Meet the Artists

Brenda Bickta

Brenda is an avid gardener and artist.  She and her husband moved from Pennsylvania to Sneads Ferry, NC about seven years ago to be close to the beach.  Brenda loves painting turtles, fish, octopus and anything in the ocean. She especially loves to paint mermaids. Brenda also creates resin and beach glass pictures and ornaments from shells she finds on Topsail Island.  She painted a mural of a Turtle Sanctuary Forever stamp at the Topsail Beach Post Office.  Brenda’s sculpture, “Squirtle the Pirate Turtle,” was inspired by her interest in pirate stories.

Nicole Draina

When I was four, I would paint exotic birds, sea creatures, and tropical plants. I carried my “learn to draw” book with me everywhere and believed the array of colors could transport me to another place. As I got older, my mom was (and is) my inspiration. She would bring me to her art classes, where I would sit crossed-legged on the floor, mesmerized by the delicate application of her watercolors. Growing up in the Adirondack Mountains, I found my own muse in the natural beauty of the woods nestled alongside the glacial lakes. Creating things from leaf collages to pencil drawings.

After being told art was not a “stable” career, I pursued my other love of Environmental Studies and English—obtaining a Masters from UNCW, where I now lecture. My time at UNCW has allowed various forms of art to slowly seep back into my life. A true blessing.

At the heart of it, I’m a storyteller. I explore different mediums, from acrylic to digital, with the hopes of finding creative ways to tell the stories of places I see. To this day I am still inspired by the magic of nature and the remnants of historical architecture hidden within. I hope to share my work more widely in the future.

Evelyn Fischer

Evelyn grew up in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and studied painting at UNC-Charlotte. After graduating, she pursued a career as a textile artist and designed woven fabrics for the Home Furnishings Industry. She currently lives in the port city of Wilmington, NC.

Evelyn has a lifelong interest in working with diverse artistic media. She paints with oil, acrylic and pastel and creates mixed media, mosaic and gourd art. Her inspiration is found in the beauty of nature that is all around us, and uses her imagination as a blank canvas. “My hope is that the magic I see in nature will be visible in my art.

Laura Kalina

Originally a photographer from Northern Virginia, Laura moved in June 2017 to Wilmington, North Carolina and decided to set up her own multimedia business. Thus, Mossy Fox Studio was born. Her studio is located at The ArtWorks in the South Front District in downtown Wilmington.

To Laura, her love of art is only rivaled by her love of animals. No matter what medium, she strives to capture the character of each animal subject. A firm believer in conservation and rescue efforts, Laura has worked with multiple non-profits with the aim of showing the outcomes of our work to save both wild and domestic animals.

Aiden Kenny

Aiden Kenny is a portrait and scenic artist residing in Wilmington, NC.  Her lifelong artistic pursuits have encompassed everything from portrait and fine art commissions, to film & theatre work and drawing & painting instruction.  After completing her Fine Art, she has periodically continued her education by studying with preeminent portrait artists Nelson Shanks and Robert Liberace.  She has work in private and corporate collections.

Kristin McLoughlin

Kristin is originally from New York with a background in painting. She currently works as a professional makeup artist and esthetician, while pursuing art projects on the side. Kristin loves to create vibrant, colorful pieces with an emphasis on detail and whimsy. She is thrilled to be a part of the Airlie exhibit again this year and has immensely enjoyed the creative process of bringing this giant turtle to life!

Erica Nelson

Erica has been drawing since before she could write, and had her first painting class in college in 2005.  In California, Erica painted live on stage with bands at the California Roots Music and Arts Festival.  After moving to Louisiana, she taught lessons for all ages in her art studio, Nelson Art Studio, and completed large scale mural jobs for local churches and the children’s wing at Christus St. Patrick Hospital.  Locally, Erica has completed works for local businesses including Panacea Brewing Company, and she lead a mentorship program at the UNCW CIE for an all-female team of students.  Passing on the legacy of mural painting and the pursuit of the arts is one of Erica’s greatest personal achievements.  Today, Erica is focused on raising her son James and managing a family business.

Erica’s hope is that her painted turtle sculpture “Serenity” teaches viewers about the interdependent biodiverse landscape of the native insect and flowering world, and our role as stewards.

Jacqueline Ross

Jacqueline’s inspiration for her turtle sculpture, “Heart of Airlie,” was inspired by a recent trip to Airlie Gardens and her job as a landscape designer.  For her design, she decided to incorporate her favorites plants that grow in Wilmington, the George Taber Azalea, Live Oak and Camellia Japonica.

Karen Snave

Karen has been illustrating and designing professionally since 1984. She studied Fine Art at the Chelsea School of Art in London and graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She excels in both traditional and digital art and has illustrated for publishers, ad agencies, manufacturers, developers and corporations both large and small. She enjoys bringing a positivity and joy to others with her art and making magic happen.

Susan Tharin

In 1994, Susan was given a stained-glass class as a birthday present and she was hooked!  She established Airlie Art Glass on her dirt floor garage at home, doing mostly residential commissions and craft shows.  Susan’s passion is to make one-of-a-kind unique art, incorporating nature themes, recycled, repurposed, and found objects, all with a touch of whimsy.  One of her greatest achievements was to have passed down her love of art, the natural world and creativity to her two daughters.

Susan’s turtle sculpture, “The Spirits of Airlie,” represents the magnificent abundance of flora, fauna and beautiful colors that visitors to Airlie Gardens experience.  Her hope is that the experience of Airlie, “the spirits” will remain with them.