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Changemakers

She’s a natural

Latasha Dunston, 27, is a nature-loving artist who specializes in landscape paintings and custom illustrations. We asked her to pick three of her latest works and tell us what’s behind them.


A snapshot of Latasha Dunston’s work

Black in Nature

Watercolor of Black woman with long hair sitting on a rock surrounded by nature with a bird flitting near her shoulder
Latasha Dunston

“I painted this watercolor of my baby sister on her first trip to the Rocky Mountains. She effortlessly connected to the land and loved every moment. This portrait means a lot to me: The imagery is everything I’ve ever wanted to see with representation in the outdoors. A woman of color sitting proudly and gracefully in her element. She reminds me of a beautiful black Mother Nature.”

Solitude

hand holding watercolor in front of its subject, red canyon with blue sku
Latasha Dunston

En plein air painting (the act of painting outdoors) is my passion. This one, done on my first solo road trip to central Utah, is close to my heart. I stopped to rest and stretch in a parking area on the Colorado River and spied a beautiful, lone white bird floating in the water. She reminded me of me, and I had to capture the moment.

Girls Trip

Watercolor of eight women sitting in a semi-circle in camps chairs looking out over red rock canyon
Latasha Dunston

We gather every year—this diverse group of strong women and our furry, four-legged babies. We drive from all over the country to southeast Utah, the desert lands of the Ute tribe, and just recharge, connect, laugh, cry, nap, eat, hike, and be together.

Baltimore-born artist Dunston trained in scientific and preparatory medicine illustration in college. But when the Denver resident discovered en plein air painting—the full-on French Impressionist kind—it was an epiphany. “I didn’t know it was a thing people actually did,” she says. She built her own mobile setup and started to take it on hikes, leaving the four walls of her studio behind.

But it wasn’t until a trip to Lodged Out, an off-the-grid retreat in Leavenworth, Washington, that her style and voice came together: As a black woman, she realized that people of color are underrepresented in the outdoors. Whether she’s illustrating herself as the subject or making sure that her hand is represented in a photo of her paintings, she’s injecting her distinctiveness into the work she creates. “I want to showcase myself and the people like me who spend time on trails,” she says. “We are a reflection of nature, and nature is a reflection of us.”

Follow Dunston on Instagram here.