Artist's Statement

Greg Burns as a child drawingI don’t ever remember a time when I was not drawing. I started out drawing to entertain myself and never stopped, and so I think that the secret to my success is not quitting. In my experience if you think you can do something you can and when you don’t think you can do something you can’t. My parents provided me with the materials and the encouragement and off I went. I got so much support, too, from church and school. I won a contest in the fifth grade and received a national award while at Bishop McGuinness High School. When I was eleven, I was recovering from surgery in the hospital and was visited by the reigning Miss Oklahoma and some hospital officials. They gave me an art scholarship to the Oklahoma Science and Art Foundation. It is such a fortunate thing to find something that you love to do at an early age. I couldn’t do a lot of things that the other kids could do, so I spent a great deal of time drawing.

I’ve always had a great interest in the details of how things fit together. To me what makes my work special is the attention to detail. It’s the decisiveness of ink and watercolor that I love. My drawings as a child were probably no better than other children’s art, except that they were exceptionally detailed. And I kept after it. Everything is practice for the next time. People ask me how long it takes to do a painting and I tell them as long as possible. You really have to love the process. People ask me how I choose what to draw and where I get my ideas. It’s all around me, whether it’s the barn across the street from my house or an Italian landscape. I sometimes use photographs for information, but not all my subjects actually exist in real life. Inherent in my drawing is the aspect of the dignity of the subject matter.

My personal goal is to create an emotion or sense of time and location. Drawing is a tool, like writing or anything else you want to communicate. The most difficult part of drawing is the first line. Everything can’t happen at once. It takes time for it to gel and all come together. If I make an error or if there’s some particular thing I don’t like, I’ve learned to be patient. There are no mistakes when you are doing artwork.

I try to capture our heritage in my drawings. For a long time we seemed to be in a great hurry to tear it all down. Now we have begun to appreciate the older buildings. I put a lot of time and effort into my watercolors of old buildings, not just historically significant ones, but regular buildings, so people will appreciate them. I don’t paint portraits, but the human presence is communicated in the idea that the house is what a person made and lived in; the things in the yard or in a room are there because people arranged them there. All this tells a story about people.

All of us with Arthrogryposis, a small community, seem to have determination, hardheadedness, and grit. It’s vital that the families, like mine, are very supportive. It is important for handicapped people to get out there and try what they want to do. If something stops you, sit back and think. Then try it another way. And finally, let me put some myths to rest: I am not blind and I do not paint with my feet! That really would be amazing!!

I don’t know exactly where I am going, but there is a whole world out there I want to explore.