I initially came cross Oregon born, California based painter Don Gray by way of his daily painting blog Daily Art West, in which he posts his small paintings of varied subjects, sometimes following the model of small indoor still life subjects common to the “painting a day” practice, but more often of outdoor scenes, frequently painted en plein air.
Gray paints his small paintings in both oil and watercolor. His 30 years of painting have taken him through much of the Pacific Northwest; and he has applied his direct realist style to a variety of landscapes, both intimate and grand in scale. He has also developed the figurative work that features more prominently in his murals, which most often are of historical subjects.
Gray has in recent years experimented with moving away from realism in his contemporary work.
Perhaps because I don’t have much personal experience with the western mountains, I connect most readily with his smaller scale landscapes of woods, small fields and creeks. In particular his small plein air paintings of these subjects have a feeling of immediacy and deftness of execution that I find particularly appealing.
Looking back through his blog posts, which are plentiful as one would expect from the painting a day regimen, is a fascinating journey through varied countryside, as well as another sort of journey through the artist’s interest in certain subjects. These fascinations often result in small series — of his brushes, of pillows on a love seat, or the current small series of fruit wrapped in clear plastic bags.
His landscapes show a freedom of subject choice that indicates he is not reliant on the “picturesque”. Gray has developed an enviable ability to see painting worthy subjects in almost anything on which his eye alights.