled. “I’d go to tourist areas, getting people to commission me to draw their kids or grandkids or pets. I was always a gypsy. That’s why I call myself Gypsea Arts, because I would go from beach town to beach town.”
For a decade, he enjoyed his nomadic lifestyle. Then in 2016, Alsedek and his wife Sarah moved to Ocala to settle down near her family and prepare for the arrival of their son Ki. It was the right place and time for him to start painting again.
“I used to paint in college,” he said. “But oil painting, you can imagine trying to do all that stuff while you’re living out of a van or on a sailboat or adventuring about. I could have a sketch book; I could roll things up in a tube and mail to people. All my art was just drawing for a while.”
The artist knew he didn’t want a “real job” so he immersed himself in Ocala’s growing arts scene.
“I joined MCA (Marion Cultural Alliance),” he said. “I started doing art walks. I had gotten into FAFO (Fine Arts For Ocala). I started to paint again. I knew I wanted to make a splash.”
The wildlife he and his wife encountered on their first walk at a local spring inspired the painting Alsedek entered in MCA’s “Ocala’s Backroads” show in April 2018, and he’s continued to draw inspiration from Florida’s natural beauty. Last summer he painted “Creative Refuge,” a butterfly and flower mural, in the courtyard of the Brick City Center for the Arts. His “Endless Summer Bliss” is currently on exhibit in NOMA Gallery’s “Summer in the Sun” show.
Since March, Alsedek has been the gallery manager and artist-in-residence at Ocala’s 8th Ave. Gallery, where he curates exhibits featuring both well-known and up-and-coming artists and spends his days creating his own works in the gallery’s studio.
“This has definitely been a good thing for my career,” he said. “I never would have guessed that things would blossom in Ocala. The dream was always just to be able to paint whatever you want, so fortunately for right now I’m riding that wave.”