It’s about time they did an art show together: Bob Griswold, 97, and his son John, recently retired, who cares for him. Both watercolorists, father and son share an interest in painting their favorite things: camping, hunting, fishing, dogs, and subjects from hundreds of photographs they’ve taken.
On display at Gallery 814 (offices of Capitol Hill Construction, 814 E. 100 South) is a carefully curated selection of watercolors by both artists. Without the tags on the wall or signatures on the paintings you might not be able to tell which artist painted each painting. But there are clues.
According to John, his father was a talented kid, a pencil sketch artist. After his service in World War II, he wanted to become a Disney illustrator. “He was told that’s no job for a man,” says John. So, he got a business degree and worked to age 65. “After he retired, he took some classes from teachers at Cal State, but he’s mostly self-taught.
The exhibit includes some samples of Bob’s work from all phases of his painting career. The viewer can see a progression in his grasp of watercolor techniques and his ability to capture fine, realistic detail. Then, there are the more recent paintings that are more impressionistic and less detailed. Painting was interrupted for Bob as he cared for his wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease. After she died, John persuaded Bob to move to Utah to live with him. He began painting again, encouraged by John and by fellow painters who get together at the Evergreen Recreation Center. Though he still paints from photographs, he also works from imagination and memory.
One of Bob’s paintings in the exhibit is titled “Relics.” John thinks it’s his best. It shows an older man (Bob) sitting beside some old logging equipment, with a tree growing up through the equipment. John says the painting was based on a black-and-white photo Bob took when they went camping at that location in the California mountains. In addition to his drawing skills, Bob has the ability to make color decisions and other artistic choices that can make a bad photograph into a great painting.
Meanwhile, John has been painting for about 30 years. Not surprisingly, he got some help from his dad. He recalls going to California for a friend’s wedding and wanting to paint a picture for a wedding gift. He asked to borrow his dad’s supplies. Like Bob, John is self-taught, but over the years he’s learned a lot by doing and by talking painting with his dad.
John, a carpenter by vocation, was one of the founding members of Capitol Hill Construction some 23 years ago. In between work on residential renovation and remodeling projects he continued to hone his painting skills. He retired about a year ago. Now, in addition to caring for his father and painting, he’s also a writer with ambitions to have his work published.
Clearly, there’s a lot of family history and stories wrapped up in the paintings on display at Gallery 814. Stop by during Gallery Stroll, Friday, Dec. 7, or other times during business hours.
Sue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life.