"I find nothing relaxing or pleasant about the creative process. It is like a boxing match.
You are alert, intense, focused and hope it all works out well."
Q: Please tell us about bit about yourself. Anything you’d like to share, perhaps where you live, where you were born, your family.
I live in the Arras area with Linda, my wife (retired R.N.) We have lived in the south Peace for 40 years. When we arrived here in the 70's we lived in a little (400 square feet) cabin with wood heat, an outhouse and no running water. At minus 40, it would shrink to 300 sq.feet. Going to the outhouse at those temperatures enforced iron-willed discipline. It was almost a survival lifestyle, but there were plenty of moose and I had 2 good mountain horses. Hunting was an important part of our economy...it was never recreational.
I had, what I called, a Workers Compensation Board Art Scholarship. As a Paramedic I would spend 3 weeks on an oil rig waiting for accidents to happen. I had no other duties or obligations but to wait for that unfortunate situation....so I painted for 3 weeks and got paid for it. At Xmas, I would spend 2 weeks at the Dawson Creek Mall with my art display. My work was very popular.
I became a first-aid instructor at Northern Lights College and was awarded the Citizen of the Year in 1984 for my efforts to train people in C.P.R. I also was a paramedic with the B.C.Ambulance Service. I continued to paint and draw during this period, but less regularly.
In 1995, I decided to pursue a Master's Degree in Counselling Psychology (My bachelor's was from U.B.C.) and opened a private practice in Dawson Creek. I never used any form of talk therapy, although I was trained and qualified to employ that type of therapy. Instead I specialized in clinical hypnosis because this form of therapy really helps people efficiently and quickly. I never have to work beyond two sessions with clients. I have a life-long involvement with hypnosis. I used it in 1967 to improve my grades at U.B.C. and it was like a smart pill and I was hooked. What else can this stuff do? It is not only a major part of my life but also an important part of my art technique. see www.peacetherapy.com.
Q: Can you remember the first time you realized you liked creating art and wanted to become an artist? Was there a particular person who was instrumental in aiding your decision or helping you to pursue your goals? If so, in what way did you feel they helped?
I was drawing at six and discovered Charlie Russell, the cowboy artist, when I was ten years old. I was mesmerized by his art. I had an art class in grade 5 and I just lived for those two hours a week. This was not an optional class and I was amazed that all my classmates hated those 2 hours. I eventually made a pilgrimage to Charlie's studio in Great Falls, Montana.
Q: What motivates you to create art?
A mysterious emotion that is inexplicable to me. I remember as a child being amazed that something beautiful could be created from a blank canvas.
Q: Do you have a favorite medium and if so, why?
I started with pencil and oils. Eventually I would use acrylics as a verdaccio underpainting and overpaint with oils. Now I prefer acrylics because of the drying time and the ability to make rapid corrections. I also prefer masonite as a surface over canvas . It permits finer detail.
Graphite pencil is deceiving in its simplicity and beauty. It demands a thorough understanding of tonal values.
I spent a lot of my early years as a street artist to supplement my income when at U.B.C. You had to do a color portrait in less than an hour and soft pastels were the answer.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about some of your artworks and what they mean to you?
I have always been a lover of the wilderness and prided myself on survival skill techniques. Because of my mountain horses, I was able to spend a lot of time photographing wildlife and mountains scenes. I have 40 years of slides as reference material.
Initially it was a natural step to paint what I loved and buyers shared my appreciation. As I got older I did some pastel portrait commissions and saw how very meaningful this could be to people. Their rather mundane photo of kids, grandkids, pets could be transformed into a family heirloom, It warmed my heart and theirs, so now, I am trying to specialize in portraiture although the muse of beautiful mountainscapes will reappear now and then.
Q: When you create art are you thinking of anything in particular? What sorts of emotions if any, arise during the creation process? Do you listen to music and if so, what is your favorite?
I am thinking about composition and tonal value initially. I never think in colour until I am satisfied with a monochromatic study. The colour study is next. There is a lot of cognition and preparation before transferring the original idea on masonite.
I find nothing relaxing or pleasant about the creative process. It is like a boxing match. You are alert, intense, focused and hope it all works out well. When I am confident about my tonal and colour studies, I can breath a sigh of relief. The larger painting is icing on the cake.
Q: Just about everyone is guilty of procrastination at times. Do you have any tips to find time for your art?
Good art is more about perspiration than aspiration or inspiration. I paint several hours a day. With my type of art, patience is a virtue.
Q: Is creating art your main profession?
Along with my hypnotherapy practice.
Q: Can you tell us about any awards or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life?
I have never won an award until recently: second place with the regional FCA show. I am envious of those artists who have been entering juried shows and have a long list of various awards. I accept that obscurity is probably my destiny.
Q: Do you have any major goals for your art career?
At 80 years of age, I suspect my art career is nearly over....I burnt myself in a gasoline fire and my right arm and hand were injured but I could still do art. I had a solo quad accident that might have killed me but only caused a ton of pain and finally....a heart attack while working out trying to have a healthy old age. So my major goal for my art career is to stay alive and continue to paint and draw..
Q: What inspires you to be the best artist that you can be?
The work of Charley Russell, Frederick Remington, Caravaggio, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Terry Issacs, Frank Covino and the wonderful Norman Rockwell.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your art journey or inspiration to inspire others?
It seems like selling art on line is more than a gimmick....but social media can be complicated and time consuming. It requires the artist to become a marketer ...which is an attitude foreign and repulsive to the majority of creative people
Thank you Gary for sharing your story and art with us!
Gary can be reached by email-