Local artist creates with a spiritual paintbrush
Always, resident Gary Wood knew he was destined to be an artist. Now, with more than six decades of an art career behind him, Wood reflects on his influences and the ways his art has evolved with society.
Growing up in California, Wood did what most young boys do, he became a member of the Cub Scouts.
ﾓMy first merit badge was for art, so I painted a little figure and got my first award as an artist and thatﾒs how I got started,ﾔ Wood quipped.
Honing his artistic skills in school, Wood went to college at the Art Center of Design in Los Angeles and went on to study with a couple of famous artists.
ﾓI was also instructed by Charles Schulz,ﾔ he said. ﾓI was going to be a cartoonist and have a column, but I changed that. [Schulz] was my first instructor, then Walt Disney.ﾔ
Working under Disney led to a steady job as a portrait artist at Disneyland.
ﾓI was a portrait artist and worked in the castle at Disneyland,ﾔ he said. ﾓI sold over 965 portraits while there. I would do up to 75 to 100 a day. I could do a portrait in three minutes and I would have a long line [of people], so I was just pumping them out.ﾓ
After his time at Disneyland, Wood moved on to create portraits at Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. Then, he moved on to creating his own work and was featured in several galleries and exhibitions.
Because it came naturally, Wood continued creating portraits, but instead of using the Disneyland three-minute rule, he developed the portraits with more depth and meaning.
Woodﾒs portfolio shows he spent an extensive amount of time studying Native American culture. During a visit to a reservation, he immersed himself in the culture.
ﾓIt wasnﾒt until after I went to the reservation and stayed with people that I actually began to have that commune with them and that feeling like I wouldnﾒt have been able to paint something like this unless I had that feeling, that closeness,ﾔ he said.
Wood explained that the Native American culture was a unique subject for his paintings because the children there are growing up in much different times than their elders.
ﾓThe Indian is trying to keep his identity alive by reinvesting it into the children and into the family life by having pow-wows. The pow-wows I used to go to gave me that recognition or that responsibility of making sure when I painted something of that nature, that it was going to reflect them, not deter them,ﾔ he explained.
Like everything else, Woodﾒs interests and influences evolved through the years. Although he continued to paint portraits, he found himself studying the styles of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
ﾓI loved the surrealism and it became my real objective, along with hard line abstracts,ﾔ Wood said. ﾓUntil I moved to Northern California and was commissioned to do a few pieces, I didnﾒt realize that I was actually portraying them and they were influencing me. We became a circle and those paintings were all of us together.ﾔ
While in Northern California, Wood collaborated with an art teacher at a high school and shared his knowledge with the students.
Wood eventually found himself in West Virginia, joining wife Ramonaﾒs family.
ﾓShe wanted to come after her dad and her sister moved here and I had no idea what this country looked like or what I was getting myself into, but I said, ﾑsure, Iﾒll go,ﾒﾔ Wood recalled. ﾓSo I went 3,000 miles across the United States in our car. I ended up right here seven years ago and Iﾒve stayed because I enjoy it, immensely. Thereﾒs no sense in going back to California.ﾔ
Since the move the Pocahontas County, Wood has traded his paintbrush and canvas for a different medium, his computer. He discovered that with a stylus and a painting program, he could create paintings in the realism and surrealism form.
As he reflects on the artwork he has created throughout his lifetime, Wood has come to a simple conclusion.
ﾓI did what I was supposed to,ﾔ he said.
To see more of Woodﾒs artwork, visit www.adriburghout.nl. Click on the ﾑfriendsﾒ icon then scroll down past the translations, for thumbnails of Woodﾒs paintings.