"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 largely set aside while I pursued an academic career. I studied physics and philosophy at Brown University and later switched to ecology and the environment, earning a Master’s from the University of Virginia and PhD from the University of New Hampshire. I’m now a tenured Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, where I’ve been teaching and doing research for over 15 years.  My wife Allison and I raised two kids — one in college and one graduated from college. The past few years I’ve been able to spend a lot of my free time drawing and painting. I began to take a much more methodical approach to being a self-taught artist. I 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 working on.  

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

Artist statement

My greatest passion at present is oil painting, but I enjoy working and learning in other media too. I experiment with charcoal and conte, pastels, water-soluble graphite and crayons, watercolor and gouache, acrylic ink, and heavy-body acrylic paint.  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.    

I like to explore the interplay between realism and abstraction in my main subject, the figure. I love to study the works of a range of other artists, including historical artists, who paint or painted the figure using a variety of approaches. I try to explore and gain insights by comparing realist and abstract approaches in the use of value, color, texture, and compositional patterns.  It’s both an intellectual exercise for me and an unleashing of freedom and creativity.     


email:  wcurrie@umich.edu