I remember grandma’s oil paints that were left at our house after one of her visits. They were ancient even then. Some were dried out and hardened in the old metal tubes. Others were leaking the oil that separated from the pigment after all those years. But there were a few that were intact and still usable. I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and I was fascinated by them. In part because of that amazing smell of linseed oil but also the adult-ness of them.
We had some of grandma’s paintings hung up in the house and I frequently studied them. They were so magically mysterious to a young child who had only drawn pictures with pencils and crayons until then. There was so much I didn’t know but I was determined to learn how to paint. My first painting was of a medieval woman sitting in a chair and it was pretty awful, but I was now addicted to art. At that point I was committed to make a living at it when I grew up.
In the years since then, I have become a successful professional artist by continuing to learn new skills and techniques. To support my habit I went into the commercial side of art. I did art for advertising campaigns, books, magazines, newspapers, signs, you name it. I have seen styles and mediums come into and then out of popularity over my career and I’ve always adapted. From the early days of pen & ink, scratchboard, watercolor, gouache and pastel then through airbrush and digital I kept up. It’s made me a better artist and I still do them all.
Yes, after all these years I still cherish the smell of oil paints and the journey it started me on.
I also completely enjoy doing humorous illustration, including children's books. Check out my other site:
Gary Whitley is an award winning illustrator, artist and designer who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He has artwork installed in exhibits at zoos, museums, aquariums, interpretive centers and historic sites across the USA. They include the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, the National Steinbeck Center, the Muhammad Ali Center, the U.S. Army Heritage Center, the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and more.
Whitley has worked on contract with government agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the U.S. Mint. While with the Mint he worked on designs for 16 different coins and congressional gold medals. He had winning designs for the 2011 First Spouse 1/2 ounce gold coin and the 2012 America The Beautiful series quarter dollar.
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