Lizabeth Anne Stirling-Perkins is a yacht chef who paints. But she’s also an artist who cooks. There is no separating her from either.
As a freelance chef, she has worked on yachts including MoonSand, Musbe Dreamin, Bliss, Quintessa, and Petrus.
As an artist, her paintings have sold since the early 1990s when pieces were placed in galleries in Canada. This spring, Perkins had a solo exhibition at the Broward Art Guild Gallery in Ft. Lauderdale with her detailed yacht portraits, bright abstracts, vibrant scenes and playful three-dimensional sculptures.
She’s a blend of names.
“Everyone wanted to put an E on my first name,” she said.
She was called Liz-Anne in her native Canada where she was born in 1962. In 2005, when she got married, she added Perkins.
“We are a team, so now I sign my artwork Stirling-Perkins,” she said. “People in the art world assume my name is Stirling Perkins. They all call me Stirling, even though there is a hyphen.
“But, in the cooking world I’m Liz,” she said. “It’s easier.”
Although boating has continued to expand in her life, Perkins said painting was first, a part of her life since she was young.
“I always took paints everywhere I went,” she said. And she still does. It was 1992 when her cooking and her art blended.
“It has been serendipitous,” Perkins said. “That year was the first time I was paid to cook and I had my art for sale.”
Perkins’ boating career began after her career in film and television post-production work in Toronto. It was 1988 when she “cut and ran,” as she said, to work as crew chef on a 62-foot private ketch.
“I knew how to cook and how to do what I was told,” she said. “I had an interest in engines and always loved the water and boats.
“I learn quickly,” she said.
On that ketch, while working in the Mediterranean, she met a group of boisterous yacht crew in a bar.
“Those people in the white shirts were the happiest lot I’d ever met,” Perkins said. “We spoke briefly, but it was so positive.”
Then, the captain answered the yacht’s hand-held radio and told the group, “the boss wants us back,” she said. “Snap, all were gone.”
After her stint on the ketch, Perkins sat next to a yacht captain on a flight from London to Boston. He handed her agent Norma Trease’s business card for Worldwide Yacht Agency. She’s worked on yachts ever since.
Today, South Florida sunlight accents Perkins’ art throughout the old home where she and her husband live off the New River in Ft. Lauderdale. Her husband, Jay William Perkins, known as Capt. Bill, previously worked on yachts and is now captain of a 175-foot oil supply vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the main room, her paintings include Bahamian blue sky landscapes and a nude blue woman. Perkins melds with her bright blue eyes, wearing a light blue button-up shirt. She sits in a blue chair on a blue tile floor next to a blue basket.
The bedroom highlights her green pieces.
The couple’s first home, a sailboat, is tied to the dock in the backyard on the way to Perkins’ art studio. Perkins navigates the garage-turned-studio, pointing out sewing machines for her soft sculptures, power tools her husband uses to build frames from found wood and stacks of her creations. There are completed canvases on the floor, on easels and on tables.
Material sculptures of potatoes and carrots are on workbenches and fabric cutting stations. She has several projects in progress.
Energetic, even with her nightly four to five hours of sleep, Perkins is animated as she connects her passions.
“You have to be up by 5:15 on a boat,” Perkins said. “Coffee comes on at 6:20.”
Even at home as artist, she works like a yacht chef.
“When you get on a yacht, you scan what’s available and you create from what is there,” Perkins said. She does the same with her art.
She describes her work as four styles: impressionism, abstract, photo representation and soft sculptures.
“My art is diverse, like my cooking,” Perkins said. “Do you like to cook only one thing? I don’t want to cook just Italian.”
Working freelance on boats and freeform in her studio, each day is something new. But Perkins said the basics are the same in cooking and art.
“With both I am on my feet and using my hands,” Perkins said. “Both are very physical.”
Creativity feeds each one, she said by way of a story of work on a yacht in Palm Beach with five different guest preferences to accommodate.
“I was watching the food I was preparing, a cold Thai dish,” she said. “I was mesmerized by the colors, my senses were stimulated.”
Back in her studio, she created a vibrant abstract painting reminiscent of the food. She even uses culinary words to describe her creative process. “I was percolating with ideas,” she said.
Perkins’ recent triptych, three acrylic paintings, humorously illustrate the fusion. “Three Leeks in a Boat”, “Mushrooming Umbrellas” and “Cauliflower Sky” were inspired combining sites from the Florida Keys and vegetables in a farmers’ market.
Perkins embraces both passions and plans to continue working on yachts and creating art.
“Cooking gives me the opportunity to paint,” Perkins said. “But I will always do both.”
To see her photography visit yourshot.nationalgeographic.com and search
Lizabeth Stirling Perkins