PursleyArt.com
PursleyArt.com

A Wonderful Life as an Artist

I have been extremely fortunate throughout my life from being raised in the midwest by great parents and on through well into my 60s and living in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. Here's a look at my experience in art over the years.

By the age of three I was drawing a lot and on whatever I could find that didn't have lines. Here's a drawing of a track meet I did at age seven.

In high school I offerred to paint a mural eight feet high by 24 feet long. With several breaks alonf the way, it was finished a year and a half later. I'm proud to say it is still displayed at the high school in Lexington, Nebraska.

While in high school I became interested in hyper realism and my goal was to do drawings so tight that people would think they were photographs. In the case of this one of Kirk Douglas, done at age 19, I found it was considered a photo in as student art show at Hastings College.

After transferring to Colorado State, I took a job (as needed) with the Fort Collins Police Department as a Composite Artist. This went well enough that over the next seven years it expanded to 11 other law enforcement agencies including, on occasion, the FBI. This was the most interesting job I ever had working on cases from armed robbery to kidnapping to murder. Most challenging were two trips to the morgue to reconstuct on paper what a murder victim looked like so they could be identified.

About 1980, I shifted from drawing to painting and continued in the effort to make the work appear as photographic as possible. I found it to be time-consuming and tedious work but I was happy with the final product. This '57 Checy from 1981 was awarded Best of Show in a national competition.

In 1983, we moved to Orange County California where I soon became an illustrator for the OC Register Newspaper; a job I kept for the next 23 years. It was a great opportunity, working for one of the top newspapers in the country and getting to do a variety of illustrations for every section of the paper.

During my stint at the paper, they gave me the freedom to create a series of around 40 illustrations called "Dreamscapes." These ran as a contest with a title and a caption on each one. Our readers would take what they were given and then write and submit stories for which the five best were later printed in the paper. It was the most successful reader solicitation project in the paper's history. I was told when readers were asked to give their opinions or reply in any way, one should not hope for more than 35 responses. The "Dreamscape" series averaged well over 200 each time.

And while still at the paper, I took on some freelance work, most of which was sports related. During the 90s, virtually every illustration they used was one of mine including this one called "The Spectator" which was a program cover in April, 1991.

Eventually, the sports art spread to working for Upper Deck Card Company (above) as well as Topps and Bowman. Through this, I got to meet all of my boyhood sports heroes. Pretty exciting for a kid from Nebraska.

At one point, I was able to do a series of 20 baseball players of the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame in Florida. It was the most challenging deadline I ever had. While still working at the paper (though I did take a couple days off) I painted all 20 in just 22 days. I was able to keep the originals while allowing them reproduction rights. I only have this one of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson left, trading others for antique baseball memorabilia. One, of Hank Aaron is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York.

One of my last major projects for the Register was this eight foot by eight foot mural of Ronald Reagan which is now in the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. It consists of 256 separate squares, each 6x6 inches and painted individually. I am shown here with museum director John Langolier, at left.

After moving to Bath, New Hampshire in 2002, we soon took over a small, historic building on the common (just two doors down from the oldest general store in America and by one of the oldest and longest covered bridges in the nation). We have been running the American Heritage Gallery of Art ever since.

Inside the gallery, I paint every day while sitting in a 120-year-old buggy (minus the wheels). I built an easel into it that slides up and back as needed. Well over a thousand paintings have been done sitting right here.

In 2010 I painted the first of two portraits that now hang in the New Hampshire State House. This one is of Ray Burton; long-time member of the Governor's Council. The other is of a former governor.

For the last decade on alternate years, I have been given a one-man-show at another historic buillding in Haverhill, NH. These are always portraits of local people and most of the subjects attend the opening which is fun for me and the other attendees who get to see the real thing as well as their images on canvas. since moving here, I estimate I have done close to 400 portraits of people in the area. This one is of Jean Bovereau whom I have painted four times so far.

Since the gallery is only open seasonally, I paint much of the rest of the year in my home studio. I love this space, a very comfortable spot for creating art. It also reflects local history including pieces of the covered bridge and other historic artifacts from the area. The hand-hewn rafter overhead were given to me by a neighbor. They were hewn in 1778 as the Revolutionary War was raging not far away.

I am very grateful to family, friends and neighbors as well as clients who make doing what I do not only possible, but so much fun! I LOVE my job!

 


Print Print | Sitemap
© Craig Pursley, Artist