Candyce Klooster Speck lives by the mantra “Keep all doors open,” and it has served her well. Painting, traveling, and modeling around the world, she honed her artistic skills in an array of fields—from architectural renderings and fashion design to publishing and marketing. These influences can now be seen in her vibrant watercolors and acrylics on display in her hometown of Charlevoix, Michigan and in Vero Beach, where she spends her winters.
A visit to Speck’s small studio along the Indian River Lagoon to learn more about the doors she’s opened reveals that her journey is as colorful as her paintings.
“My fourth grade teacher recognized my art talent and encouraged me to enter a contest,” says Speck. “I drew a picture of a pirate—our local high school mascot—and I won! Later, my high school art teacher helped me create a portfolio of work, which earned me a scholarship to Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Following graduation, I had an opportunity to work at Hallmark designing greeting cards, but I followed another open door and took a job doing architectural renderings for an architect in Traverse City.” That experience led to work creating window displays and modeling on the side.
Soon enough, she was walking the runway at New York’s Fashion Week, wearing Diane von Furstenburg’s signature wrap dresses and then-newcomer Betsey Johnson’s whimsical designs. More modeling jobs took Speck to Miami and Los Angeles, but by then she was more interested in the creative side of the fashion industry. She spent the next 10 years in San Diego, designing catalogs and organizing photo shoots and shows for a fashion designer who manufactured clothes in Bali. It was in San Diego that she met and married her husband, Phil, a teaching golf pro.
The couple spent 13 years living in Costa Rica, where Candyce Speck opened the area’s first internet café and an art gallery, selling her paintings as well as items crafted by the indigenous Guaymi people. “I developed great relationships with the Guaymi,” she reflects. “I would ride to their village on horseback and come back with bags, dolls, and hats, which I sold for them. The area was a popular ecotourism destination, so occasionally celebrities like Kevin Bacon and Daryl Hannah would stop in to look at the merchandise.”
Family ties eventually pulled the couple back to Michigan, but in 2017 they purchased a condo in warm-weather Vero Beach, where the artist had spent many summers as a teen. “I love the art vibe and camaraderie among artists here,” says Speck, who is immersing herself in the arts community through the Vero Beach Art Club, the Vero Beach Museum of Art, and Under the Oaks.
“I am captivated by the dramatic clouds, stunning beaches, bountiful wildlife, and unrecognized beauty of Vero’s landmark buildings. I always carry my traveling watercolors, and I often stop the car to take a photo or make a sketch. Sometimes I spontaneously paint plein air. The opportunities are limitless.”