A reel artist

Gary Miyamoto took up painting five years ago, when his wife gave him a birthday present of a three-day workshop with John Barnard.

Her gift wasn’t based on any latent talent she’d observed in her husband of 35 years, nor from any indication that he wanted to make art.“She thought it would be good for me,” said Miyamoto. He’d been feeling low since his fishing buddy with a boat moved away, leaving Miyamoto floundering. Once Miyamoto took the workshop, however, he was hooked.

“I didn’t know anything about painting,” Miyamoto said. “I didn't even know how to put paint on a palette.”

Unlike many artists who begin with drawing, then go to acrylics or oil, Miyamoto jumped right into watercolors, although they are considered challenging and hard to control. “I think for right now, I’ll just stick with that,” he said. It’s been tricky learning to mix colors, but “you pick up little helpful hints.”

Those hints, and their application, have paid off. Miyamoto, an Atascadero resident since the 1970s, has an exhibit currently at the Paso Robles Library. And for the fifth consecutive year he has work in the Fiscalini Ranch exhibit, currently at The Hamlet in Cambria.

An architect for 20 years, along with 40 years of doing construction, Miyamoto relishes the freedom that painting allows him.

“You don’t have parallel lines and triangles,” he said. “You don’t care if everything is plumb or square.”

By using a big brush, Miyamoto said he tends to dwell less on details, giving his work the looseness he’s noted for.

The artist sets aside every Sunday to paint and, through Barnard, he began painting outdoors with Cambria's Wednesday Irregulars. “You're really intimidated,” he acknowledged, noting that many of the artists have attended good art schools and are accomplished painters. However, he gets valuable tips and feedback, observing other artists’ techniques and how they deal with design. “It’s a good support group.”

He recalls his first sale — when a client asked about a painting in his office, he didn’t know how to price it, so he just tossed out a figure. “She took it off the wall and took it home. That seems to be a reward if someone likes your work.”

It was also rewarding to have a painting accepted in this year's Aquarius exhibit at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, through the Central Coast Watercolor Society. Additionally, Miyamoto garnered a Blue Ribbon last year in his first juried show, a Paso Robles Art Association exhibit.

“It's a real challenge to enter any of these competitions,” he said, and frequent rejection gets him down, although he's realizing that his work will appeal to some jurors, and not to others. The way he sees it, recognition as an artist is similar to what he learned as a fisherman. “I think it just takes time.”