Highly prized annual railroad painting debuts in January
This year’s print by Anchorage artist Debra Dubac depicts two locomotives pulling freight along Turnagain Arm from Whittier to Anchorage. The foreground of the painting includes a splash of wildflowers including arctic poppies, forget-me-nots, daisies, fireweed and squirrel grass.
Since 1979, an official painting has been produced each year except in 1984. Initially, the paintings were reproduced to offset the costs of producing the railroad’s annual report, said Patrick Flynn, the railroad’s public affairs officer.
The paintings have featured some of Alaska’s best-known artists and are prized by people from around the world, Flynn said.
"There are people who collect these religiously," Flynn said. "They are highly anticipated by collectors and employees.’’
The railroad will produce 750 prints and 4,500 posters of Dubac’s painting. Lapel pins also are available.
Prints cost $50; posters $25; and lapel pins are $5, Flynn said.
A committee each year selects an artist from about two dozen entries, Flynn said. Winning artists are paid $4,000 and given two round-trip train tickets, Flynn said.
"The reason people do it is the high profile, not the money,’’ Flynn said. "The advantage to the artists is that they don’t have to pay for the production costs.’’
Dubac, an illustrator for the former Anchorage Times, now owns Dubac Designs, specializing in fine and graphic art.
Dubac said the painting for the railroad wasn’t easy.
"I do a lot of flowers, but this was my first attempt at a train and that was challenging,’’ Dubac said. "I learned the anatomy of a train.’’
The painting took several months to complete, including research and the actual painting. The final product had to pass muster with railroad employees and train experts to make sure every detail was exact, Dubac said.
"It was very time-consuming,’’ Dubac said. "I was pleased it passed their inspection on the first attempt.’’
The first official Alaska Railroad painting was done in 1979 by John Van Zyle. Susan Ogle has four winning prints and Richard Rodriquez has three.
Other winning artists include Jarrett J. Jester, Deanna Brandon, Don Kolstad, Gary Mealor, Tom Stewart, Shane Lamb, Steve Gordon, Armond Kirschbaum, Dan Miller, Robert Silvers and James Havens.