The winning artwork for the 40th annual Destin Seafood Festival has been revealed.
Niceville native Rebecca Russell's piece "The Morning Run" was chosen to be used for T-shirts and posters for this year's festival. This year's theme, "Destin Harbor Traditions," was made because it will be the Destin Fishing Rodeo’s 70th annual event and the Destin Seafood Festivals 40th.
"Russell’s entry most captured the feel of the heritage and the 'traditions' of the harbor," said Jami Jones, the chairwoman for this year's festival.
Russell's colorful collage piece illustrates the boats heading out into the Gulf each morning for a day of fishing.
Just two years ago, Russell was the definition of a struggling artist. With $10 to her name and bills looming over her head, she threw herself into her art as a last ditch attempt.
"I spent $8 of my last $10 on wood, nails and stain," Russell said. "I dug up some old magazines I had and I made a Marlin that was roughly 4-foot-by-14-inches and I threw it on Facebook."
It only took 47 minutes for that Marlin to sell for $250. Since then, Russell has done 94 pieces.
"I started this kind of art out of boredom. All my friends tell me how cool it is and I'm just like, 'it's just ripped up paper,'" Russell said.
Although Russell has attended and volunteered at past festivals, this is the first year she's submitted a poster. The night before the due date, she scrapped all of her work and decided that she wasn't going to enter. But after tossing and turning, she got up and started working on the winning piece.
"My hands-down favorite tradition, like daily tradition, and if I can catch it I love to, is when they're all filing out to go fishing in the morning," she said.
Russell said she wanted to cover a range of the boats from the harbor and each one of the boats featured in the piece is based on a real boat.
When she was notified that she won, Russell said she did a "silent air punch dance" and that "it just feels awesome."
"For the first time in years, I feel like my professional life is on a very clear, direct and exciting path," Russell said.
She is working on opening her own booth that will be located on the docks behind Brotula's Seafood House and Steamer. Russell is hoping to have her "tiny nautical art gallery" done and open in early August.
"We always appreciate every artist’s time when creating a piece to submit," Jones said. "This is a very exciting year!"
This year's festival will take place Oct. 5-7. For more information, visit www.destinseafoodfestival.com/.
To see more of Russell's art, visit her facebook page at www.facebook.com/SoulfishStudios/.