Linda St. Clair was born in Franklin, Tennessee and spent most of her childhood on a small farm in College Grove, Tennessee as one of four children of Sarah and Alvin White. As a child growing up on a farm, she developed an affinity for animals and nature, and an intimate familiarity with rural life. The young St. Clair spent hours outdoors, observing the behaviors of a spectrum of animals, including the farm’s dairy cows, chickens and sheep.
As a teenager, she attended College Grove High School where her guidance councilor informed her that her career choices should be limited to secretary, teacher or nurse. After high school, St. Clair yearned for a taste of the larger world, and planned to move to Atlanta to study interior design. Instead, in 1970, Linda married her high school sweetheart and the couple had one son before divorcing in 1979. In 1987, St. Clair married illustrator and fine-art painter Dean St. Clair. In 1983, the couple moved to Albuquerque and later to Santa Fe to allow Dean to pursue his art career. St. Clair was not painting at the time, but absorbed the artistic environment around her. “I went to galleries … even memorized details about other artists’ lives,” she said. “I was smitten with the art bug, but still too scared to pick up a brush.”
In 1985, short of money, the couple moved to Dallas, Texas where St. Clair began working in marketing, selling artists’ services to ad agencies. She ran her own marketing company for seven years. During the evenings, she would visit her husband’s studio and learned to paint. She took workshops with well-known artists and learned the fundamentals of painting from Dean. Her first paintings were landscapes and still lifes. Animals didn’t enter St. Clair’s artwork until 1992 when she painted a rooster from a photograph that Dean had taken. It would become her first sold piece. Soon she was painting cows, sheep and horses and gaining interest from collectors and galleries worldwide.
In 1999, the couple moved to southern Colorado where they lived on an 80-acre farm, produced art and rode horses together. When Dean died in 2003, St. Clair returned to Santa Fe where she continues to reside.
Influenced by artists of the Southwest, St. Clair began exploring a greater variety of approaches in her own work. She began using loser brush strokes and bolder colors to convey the illusion of detail and a more contemporary perspective than earlier works. “I love the yin and yang of painting,” St. Clair said. “I love contrasting very transparent, thin paint with thick textured paint; the contrast of warm and cool colors, narrow and wide strokes, dark and light.” Linda’s style continues to be marked by strong colors and loose brushwork, relying on her knowledge of animal anatomy to create portraits that conjure a creature’s nature as much as its appearance. Most of St. Clair’s paintings are completed in one sitting at her studio.
To get a clearer perspective of an animal’s spirit, St. Clair travels frequently to find and photograph them. She’s traveled to the North Pole to study polar bears, Africa to observe elephants and zebras, and Yellowstone National Park to watch grizzly bears.
Linda credits some of the appeal of her paintings to the need to return to a more simple time and reconnect with the earth. St. Clair believes that we have much to learn from animals, and her love and respect for these animals is made clear through her work.
St. Clair’s paintings are commissioned for public and private collections in the United States and internationally. She is a member of the Society of Animal Artists in New York City and her work has been featured in several galleries across the United States and abroad. She is also a member of the Southwestern Watercolor Society and the Oil Painters of America, and has exhibited nationally at such shows as the Buffalo Bill Art Show in Cody, Wyoming, the Audubon Artists Annual Exhibition in New York, and the Salmagundi Club in New York.
She is a two-time recipient of the Grumbacher Gold Medal and her art has earned a place in the permanent collection of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin and University of Texas at Austin. Collectors include Walt Disney Corporation President Michael Mendenhall, Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels and Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming.