MOULTRIE — If you take the road out to Funston, turn left onto Church Street once you get in city limits, about a half mile down the road is the studio of an artist who has captured the essence and spirit of Colquitt County like no other.
“I enjoy doing whatever it is that I do,” he said smiling.
Randy Gibbs was raised in Colquitt County, out behind Spence Field, and grew-up farming like many in this area did. He said his interest in art started at an early age.
“I guess it kind of started as a sibling rivalry,” he said.
He reminisced about a cousin who lived out of town and would visit him. The two of them would go to Crecente’s and get model airplanes to compete against each other in building them. He said as they got older, they would build model ships, take them out to the pond and “battle” by trying to sink each other’s ship with BB guns. He said his cousin also would draw airplanes.
What really piqued his interest in drawing, however, he said, was his grandmother’s Audubon book of birds. He said he would take his BB gun and shoot a sparrow or other bird and bring it back to his house to draw it. This way, he could see how the feathers were attached and how the beak was formed on the bird.
“They never did look like the birds in the book,” he said laughing.
He said he did take art in high school, which gave him a chance to work at his drawing and to compare his work with other students in the class.
“I guess there was a little competition in that. ... By then, I kind of had a love for art....as much the visual as the technical part of doing it,” he said.
He said that since he was raised on a farm, he has always liked doing things with his hands and if he had not been an artist, he would have been in the construction business. He added that had he built his house and his studio.
He said he got really lucky when Woodhaven Plantation in Coolidge was being built because he was asked to paint a picture up in the dome in the skylight of the building.
“And for some reason, they asked me to do. ... And I’ve been doing it ever since. I thought you could never make a living doing this,” he said.
The Woodhaven project gave him his start and he said he was painting in oils and acrylics at the time. Then, he went to a water color class at the Colquitt County Arts Center and promptly switched to watercolors.
“Water colors and pen and ink is all I do now,” he said.
He added that a person really had to keep doing it on a regular basis to improve and maintain their skills. Gibbs said he paints six hours a day.
“I could spend the rest of my life just doing things in Colquitt County,” he said enthusiastically.
He said painting was just something that he needed to do. If he didn’t paint, he would be building something, he said.
“This is what I was intended to do. ... If I see it and I haven’t painted it and it interests me, it will be a painting. ... I don’t know if that’s a philosophy or insanity,” he said laughing.
Gibbs said he started professionally as an artist in 1990, and he had a studio over the old Sportsman on the square, at one time. He said he has enjoyed his studio out at his home a lot better, though. He said he believed his customers seemed to enjoy coming out to his place in Funston. Gibbs also said, jokingly, that he would love to come back a hundred years from now and see one of his paintings on Antiques Road Show. He has painted and drawn everything from the Colquitt County Courthouse and all the local schools to gopher tortoises and farm equipment.
“I’ll never run out of anything to do. As long as I can see and my brain and hands work, I’ll never run out of anything to do,” he said.
He said the ideas of what he can paint or draw, in the community, just keep coming and one day, he got to looking around his 10-acre farm and decided that he would like to write and illustrate a book about what he saw.
“It’s amazing what kind of animals and plants are right here. I’m finding some amazing things that you overlook every day,” he said.
He said that he has about five acres of pecan trees and they have provided the inspiration for a series of new bird drawings that show the variety of birds to be found out there.
Gibbs said, now, before he gets started painting in the morning, he will go out there for about 15 minutes to clear his head and to see what’s going on.
The book that he’s working on will be drawings of the flora and fauna on his farm with a narrative of each piece describing how and why he did the picture and the relationship of the subject to him and Colquitt County.
“In illustrating the book, I’ve had to mentally change gears. Illustrating is a different mindset. This is the first time I’ve ever considered doing a book. It’s a new ballgame for me,” he said.
He felt the challenge was making sure that the book was interesting and flowed from page to page with the narration and the pictures.
“It makes you, instead of a country artist, almost a Renaissance Man,” he said jokingly.
He said that three-quarters of any painting you do is coming up with the idea to begin with and he felt that executing it was actually the easy part.
“I’ve been doing this since 1990 as a profession. That’s 24 years of having to come up with a new idea every day. I don’t think an artist that is worth his salt ever runs out of anything to do,” he added.
He said he gets up every morning, now, earlier than he did before because he is excited about this new project.
“As long as I’ve got a project, I’m a happy boy,” he said.
He said that along with writing the book, he has been doing some work on his farm digging out and cleaning out his pond and taking care of some landscaping tasks. In cleaning up a fence row, he found many birds’ nests and said he spent six months painting them.
He said he started thinking about the book last January and decided to go ahead and do it. As he paints, he thinks about the things he wants to say in the book. When he is done painting for the day, he sits down and writes his thoughts down. He said he is planning to have the book completed by Thanksgiving of this year.
“That’s what I’m shooting for,” he said.