Garry Pound

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GARRY POUND Since 1980, artist Garry Pound has been creating some of the most remarkable oil portraits in the southeast. With a heavily artistic background that spans many mediums, he is one of Columbus’ artistic gems.

By Kaleigh Blessard | Photos by S. Saxon

Columbus is lucky to have a thriving art scene. From the Springer Opera House to the Schwob School of Music at CSU, artists from every discipline can find a home surrounded by supporters, benefactors, and peers. Garry Pound is one of Columbus’ most notable artists, and some of his most recent portrait work can be seen on display now at Fountain City Coffee. This issue, we had a chance to talk with him about his passion for creating art.

What do you consider to be the biggest influences on and inspiration(s) for your artwork? The things that provide my inspiration (in no particular order) are family, community, travel, art, and artists. Without bias, I can say that Barbara Gordon Pound was my greatest inspiration. She was a world-class draftsman and painter. She had an innate sense of design and structure. Her taste was unimpeachable. I blame myself and my brothers for keeping her from reaching her full potential as an artist. Growing up, I remember her constantly drawing and writing and reading, making connections, finding relationships, striving for an awareness and appreciation of the world around her.

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How did you know you were meant to be an artist? I grew up in an “artistic” environment. Art supplies, painting and drawing, museum visits, visiting artists—all this was what formed the background of my childhood. It was like the air I breathed and I did not think it was anything special. I was too busy being a kid and hanging out with friends to give art much serious consideration.

When the time came, I picked a small liberal arts college, Sewanee, which had a good academic reputation; I signed up for pre-med courses. Knowing I had a little talent, and almost on a whim, I also signed up for a beginning drawing class. Art was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I dropped all my pre-med courses, took as many fine arts courses as I could, and the rest is history.

What would you say is the highlight of your career—what’s been your favorite project to work on? There have been things over the years that have given me satisfaction. Working with Allen Levi and Ron Anderson on the children’s book and play Oliviatown was, quite simply, a joy. I was proud of the work exhibited in my recent show, “Happy Are the Artists”, at the Bradley Company Museum. But you know, I am fortunate in that the highlight of my career is an ongoing thing. The next successful drawing or painting will be the highlight that matters. What I love is the work, being creative, getting in the zone, creating relationships, putting marks on paper and canvas.

Do you think your art would be different if you had grown up in a different city? How has Columbus influenced or shaped you as an artist? Until recently, it was almost unthinkable for a child of the Deep South to grow up and make a living as a fine artist in his own community. Emerging artists went elsewhere. They became illustrators. They took commercial jobs. They painted signs. They taught in universities. They bussed tables. They hawked their wares in art markets like New York or Paris or London. Columbus was far from those vibrant art centers. The question was, how do you make a living in your own hometown, doing what you love and are trained to do?

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The Pound name, here in Columbus, already had a distinctly arty flavor to it. I need to thank my parents for that. During my first year in graduate school, I came home and went to lunch with my mother. We went to a popular deli on Wynnton Road called the Vintner, run by John Page. He had twin girls, about two years old at the time and cute. I told John I would draw the twins for free if he would hang their portrait behind the cash register. All he had to do was pass on my phone number to anyone who asked. I did the portrait, hung it at the deli, and by the time I got home there were about five commission requests waiting on my answering machine. That was what I built my professional career on. “From less is great art born.”

Why do you think that art scene in Columbus is so strong these days? Columbus has a great art scene because of our creative spirit and the great and noble patrons of the arts. They donate to arts institutions, participate in cultural events, purchase artworks, create collections, and encourage artists. Our arts patrons are too many to name, but they are the usual suspects—you would recognize them. They are the same people who also had their hand in saving the Springer, building the Rivercenter, supporting and expanding the University, and so on. Our town has truly been blessed through the years with big-hearted people who take delight in and are committed to creativity, to fine arts, to education, and to a better community.

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How would you define success? Nowadays, I find a measure of fulfillment in just being able to pay the bills, provide a comfortable home for my family, and, of course, make my wife Mamie happy.

The real secret to being an artist is that you do it every day. It is a job with its own routines. Nothing takes the place of persistence and determination. Talent and even genius will not make an artist of the guy who won’t work until struck by the lightning bolt of inspiration. Creativity is a habit and a discipline, the best creativity being the product of good work habits.

What is your goal as an artist? Every artist aspires to be productive, authentic, and leave his mark on the world. Bach said the purpose of art “should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” That’s it in a nutshell. It is harder to find a better purpose in life than the pursuit of higher consciousness and trying to contribute some joy to this world. Of course, making a living is nothing. The big thing is making a point, making a difference. SVM