After 15 consecutive years of exhibiting her work at the Sawdust Art Festival's annual summer show, artist Linda Pirri is moving to the Kohala Coast in Hawaii. (KEVIN CHANG, Coastline Pilot / August 30, 2012)

Sawdust Art Festival artist Linda Pirri remembers one of the first times she came to Laguna Beach.

She was 18 years old, studying art and told herself if she ever was going to pursue her art, she would do it here. More than 20 years later, at 40, she did just that. She left a successful career in Los Angeles in real estate to devote her life to her art in the historic arts colony.

Pirri, now 59, has been at the festival 15 years. This year will be her last for a while, she said, because she's moving to the Kohala Coast in Hawaii with her husband this week.

"As much as we love Laguna, I think we're both hungry for a little change," she said. "It's very bittersweet because we've had such good fortune and karma."

Pirri is known for her whimsical silk paintings, which have a myriad of themes including beach scenes, zen, food and wine, romance and even cowboy.

On her 40th birthday, her husband surprised her with a trip to Mexico, she said, and she discovered a silk painting studio at their hotel.

Pirri, who studied art at Cal State Fullerton, had never tried the technique but she was immediately enamored. She came back and told her husband, "I'm going to do this."

When talking about pursuing her art later in life, Pirri said she had to follow the "fire in her belly" and give it a shot, or she might never do it.

She has shown at the Festival of Arts in past years but said she's grown fond of the community that Sawdust offers.

She says being unique and having a welcoming personality are important traits when managing a booth at the festival. She always tries to form a genuine friendship with the visitors that pass by, she said, versus just worrying about a sale.

However, her clients are loyal and return every summer "like clockwork," she said.

Pirri said this summer was one of her best. When she described the festival, she compared it to a family.

"I think the freedom to be whoever you want to be with your art and personality too" is what makes the Sawdust Festival unique, she said. "They do nothing but support you."

The Sawdust Art Festival closes its 46th season Sept. 2. Find Pirri at booth No. 244 or visit her website at lindapirri.com.

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay