With a name like Grey Weathers, it seems as if the 30-year-old Savannah, Georgia native was meant to live in Portland’s perpetually overcast climate. Growing up, Grey spent most of his time daydreaming and being with family. Now as an adult, his art is inspired by the whimsy of childhood and the memories that go along with it. Through his work, he aims to evoke the “delicate balance between isolation and companionship, as well as the yearning and delight in long lost moments of escape to a world of make believe.” This ambition comes through as mostly portraits, gracefully and elegantly crafted with a combination of various methods that range from watercolors to regular ballpoint pens. Grey was an absolute pleasure to chat with; his upbeat and genuine personality was refreshing and showed his passion for his work. Amidst our conversation, his Boston terrier Percy Chobits joined us, and Grey’s humble disposition stood out – besides being an extremely talented artist, he is also just a normal guy who loves his dog. Now as a RAW affiliate, Grey is enjoying his opportunities to meet other local artists and get his work seen.
So, what brought you to Portland?
Originally I moved out here with someone from Philadelphia, PA where I was going to the Art Institute. I had nothing better to do, so I figured why not? Life’s too short not to take chances.
What first inspired you to get into art?
I studied design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia but I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember – it all started out like everyone does, sticking macaroni to paper plates and painting with my fingers! I suppose I always knew that I wanted to be an artist (of some description) when I grew up. I’ve worked as a graphic designer for a while and it wasn’t really until about two years ago that I took the plunge to do art and illustration. I’m a self-taught illustrator, but I studied graphic design in Philadelphia, and also printmaking and typography studies at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
What type of art do you do?
I often combine traditional painting and drawing methods with untraditional materials (letraset, biro, cephalopod ink, stains, and tea). I focus mostly on portraits.
How has your approach to art changed over the years?
I feel like when I first started taking art classes I would draw all of these models from magazines with beautiful faces and flawless complexions but it wasn’t as real – there was no character behind it. So, I started doing a looser approach to drawing, doing things really fast and more quickly, just to try and capture some sort of emotion with the models. I’ve always been interested in children’s storybooks and things like that, so my portraits started with doing friends’ kids and that developed into doing whimsical animals and make-believe type things. Most of my inspiration comes from nostalgia and the innocence of childhood. Everything is so new and exciting then and I often explore the connection between children and animals. I tend to focus on the subjects of innocence, curiosity, and fear with my art. At this point in my life, I’m inspired by vintage postcards and photos, children’s books, dreams, children, fairy tales, dress-up, make-believe, and vast open spaces.
Why do you do what you do?
My responsibility as an artist is to find beauty in things and people. Artists have the role of conveying beauty in things in society. They find the wonderful side of things that can sometimes be overlooked. I do it because I owe it to whomever I’m drawing. I owe it to art. I owe it to whatever cosmic reason I’m here. If I can affect someone in just one way then I feel like I’m supposed be doing what I’m doing.
What research do you do?
When I’m coming up with ideas for a new work, I spend a lot of time looking through old children’s books and family photo albums. I take this imagery as inspiration and in a way set up a scene of my own make-believe moments in time – that are often based on my childhood dreams or sometimes memories. Before I start drawing I make collages from photocopied bits and pieces to plan out the composition and to find all of the right elements to bring into the work. Having come from a design background, I think that I have adopted a fairly consistent process that I use to develop my work – although to me, it does feel like it evolves in a way that seems very natural and organic.
Where do want your artistic career to go?
I’m really keen to step away from the commercial illustration work and push myself a lot further with my personal artwork…delving into it all a lot more, exploring new techniques and working at a larger scale. I have also been experimenting with wood tints and gouache on pine plywood boxes…if all seems to work out, I’ll be looking into putting on a solo show later in the year.
What advice do you have for other aspiring artists?
Don’t give up! Even when you feel like breaking your pencils. Take frequent breaks. Practice makes perfect.
Grey was recently diagnosed with degenerative eye disease, meaning that by the time he is 45 he is projected to be completely blind. As an artist, this has been a life changing experience for him because what he does is so visual, but Grey is taking things “one step at a time” and maintaining a positive attitude. In his spare time he catches up on sleep, goes to Voodoo Donuts to refuel after a long day of drawing, and watches Percy Chobits chase his tail around on Sunday mornings. So, where does Grey see himself in 10 years? Obviously, continuing to create beautiful works of art, but he’s not thinking too far into the future: “I can’t even fathom! The possibilities are endless!”