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Michael Lunsford — Meet the New Guy

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Michael Lunsford hard at work at Emerald Coast Gallery & Gifts in Destin.
Photo by Chris Manson.

By Chris Manson


“He showed up nervous as all heck,” Emerald Coast Gallery & Gifts co-owner Jennifer Viaene says of her initial meeting with this issue’s cover artist. “He’s a fine artist. He’s been involved with ADSO (the Fort Walton Beach-based Arts and Design Society) and has placed several times and sold at the shows. I’m trying to push him to teach classes. He gets a lot of commission work from people looking at what he does. He paints here several times a week, and we love having him.”


Michael Lunsford and Jillian—his wife of just over a decade—relocated to Destin from Michigan about two years ago. “(She) got a transfer offer from her job,” he says. “We came to visit to see if we wanted to move here. It took us less than a day to decide.” Jillian left that job about six months ago because “she wasn’t getting enough time at the beach or with me,” says Michael. Her new job requires less time at work.


Lunsford took formal oil painting classes starting at age 12. “I did it for six years until I went to college at Western Michigan University—which wasn’t a long or illustrious college career,” he says. “I’ve had a few classes here and there to pick up what I can. I really enjoy watching people paint, too.”


His preferred medium is acrylic, but Lunsford works in pencils for an occasional change of pace. Favorite subjects include wildlife, scenery and buildings. “Brightly colored stuff, usually.”


He went pro last November but says he’s always painted as a hobby—giving lots of gifts to friends but never for the purpose of selling. “When I started trying to do it as a job, I had no portfolio to speak of. Everything was in the hands of people I’d given things,” says Lunsford.


He arrived at the Emerald Coast Gallery this February and was encouraged by owners Viaene and Claire Gagne. “They’ve been very helpful as far as giving tips about being successful at it.”


Lunsford draws a blank when asked about his art influences. “It’s tricky,” he says. “I don’t have much art history experience. I don’t know very much, so I kind of take a little bit from everything I see. I can’t really produce a list of people I aspire to emulate or have been inspired by. It’s kind of a little bit of everything. I admire pretty much all of it.”


When he’s not painting, Lunsford enjoys exploring the area—“everything from walking the docks while people are unloading fish to visiting the Air Force Armament Museum. I love just about every place on the water. My favorite place to eat seafood is Dewey Destin’s—I’ve been a seafood fan my whole life. That’s a wonderful benefit of being here, the fresh seafood.”


At press time, this issue’s cover painting “Afternoon Playtime” is for sale at the gallery. “That represents about 50 hours (of work), and that painting and I have had a love-hate relationship for most of that time,” says Lunsford.

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