Inside the Studio with Gordie Hinds
An avid outdoorsman Gordie Hinds’s passions collide on canvas
The business stationery at Gordie Hinds Santa Rosa Beach studio is imprinted with the words “Artist. Angler. Misanthrope.”
To try and understand Hinds is to appreciate how those three words relate to him. First, nothing about the 61-year-old’s past suggests that he’s an artistic savant. After all, the self-taught painter, whose artwork has graced the multimillion-dollar homes of everyone from automobile industry executives to Florida retirees, didn’t set out to become an artist until he was in his late forties. Now Hinds work—which mainly depicts coastal scenes, fishing moments and beloved dogs—has become synonymous with the laid-back yet upscale lifestyle of the northwest quadrant of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
The son of a career Navy man, Hinds rarely called a place home for more than two years in a row as a child, something that helped shape his work ethic. “When you move around all your life, you sort of have a tendency to go big, because you never know how long you’re going to be in one place,” Hinds says. “And I think that sticks with you as an adult. With my painting, I figured if I’m going to do it, I’ll go hard at it.”
The angler, hunter and charter boat captain attacks everything he does with a similar zeal. He had successful ventures as a designer and merchandiser at Columbia Sportswear and the fly-fishing gear manufacturer Orvis before switching careers to raise performance horses in Portland, Oregon. In 1997, he sold his horse farm and moved to Florida to settle into a property he had purchased years before. After a while, he started painting. As Hinds tells it, he mindlessly picked up a paintbrush after a visit to his ex-wife’s art gallery, where, seeing the artwork, he thought he could paint just as well as the artists exhibiting there. And, to his own surprise, he did.
Since then, Hinds has turned his artistry into a successful business, painting 60 or so commissioned pieces each year. His wife, Susan, describes his work as “Hemingwayesque,” a term she applies to the work of “a man with a large life—who’s lived large.”
Which brings us to the stationery’s last term: misanthrope. Cautious not to take himself too seriously, Hinds lets slip not-so-subtle hints of deprecation and wry realism that could easily have him mistaken for a swashbuckling sailor instead of a highly sought-after artist. When asked if he enjoys painting, Hinds responds, “I enjoy it, but am I impassioned about doing it? Occasionally. It pays me enough to allow me to do what I want to do, which is to screw off and fish.”
Still, if actions speak louder than words, then Hinds’ daily activities belie any cynical persona he presents. He clocks into his studio at around 2 a.m. (3 a.m. at the latest) and paints all day, every day. He sketches constantly, even when he’s not in the studio. One of the pieces he’s working on today—a painting commissioned by a son who wanted to honor his father, portraying a sailboat the two had been building together before his father’s death—has gotten even the normally misanthropic Hinds emotional.
“Yeah, that story got me,” Hinds says. “I say no to doing a lot of paintings, but I couldn’t say no to a story like that one.”