You Have to Start Somewhere!

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Welcome to the curious world of Greg Lewallen! Somehow you found me, perhaps through my Instagram or Facebook posts, or through some Google search, or maybe you know somebody who knows someone that heard of this guy that draws bugs and you thought it might be something worth checking out. Whatever path brought you here, I would like to welcome you to my website, and to my very first attempt at writing a blog! I have been giving great consideration as to how to approach this matter, as I have a bad habit of writing just train of thought, in which I can chase a lot of rabbits, so to speak, and I don't want to do that here. So, I figured I would approach this somewhat systematically, or at least halfway methodically, but where do I begin? I don't want to take you back ALL the way to my beginning, though it is important to me, but I thought we would start with the beginning of this current body of work that is the main feature of this website: my Insect Narratives.

Obviously, I draw a lot of bugs and you may have noticed the writing in the negative space around the insects, in the background of the drawings. All of these drawings are of specimens in my personal insect collection. I have been collecting bugs since I was only 5 years old, and I still have one small display case of beetles that date back to 1962, when I turned six. Each of the specimens in my collection is much like a photo in an old family album, and when I peruse the bugs, memories of the circumstances I relate to that bug come flooding back: aromas of the Sonoran desert after a rain, sounds of unknown birds singing in the canopy of the jungles of South America, or the laughter of indigenous children frolicking in the river. These memories transport me to that time and place where I captured the insect. I have always been an artist, as far back as I can remember to the first grade when I drew Crayola images of dinosaurs for all my classmates in Mrs. Rives class. I always thought I would grow up to be a wildlife artist, and in a sense, that is exactly what I am, though the subjects of my artwork are generally smaller than a moose or grizzly bear, being that you can hold them in your hand. The drawing of the long-tailed moth above, Copiopteryx semiramis, was well on its way to being exactly that, just another drawing of a specimen from my collection. I was working on it in my office when a colleague happened past my door and saw me sitting at my drawing table. I always draw from direct reference of the bug, so I had the moth on a pin, stuck into a spare eraser, sitting on the drawing table, next to the drawing itself. She asked me about the moth, where I got it, etc., so I told her the convoluted story of how I ended up spending the night with a goat herder named Gabriel on the Continental Divide of the Talamanca Mountains in western Panama, which is where I caught the moth. After I related the story, she told me "Greg, you've gotta write these stories down, if for no other reason than for your grandchildren to learn of your adventures!" I actually completed the moth drawing within a couple of days of that conversation, and then sat on it another couple of days before I bit the bullet. I picked up a cream-colored Prisma pencil and started writing, just off the top of my head, conveying the story, just as I had told my friend. I was a little hesitant to begin with, not knowing if I was destroying a drawing I had just invested probably 40 - 50 hours of my life into, but as the text came down the page and I wrapped the story around the bug, something rather magical happened. The image was completely transformed into something much more than just a bug drawing. The text itself added a textural layer that did not previously exist, and it created a sense of depth to the drawing that wasn't there with just the bug. I got more and more excited as I brought the story down to conclude at the lower right-hand corner of the format. I was pleased with the result, but unsure how others might react. What happened at the first public showing of my work was overwhelmingly positive, and I ended up selling 10 pieces, two of which were larger works, being 3'x5'. On the evening of the opening for the show, I stood back and watched in amazement as people stood in front of a single drawing and spent 10, 15 or 20 minutes reading the entire written text. One lady came over to me and said "I just read your drawing, and it gave me goosebumps!" I was blown away, as were the gallery people. So, it seems that maybe I was finally on to something artistically that was at least somewhat unique. Now, I know I am not the first person to pick up a pencil or charcoal stick and write stuff across a canvas. Cy Twombly and others had already done that, but the stories that I tell are uniquely mine, as they convey a very personal specific experience that only I have lived. I draw only specimens that I have caught myself, with my own hand, for that very reason. Each bug represents the story that I associate with it - the sights, sounds, experiences of the expedition that led to that bug. Granted, some are more exciting than others, but each one is unique unto itself. And so I draw the bug and then write the story. As I did not really give this much thought in the beginning, I started with some of the more impressive, showy insects with some of the more exciting stories, which are the more recent ones, as I did not travel to remote, exotic regions of the world until I was well into my 40's. That little case of beetles from 1962 is all that remains of all the previous collecting efforts that occurred up until 2007, but that is another story for another time. For now, just know that I have sufficient insects to draw to the end of my days if I never catch another one. However, I still collect, and still plan on many more expeditions, as long as my health holds out. The Copiopteryx semiramis was completed in December of 2013, and to date, I honestly don't know how many I have done. The number is somewhere around 80-90 Insect Narratives, as well as many other drawings that I do in-between bugs. Many of the earlier ones that sold I did not even bother to have scanned, and so I have no record of them. They vary in size from as small as 8x10" to the 3'x5' mentioned previously, to my largest yet to date, 4'x8'. This largest one will be the focus of a blog unto itself in the near future. For now, just know that I appreciate the time you have spent reading this, and I hope it piques your interest in my work. I do not create these drawings to sell or make money, though they are all for sale. I don't have any more room in my house to store them, but my compulsion to create them continues, so something has to give.

This website is in early developmental stages, but I plan on expanding it as more works come off the drawing table. I invite you to subscribe through one of the several links on this site, as I will post updates and announce new works as they come available. I intend to use this blog to demonstrate techniques that I use in the creation of my art, offer insight into my process, and explore just about anything else that I think you might find interesting. I hope you enjoy it and will visit often. Feel free to tell your friends and share with your social media contacts. Thanks again for visiting - I appreciate it!

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