It took painter Megan Rubino a few years to find the life she wanted. She always knew she wanted to be an artist. After a summer visit to the Outer Banks during a college break she knew she wanted to live here someday. The specifics took some time to nail down but it all came together for the Pennsylvania native.
”I remember being in kindergarten and loving making art. I had a passion for it even then. Making art has always made me happy,” says the artist and mom.
While art has always been a part of her life, becoming a successful professional artist has been a bit of a journey. Her path included a college degree from Bucknell University in elementary education with an art minor. She later attended East Carolina University for additional art education.
Following college, Rubino worked several years as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut but an earlier visit to the Outer Banks fueled her desire to get back to the beach. She accepted an art teaching job with the Washington County School System in Plymouth, North Carolina, but later decided to move to the Outer Banks where Rubino taught as a substitute.
“Plymouth just was closer to where I wanted to be but just wasn’t it. I really wanted to be at the beach,” she says was the basis for giving up her full-time gig for one where there was no guarantee of hours.
One goal achieved, Rubino had yet to become a fulltime artist. Then she met Brian Rubino, and the pair married in 2004. Her new husband encouraged her to pursue a career as a full-time artist.
“Brian was very supportive of what I had dreamed of my whole life. His support allowed me to pour all of my heart into what has become a career,” Rubino says. “That was my number one focus, until Brian and I had kids. Now they’re my number one focus, with art being a close second.”
When they were younger, the Rubino children — Luke, 12, and Lola, 10 — now attend Dare County schools freeing their mom to get deep into her work every day. When they were younger and at home, Rubino found it more difficult to focus on her artwork. Now she spends at least four hours each day working in her in-home studio.
And Rubino’s children have since become a part of her art — both have shown great interest in creating artwork of their own. Lola is very active in sewing and mixed media. A colorful collage by Lola, who says she wants to become a professional artist, hangs prominently in the living room of the family’s Kitty Hawk home where her mom’s artwork dominates.
Furthermore, Rubino’s family members are often the subject of her art. A line drawing of a boys soccer team crowding onto a bench shows Luke and his teammates from the rear. Rubino made prints for every boy’s family. A bold watercolor — Rubino’s favorite media — of a woman and two children walking over a dune — is from a photo of her and the children entering the beach.
Rubino notes that she often paints while looking at a photo image: “I don’t work from my imagination. I’m more about painting what I see and not pulling an image from my head.” She also tried painting “en plein air,” as outdoor painting in view of a scene is known, but studio work is more conducive for use of fast-drying watercolors.
Familiar Outer Banks buildings, often those on the beach road, are also captured in Rubino’s paintings, as are scenes from top surfing destinations such as Costa Rica, the Baja Peninsula and Hawaii. Brian Rubino is a dedicated surfer obvious from the boards stashed on the open beams of their sunny living room. “I’m working on becoming a better surfer,” Rubino says.
The day after our conversation, Rubino was to exhibit at the annual OBX Arts and Craft Festival at the Hilton Garden Inn. One of 25 artists selected, she plans to show 15 original paintings and a number of prints. Rubino was in the process of selecting which pieces to bring, lining them up in the living area outside her studio.
She also displays her work in several area venues. As a member of the Kill Devil Hills Artist Co-op, she places her work on the co-op’s gallery walls. Rubino says the artist group is a key resource for her. She says it’s a “vibrant community” and “almost like a family.” Rubino also cites several local restaurants for displaying her work for sale. Other restaurateurs decided to buy and hang her paintings as permanent décor.
“First you do all the creative work and then there’s the job of getting it out in front of the public. It’s all worked out pretty well but I need to get more into the e-commerce side of things,” Rubino says.
When asked, Rubino says she finds inspiration in the work of artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, the impressionists, and so-called “primitive artists.” But still, she says, her family is her main source of artistic inspiration and drive.