Traveling painter

Posted by Patricia Burns on 12/30/2021

Greg Burns is a visual artist who grew up in Oklahoma City, attending Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School and University of Oklahoma (OU) before adopting ink drawing and watercolor as a vocation. 

Visual art is a very difficult career path in which to make a living. What made you stick it out?

Like most kids, I've always drawn. It's just something that I have always enjoyed. I never really planned on being an artist; it was just something that accidentally happened when I was at OU. I was thinking I was going to be a guidance counselor and use art as a psychological tool to help children, and then I switched it. I changed my major from being a psychology major with an art minor to being an art major with a psychology minor. And you know, I never have really had a real job. I've fortunately been able to make a living just painting and drawing, what I wanted to do. 

How do you choose your subjects, and what is your inspiration?

Mostly photographs, and the reason for that is it takes sitting out and drawing on the site; it gets light and it gets dark, and the light changes all the time. I use photographs for information. I don't copy the photographs. I use them for the details and to remind me exactly what I'm doing. It doesn't have to be a good photograph. It's just a springboard for me to do something. But I create my own perspective. And I just use the photographs for information. Often, I'll use 30 or 40 pictures to do a painting, but the pictures have nothing to do with the end result. It's not a picture of that picture. 

How do you begin?

I just sort of get into it. The first line is the most difficult. And then the next line is a little bit easier and the next line is a little bit easier than that until finally, you're finished. The artwork itself takes on sort of a life of its own. When I'm doing something, you go through so many stages. You start from a blank piece of paper, and then you start adding stuff to it, and at certain points, it's kind of interesting, and I can go any number of different directions. And then at other points, when you get it farther along, it's kind of the doldrums; you think, 'Oh, this is kind of getting boring. I've got to put 9,000 more leaves on this tree.' But then it gets exciting again, and then finally you finish it, there's a little bit of a letdown because you know you've stopped, that you've done everything you can. You can't go any farther. And so it's a matter of getting another piece of paper and starting the whole process over again.