After spending part of her childhood in Wisconsin, Anchorage-born artist Tarryn Zerbinos didn’t intend to return to Alaska. And until stress from parenthood lured her back into her art, she didn’t intend to return to painting.
Now after 12 years home in Alaska and six years as a mom, Zerbinos has come back to not just her geographic roots, but her creativity.
This Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., Zerbinos holds a reception for her show at Grace Ridge Brewing. The show opened last Friday, but she couldn’t make an appearance until this week because she had to attend her brother’s graduation in the Lower 48.
Born in Anchorage, Zerbinos’s dad was in the military and they moved around. At age 10 her family moved to Wisconsin. She had studied at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, but had trouble affording college. At 18, she came to Alaska to visit her grandmother living in Utqiagvik, the northernmost city in the United States.
“I really, truly was supposed to be here for two weeks to visit her,” Zerbinos said.
She stayed two years. At first she got a job working for the North Slope Borough School District thinking to save money for college and then got a job with Alaska Airlines.
“It was the best job ever,” she said. “I ended up staying.”
That led to a career in the aviation industry, where she met her husband, and jobs as a flight attendant with Era, Ravn and Conoco Philips.
“I was living my best life as a flight attendant. I left my career in the dust until my kids came along,” she said.
Zerbinos has two sons ages 6 and 3. She found relaxation from the stress of being a mother in her art.
“I needed something to calm myself,” she said. “… I used to love painting. I just did it for myself and then I remembered, that’s what makes me feel good.”
Her husband works as a pilot 17 days out of the month, and Zerbinos has to paint around the schedule of her sons.
“Now that they’re older, they know to have some quiet time and down time when I can have my down time,” she said.
Painting in vivid, vibrant colors, Zerbino’s paintings range from landscapes to wildlife. Camping trips inspire her, like a recent trip she took to Prince William Sound. One of her most popular paintings has been of a little seal she painted and donated to the Alaska SeaLife Center for an auction.
Within the past few years she has begun marketing her work through social media and a website, www.artbytz.com.
“I started my business in the middle of the pandemic,” she said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Like other artists, Zerbinos sells originals and prints of her work. But she also puts her images on cards, bags and stickers. The stickers have been a big hit, she said.
“It’s huge with kids,” she said. “You wouldn’t think a kid would want art, but a sticker.”
A large part of her business comes from painting murals and window paintings for shops and stores. In the social media age, where people snap selfies of themselves at places like distilleries, it’s good business sense to have a large logo in the background.
“I love to be paid for coloring on walls. … If you give me a wall, I will paint on it,” Zerbinos said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s inside or out.”
She said that when she was a girl, she asked her dad if she could paint her closet walls. He told her no, but she did it anyway,
“He still brings it up,” Zerbinos said. “‘I can’t believe you’re getting paid to paint on walls when I made you repaint.’”
Figuring out how to market her work has been a lot of trial-and-error, Zerbinos said. She didn’t take any marketing classes, and instead learned social media marketing by messaging friends she’s made on Instagram. Her younger siblings keep her updated on what teenagers want.
“I have a lot of friends who are all over the world who are strictly Instagram, who have walked me through it,” she said. “I just follow what everyone else is doing.”