Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Watching Great Artists at Work - Edward Runci and Gerry Lopez

So... what do a former pin-up artist turned portraitist and one of the best modern surfers in the world have in common?

I've been lucky enough to watch both of them in action. The late Edward Runci was my first painting teacher. I was twelve years old when he and his wife Maxine invited me to attend a painting workshop at their home in Big Bear Lake. Gerry Lopez lives in Bend and surfs sometimes on the Oregon coast. He's also a board shaper and stand up paddle surfer. He's a generous guy, sharing tips with any of us beginners lucky enough to be on the water with him on the Deschutes.

Last fall, I watched Gerry surf at Pacific City. The waves were 8 - 10 feet and he was out there all day, carving turns with his paddle and standup board. Watching a surfer from the beach rather than on a video or film is like the difference between live-theater and a TV sitcom. Go to the beach, you'll be glad you did. I was struck by the elegance and beauty of his movements in such a way that watching Gerry reminded me of the first time I saw Ed Runci paint.

The elegance and economy of movement was a beautiful thing to see. Both men wasted little effort; Runci with a brush and Lopez with his board.

I was struck with their quiet passion. Without fanfare, Gerry was on the water more than anybody else that day. He's a life-long surfer and he's still so into surfing that he's out in the cold Oregon coast waters longer than anybody. Mr. Runci was in his 50's when I first met him. In the midst of a long, very prosperous and successful art career, he began every painting he made with enthusiasm and love of the medium.

The beauty of the medium shone because of the man. Like the perfect dance partner, both artists showcased the medium in all of it's beauty, so much so that it seemed easily accessible. Watching Gerry, I could almost feel my body responding the swell and curve of the wave. Watching Ed Runci, I could imagine the image appearing from my canvas as if it were stepping forwards from a darkened room.

I've devoted my art practice primarily to painting -- thus I deeply understand the expert artistry of Ed Runci's work. I began learning to surf last summer and I'm in awe of the artistry of Gerry Lopez.

Edward Runci (and his wife Maxine) left hundreds of paintings and images behind with their passing. Thankfully, Gerry Lopez is still surfing the planet. Check out his blog entry on the Kialoa paddle blog.

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