10 Southern Artists that Bring Summer to You

10 Southern Artists that Bring Summer to You


Words by Nicole Letts

In the South, summer is synonymous with our beaches. Beloved trips to places like Gulf Shores, 30A and the Outer Banks often fill our calendars, giving us something to look forward to each summer. For me, it’s an annual trip to Watercolor with my family for the Fourth of July, booked months in advance and spoken about for weeks prior. This year, of course, a global pandemic had other plans for many of us. Our trips were likely cancelled, postponed or at the very least, extremely different from summers gone by. 

Since many of us aren’t headed to our usual summer getaways, we can turn to art instead. Art has a way of capturing Southern summers. In its canvases, photography, and paper, we see the vibrancy of beachfront sunsets or the brilliance of shimmering water. Below, 10 artists seize summer, freezing it in time for us to enjoy well beyond the season. 

Elizabeth Blank, Atlanta, Georgia

Underwater children’s portrait photographer Elizabeth Blank knows exactly when to click her camera to snap the spirit of summer. Her portfolio is replete with childish nostalgia married with enchanting light. Eyes bug through goggles while toes and fingers nearly sparkle under the gaze of her lens. elizabethblankphotography.com

Nikki Cade, Dallas, Texas 

A self-described nomad, Nikki Cade often turns to travel for inspiration. It’s unsurprising, then, that she chooses a unique object to serve as one of her surfaces: globes. On each three dimensional facade, Nikki recreates the Earth according to her own rules. Splashy colors and geometric patterns dot her world and inspire adventure. nikkicadestudio.com

Taylor Cox, Atlanta, Georgia

Taylor Cox’s miniature works on canvas are a tiny nod to a big escape. Thick, richly hued paint is layered with various brush strokes to create a wave of color. Next, Taylor adds miniscule, lifelike subjects ranging from surfers and sunbathers to sea turtles and sandpipers. taylorcoxart.com.

Teil Duncan, Columbus, Georgia

As the quintessential coastal painter, no list of artists capturing Southern summers is complete without mentioning Teil Duncan. Teil’s work merges realistic forms with abstract lines to create a colorful world, most often a seascape. Her first book, The Color Teil, is a coffee table book ideal for year-round display, and her second book, Ordinary Love, written by Morgan Barber and illustrated by Teil is due out in July. teilduncan.com

Katherine Dunlap, Charleston, South Carolina

Get lost in Katherine Dunlap’s saturated and speckled domain. Inspired by her surroundings and anything else that might strike her fancy, Katherine’s most recent subjects showcase shrimp boats, underwater vegetation and coastal fish and fowl. Her vibrant, pigmented work is eccentric yet sophisticated. katherinedunlap.com

Courtney Khail, Atlanta, Georgia

When I think of my childhood summers, I hear the soft hum of the chain links of my grandparent’s swing and smell the aroma of the nearby magnolia tree. My memories and senses are immediately flooded. Courtney Khail paints to evoke recollections such as these. Each of her watercolor and ink pieces are named after women and showcase the intricacies of flowers and the complexities of femininity. courtneykhail.com

Kellie Lawler, Anniston, Alabama

While Kellie Lawler’s art ranges from figures to florals, her signature is Picasso-esque single line drawing. Using continuous lines, Kellie creates women's figures and faces without constraints of proportion or perfection. You can almost see these bathing beauties sitting poolside. Her latest release is filled with summertime hues in varying complements. Think mustard and cobalt or sage and scarlet. kellielawlerart.com

Colleen Leach, Gainesville, Georgia

Colleen Leach’s work looks as though she lassoed a sunset and pulled it directly into her surface. Through her works on canvas and paper, colors collide to become one burst of energy. Blues, greens, and grays dance with pinks, mauves and oranges. The result is an impactful abstract reminiscent of seaside saturation. colleenleach.com

Roma Osowo, Dallas, Texas

With a paintbrush in her hand and a passion in her spirit, abstract artist Roma Osowo paints using intense coloration. Her palette reflects the rich navy blues of summer nights and the soft blues of Gulf coast waters. According to Roma, her work is an expression of her faith and clearly a peek into her soul. romaosowo.com

Millie Sims, Charleston, South Carolina

You can find Millie Sims work at the intersection of geometry and pop-culture. Whether she’s recreating iconic album covers or recognizable Audubon prints, Millie’s acrylic on canvas paintings are sharp yet playful. Her most recent collection released via Well+Wonder is titled “Off the Deep End,” and is about summer’s most popular destination: the pool. milliesimsart.com