A World of Experience in Life and Art — the Paintings of Craig Whitcomb

Blue bird with flowers painting by Craig Whitcomb
Blue Bird with Flowers by Craig Whitcomb

 

From the Old West to the Far East, world traveler Craig Whitcomb, who settled down in Lewiston, ID, captures it all in watercolor, pastel, graphite, acrylic, and color pencil, because, in addition to not being stuck to any one subject, he doesn’t limit himself in the medium used as well.

A prolific artist who has been painting for more than 50 years, Whitcomb has fit art, quite prominently, into a career path that encompasses, first, 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a government analyst. This position took him throughout the U.S. and overseas to England, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

Blue Indian by Craig Whitcomb of Wenaha Gallery
Blue Indian by Craig Whitcomb of Wenaha Gallery

After retirement from the military, Whitcomb embarked on a second career in teaching, focusing on art, philosophy, English, history and other disciplines — because why box oneself in to just one subject? — at Walla Walla Community College and other area schools in Clarkston, WA. Somewhere along the line he found himself in China and Japan, teaching English. And while he was teaching, he was learning — from the people, from the culture, from their art.

“My paintings, regardless of media, reflect what I have seen in my years of travel and work around the world and how I have perceived the subjects,” Whitcomb explains. Over a lifetime, those travels have taken him to more than 40 countries, with a resultant art portfolio encompassing subject matter that ranges from Nez Perce Indian “fancy dancers” to English thatched cottages, from Japanese Shinto temples  to landscapes of Idaho, near Whitcomb’s Lewiston home.

Oh, and scenes from Aruba,  an island off the coast of Venezuela that is the birthplace of Whitcomb’s wife, Stephanie. Now retired, although it doesn’t really look like it, the couple travels there to visit family, and Craig brings back images — solitary country homes, lush tropical flowers, idyllic island scenes — to paint.

The reason it doesn’t look like Whitcomb is retired is because he’s so incredibly busy — in his laid back, relaxed way. A member of the Northwest, Spokane, and Palouse Watercolor Societies as well as various general art groups, he has served as curator of the Valley Art Center in Clarkston, WA, a position that demands administrative and public relations skills as well as an eye for what constitutes fine art.

Whitcomb has exhibited with the Fred Oldfield Western and Wildlife Show, the Spokane Museum of Arts and Cultures, the Museum of Eastern Idaho, and national and international miniature shows in Florida, Virginia, Texas, Nebraska, England, and Japan. He jumped head first into 30-30-30, a gallery challenge in Moscow, Idaho that required daily paintings over the course of a month, and every year he takes part in the Clarkston Valley Art Center’s “Faking the Master’s” Exhibition, in which artists choose a famous painting to replicate.

“I know I will never duplicate a great master,” Whitcomb says, “but it gives me a challenge.”

Perhaps a greater challenge faces Whitcomb each time he finishes one work, before deciding upon, and starting another: what to do? It could be a portrait, or a landscape; a full-sized piece or a miniature so detailed that it requires a magnifying glass and a very thin brush; a whimsical approach, or a serious one. Whatever it is, it will be an eclectic blend representing years of travel, a mind sharpened by wit, and a background incorporating, literally, a world’s worth of experience.

Village Church by Craig Whitcomb at the Wenaha Gallery
Village Church by Craig Whitcomb at the Wenaha Gallery

“Art is intrinsic to every culture,” Whitcomb observes. “I haven’t encountered a culture yet where they don’t have some form of art.”

And looking at the vast repertoire of paintings spanning more than 50 years of capturing the world’s cultural heritage, one can’t help but wonder if Whitcomb hasn’t put a significant amount of it on paper or canvas.

Craig Whitcomb is the featured Art Event Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery (219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA) from September 22 through October 11, and October 4 he joins floral, Western, and wildlife artist Janene Grende at Art Walk, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the gallery, part of the Dayton on Tour celebration.

Wenaha GalleryContact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

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