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Like Father, Like Daughter

Like Father, Like Daughter

Courtenay Birdsall-Clifford recalls how her father, renowned Alaska artist Byron Birdsall inspired her own art career.

In honor of Fathers Day, we are proud to feature the art of Daughter/Father duo Byron Birdsall and Courtenay Birdsall-Clifford throughout the month of June. Read how Courtenay was inspired by her father from an early age. 


Kitchens are said to be the hub of most houses, but in my house growing up it was Papa’s studio. Making art was simply a part of daily life along with walking the dog and being taunted by my older brother. I assumed every family had an art studio with work tables arranged in such a way as to foster communal creating and multiple projects at once. Every day I could dig around in the dresser full of art supplies to find a new medium to play with. Papa spent his days at one table happily bent over his slant board and I would pull up a stool to the neighboring one, often elbowing my brother for space.

When we were young it was simply a place to play, be it with finger paint or collage or clay. It’s where we made gifts and cards for each other and where we gathered over newspapers to carve pumpkins. It’s where we learned to experiment without worry of success or failure, but purely for the fun. It was in the studio that I worked on countless school projects and learned to embrace one of Papa’s mottos: Presentation is everything. He taught me at an early age to take pride in my work, even the smallest of endeavors, and to do so with humility and grace.

Later it was where he taught me the art of iconography, a passionate sideline of his and my introduction to mixed-media. This lead to a series of Daughter-Father shows (he insisted on that order) throughout my college years. Every summer we would sit at our respective tables in the studio and create, often with a Hitchcock film playing in the background (another shared enjoyment). If I ever became frustrated with a piece, he would encourage me to just keep plugging away and recite another one of his mottos: Don’t wait for inspiration. Keep creating and it will come.

Papa’s studio was the heart of the house and where he taught me, both by example and instruction, to be the artist and the person that I am today. I ended up following in his footsteps as a landscape painter and now have a studio of my own. Even though he is no longer here, he continues to inspire me every day. 

~Courtenay Birdsall Clifford


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