LOVE IS IN THE (PLEIN) AIR

by STACEY MARCUS / photograph by HOLGER OBENAUS

Their story is full of color, light and love. It is the type of tale that unfolds organically, like palm trees swaying in a spring breeze. It is natural, beautiful and hopelessly happy. Natalie Guess and Phil Fisher are the owners of Guess-Fisher Gallery in Naples, where they have built a life and business over the last 37 years. Guess moved to Naples from the Midwest close to four decades ago, nine years after Phil Fisher came to Florida to set up an art gallery and pursue his passion for plein air painting.

Guess is a graduate of Drake University in Iowa, where she majored in pottery and minored in business. Fisher studied at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida; The Instituto in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; The University of Toledo; and The Toledo Museum of Art. Guess basks in the beauty of creating batik fine art; Fisher creates plein air paintings with watercolors and oils. While their training and crafts are quite different, they share a common mission. “We both like to make people smile. It makes us happy and feels good,” Guess says. She notes that she is only one in 250 artists in the United States who work in batik in a fine art form. “What I love about working in batik is that the process is actually three-dimensional,” says Guess. “I love the process of creating batik. I think about it and often dream about it.”

Guess is a big fan of palm trees, the subject of her recent series. “I love the palm tree shadows at the beach in the early morning. The environment is so calm and has such a wonderful feel,” she says. While shadows are one of her main areas of interest, Guess says that how she is feeling about a particular subject is what really influences her. She also notes that her husband’s relaxed attitude has been a positive influence. “We have been together for so long that his calm yet upbeat style of painting has rubbed off on me,” she says.

Along with creating batik fine art, Guess handles the picture framing, marketing and financial aspects of the business while Fisher sets up his easel and paints in the front of the gallery and greets customers. “We don’t compete with each other. We are very supportive,” says Guess. “I work more in the back of the gallery and tend to go back and forth between creating art and managing the business.” Guess notes that the myriad of steps it takes to create batik art is perfect for a multitasker and allows her to dance in and out of other tasks at the gallery.

When not at his studio in the gallery, Fisher can be found painting in natural settings around Naples; plein air painting is an art form that he has enjoyed for almost 50 years. In addition to landscapes and wildlife, he also uses watercolors and oils to paint palm trees, beaches and buildings. He adores painting guest houses, alleyways and older homes in Naples. “If I look at a house and I can do it justice, I will paint it,” says Fisher, who has no interest in painting new architectural imagery. As the longest-practicing artist in Naples, he is intricately woven into the art scene in the city.

“We just love being artists in Naples. You can be outdoors all the time, which allows us to find inspiration all year long,” says Guess.

Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine, Playboy.com, RD.com and many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.