Voices of Experience - Gregory Packard

Voices of Experience

Gregory Packard

Joy Love, 36 x 36", Oil, © Gregory Packard
Joy Love          36 x 36"          Oil

On painting, Gregory Packard writes: 

"It's sort of like you are writing the symphony

at the same time you are playing it!"

   Gregory Packard knew he had an artist's sensitivity, but didn't come to pursuing painting seriously until he was 28. Since then, he has excelled, with work showing in juried exhibitions across the country. His paintings have been featured in multiple national publications, including:  Western Art Collector, Southwest Art, Art of the West and American Art Collector. We asked him to write us about growing up with an artist's inclination, working in a more traditional job and ultimately making the decision to take the leap to becoming a full-time painter.

The Space Between, 48 x 60", Oil, © Gregory Packard
The Space Between           48 x 60"           Oil

   I discovered that I could draw at a very young age, perhaps at four or five years old, receiving some positive reinforcement. I have early memories of finger-painting in kindergarten, which must have been a visceral experience to remember it after all these years. And, I only remember the paint on my fingers, not the painting. By the time I was nine or so, I was the kid in class drawing things for all my peers. In high school I just took the standard classes, but I continued to draw beyond high school.

   I knew I needed to pursue art full-time when I was 28. It’s not that I didn’t want it before then, but I really never knew a person could be an artist who made a living from painting things they love to paint. I come from a very practical, hard-working family. I am the youngest of eight, with five older brothers and two older sisters, raised primarily by our mom on a receptionist’s wages. It was the school of hard knocks, and in many respects it was kids raising kids.

   I had worked construction early in college for my older brothers, and I realized that I needed something different. I was not a book smart kid, so I took the more practical route and pursued a degree in a field I thought I could obtain: English with a technical communication emphasis. I was awful at it. During that time I drew for fun and took some college painting classes for fun while attending Boise State for English.

   I had one instructor who had just graduated from the Art Center of Design illustration program in Pasadena, CA. He was an excellent painting instructor, and I did very well in his class of monochromatic portrait and figure painting. For the first time in my life—probably my junior year in college—I thought about applying to art school. I applied to the Art Center fine art program, where I was turned down. Perhaps it would have made a difference if I had applied to the illustration program . . . I don’t know. It turned out to be a blessing, because I could never have afforded it. A few years later I finally graduated college and had a good job in the high-tech sector writing user guides and helping with marketing communications.

Introspection, 36 x 36", Oil, © Gregory Packard
Introspection          36 x 36"          Oil

Engravings, 30 x 36", Oil, © Gregory Packard
Engravings           30 x 36"           Oil

   One day at age 27 or 28, I was in downtown Boise for a meeting. I walked into a gallery that had some work on the walls that excited me. It was Robert Moore’s paintings. The gallery owner told me he was teaching a workshop, so I signed up on the spot. I went around the corner to another gallery and saw another artist’s work that excited me—Delbert Gish. He was also teaching a workshop. I signed up on the spot there as well. That was the first time I knew about workshops, and I knew that I could afford at least a workshop. I was so excited because it was the working man’s way of becoming an artist. Taking those initial workshops changed me forever. I was so addicted—I didn’t have a choice in the matter but to pursue it.

You Are My Sunshine, 16 x 20", Oil, © Gregory Packard
You are My Sunshine           18 x 24"          Oil

By Design, 20 x 24", Oil, © Gregory Packard
By Design          20 x 24"          Oil

   My formative years were in the countryside of southwest Idaho. Until the age of five I roamed around on a farm, experiencing the sensations of wet grass, cornfields, haystacks, farm animals, cold and deep snow, and myriad tastes and sounds. When my parents divorced, we moved to town, where I inevitably became a city kid. But, the imprinting the western countryside had on me was already done. I believe this still plays a part in my work today. Being outside in the elements is being alive, and the beauty found there from the most grand of scenes in mountains and ocean to the simple, country flower bed stirs me to this day. When you boil it down, the pleasures of life that arouse our senses are unique to each of us. For me, the landscape is important. Where I live is important. It may seem obvious, but I find that I do my best work when I have a connection to the landscape I am honoring. For the past 19 years, being near the San Juan mountains in western Colorado, has been that place. Sometimes that connection takes years to build, and yet there are some locations—few to be sure—where the connection must stem from a past life because it just feels like home upon arrival, which is the way the immense aspen groves felt to me upon moving here.

