If you shop for outdoor gear or follow outdoor organizations’ social media feeds—or ever happen to wander Colorado neighborhoods and hipster hotels—then you’ve likely seen Latasha Dunston’s lush, color-rich work. The 29-year-old artist has done everything from designing T-shirts and shoes for Merrell, to illustrating a book to painting large-scale murals. She counts The North Face, Otterbox, and Access Fund among her many clients. She’s an ambassador for Coalition Snow and a model for Title 9. Additionally, she teaches workshops on plein-air (outdoor) painting in the Denver area, where she is based and runs an online shop selling her original work. In short, Dunston is an artistic dynamo who’s turned her love of the outdoors and art into a booming career.
Becoming an outdoor industry artist wasn’t her original plan. While attending Virginia Commonwealth University, Dunston focused on scientific and medical illustration. But she burned out, “and didn’t make art for almost two years after I graduated,” she says. “I had lost a lot of my creativity.” When she and her partner moved to Denver from Virginia in 2017, though, she made it a mission to kickstart an artistic career in a more creative, naturalistic style.
It all began when she dropped by a series of panel discussions at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in January 2018, in between shifts at the downtown restaurants where she worked at the time. Dunston ended up meeting several influential outdoor industry insiders, who began connecting her to artistic opportunities. Just a few weeks later, she won a scholarship to attend the Lodged Out creative retreat in Leavenworth, Washington—and she hasn’t slowed down since. “I have been working toward this specific lifestyle and career, truly, since preschool,” Dunston says. “It’s been my only goal.”
We caught up with Dunston to hear more about her design work, how she makes a living as an outdoor artist, and her many plans to expand her creativity this year.