"It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers"   -- James Thurber




I have been drawing and painting all of my life, but for a long time my art was off and on while I pursued other things.  I studied physics and philosophy at Brown University, then had a series of adventures in the 1980s that included working as an engineer on the Space Shuttle in Los Angeles, being a trader on the trading floor of the Pacific stock exchange in San Francisco, and spending 5 months backpacking around the world.  It was at some point in those travels that I decided to pursue a career as an academic environmental scientist.  I have degrees in physics (Brown University), environmental sciences (University of Virginia), and natural resources (University of New Hampshire), was a postdoctoral fellow in Woods Hole, MA, and am currently a Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.  My wife Allison and I raised two kids that will both be in college themselves this fall.  I’m now able to spend a lot more of my free time drawing and painting and I take a much more methodical approach to my explorations.  I tend to alternate between doing original works and doing systematic exercises out of a wide variety of instructional books.  See my blog for examples of what I’m doing now – and check back because I’m hoping to update it regularly.     

I have visited art museums all over the world – from Paris and Florence to Sydney and Singapore.  It staggers the mind to think that in these museums you can walk right up to the actual paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Klimt, Degas, Da Vinci, and others.  I also check oversized art books out of the library, study every painting, and try to reproduce some (see my page on Master Copies).

Artist statement

I experiment with a variety of media – charcoal and conte, colored pencils, pastels (hard, soft, and oil), water-soluble graphite and crayons, watercolor and gouache, acrylic ink, acrylic paint, and oil painting.  I think in a past life I must have been a paper manufacturer or drawing pencil maker because I love collecting and trying out new types of paper, new types of drawing pencils and sticks (I must have at least 250 different types), and the infinite varieties of combinations.    

In my art, I am interested in exploring and understanding the spectrum from realism at one extreme, purely nonrepresentational or abstract works at the other extreme, and the possibilities for fusion or interplay between the two.  I find it endlessly challenging and exciting to explore ways to try to combine abstract and representational approaches.  I love to study the works of artists from the past who explored that ground, such as Hopper and Klimt.  Through my own efforts I try to gain insights into the parallels and differences in the way realist and abstract approaches use value, color, texture, and compositional patterns.  In many ways this becomes an intellectual exercise as I work on a painting – which appeals to the scientist and philosopher in me – but the real joy comes when there is also a freedom and creativity that enters into the work, for example in the juxtapositions of form, color, and movement that I discover unconsciously while listening to jazz music as I paint.    


email:  wcurrie@umich.edu