October, 20 x 24", Oil, © Gregory Packard
October          20 x 24"          Oil

A Poem in February, 40 x 30", Oil, © Gregory Packard
A Poem in February          40 x 30"          Oil

   When I paint from life en plein air—which is not often—I like very much to do so in private. It’s an intimate expression, and I don’t tend to do it as if I’m eating a sandwich on the side of the road. When possible I hike into the woods until I’m inspired. I know instantly when I’m attracted to something. Painting is a commitment of time and effort, and I want to be successful, so I ask an honest question as to whether or not I think I can pull it off. If so, I set up.

   Now, I mention this—in spite of all that I’m about to write below:  I try to stay true to the feeling that caused me to be attracted to the scene. Guidelines be damned if they cause me to stray from what originally stirred my heart. That said, these guidelines apply to both plein air and studio painting. If the scene is complex, I’ll sometimes do an under-painting with a thinned down color, or, at least, do so with the areas that are a focal point, looking for interesting value shapes that will help the painting be impactful at a glance from across the room. Value shapes (large organic and abstract areas of very close values), as opposed to objects, make or break a painting’s design. Interesting patches of color can coincide and act in the same way as value in regards to design. I like to paint very direct, and often make quite a mess in the process. I’ve told many painters, 'It’s okay, in fact it can be preferable, to make a beautiful mess in the early stages of a painting'. In the end, if you’re successful, those messy passages make for a more organic painting—one that is less formulaic and stale.

   To keep that freshness intact, I try to leave a stroke alone after it has been laid down. My approach is purposeful but not necessarily careful. The more you can make each stroke count, especially without being too careful in the process, the more you will inevitably reflect the way nature itself works. In other words, it’s not a contradiction to say, 'Make the stroke count, but also be a little careless in your application'. Nature is full of chaotic beauty which comes together and seems to miraculously work in harmony. I don’t need to paint each leaf. Instead, I need to convey to you how the leaf makes me feel. To do so I can use my drawing skills in the form of crude brush strokes to make hue (color), value shapes (dark and lightness of that color), and saturation (range of grey to pure color), and my own interpretation of those to color my emotions on the canvas in the rough form of trees or boats or flowers. It’s not an exact science. Each canvas is a bit of a struggle because you are not really copying what you see. It’s sort of like you are writing the symphony at the same time you are playing it. A single note of red on the canvas can stand out like the patch on a red-winged blackbird, so beautiful the song among the willows.

Plein Air Oil Painting Demo, Step 1, © Gregory Packard   Plein Air Oil Painting Demo, Step 2, © Gregory Packard

Plein Air Oil Painting Demo, Step 3, © Gregory Packard   Plein Air Oil Painting Demo, Step 4, © Gregory Packard

Plein Air Oil Painting Demo, Finish, © Gregory Packard
Plein Air Oil Painting Demonstration, Steps 1 - 5

   I’ve included a few photos of a painting in stages in the woods painted from life. You can see I did a little wash drawing with my brush before diving in with color. In this particular case I drew a basic idea of the scene because I knew the shadows were going to change quickly. The painting ended up taking me two or three hours—my dogs were exhausted waiting for me. More often than not paintings take on a life of their own. This piece stayed pretty true, but I don’t always aim for that. As a painting shapes up be willing to go with it if it takes a turn of its own, as long as it is pleasing to you. Whatever your subject may be, if you want this beautiful creation to use you to express itself, then you need to be willing to accept the subtle language it offers up. It’s a collaboration where you use your best artistic insight to make and direct some changes while also paying close attention to see the clues offered up in subtle color harmonies or linking shadows or poetic edges. Certainly be willing to use all the tools you have, and that includes intuition.

   Importantly, choose to bring joy to the world. Be purposeful with your strokes in your attempt to make the world a better place.

Shimmer, 18 x 24", Oil, © Gregory Packard
Shimmer          18 x 24"           Oil

To see more of Gregory Packard's paintings, go to:  Gregory Packard

All artwork copyright Gregory Packard

Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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