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Saturday, August 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Painting, poetry important parts of Gray’s journey to self-discovery

Ryan Gray is a Spokane painter who specializes in the surreal as well as more traditional landscapes. (Jesse Tinsley)
Ryan Gray is a Spokane painter who specializes in the surreal as well as more traditional landscapes. (Jesse Tinsley)
By Jennifer Larue

Ryan Gray is, like most, on a journey. This road through life on which we travel is full of distractions – signs, shops and roadblocks litter the way.

Gray seems less distracted than most, more like a man on a mission to set up his own signs in the form of paintings as reminders to himself or others to express yourself.

“I think too much in life there are certain things that we are taught to hold tight to, to not reveal to too many people – if any at all,” he said. “That can be an overwhelming burden at times; finding one’s release can be a beautiful thing.”

His work flows. Done in oil, billowing landscapes give way to human forms or trees reaching, embracing or simply floating. Shapes appear abstract, and yet, familiar curves emerge to a surreal and dreamy conclusion that here, anything is possible. Perhaps his work flows like that because much of it comes from a place within, during dreams or deep contemplation.

“Sometimes, an emotion has sucked me in and I need to express it through painting,” he said. “I find somewhere quiet, close my eyes and let everything that accompanies that emotion find its way to an image that I can express in a painting.”

One of his paintings, titled “Father to Son,” was designed as he slept. “The drawing involved one figure passing the Earth to another. It was about 1 o’clock in the morning and I woke up with that image stuck in my head, so I hurried to a pencil and pad to sketch it out. The next day I started painting.”

The world itself is often represented in his work – a beautiful part of it or the globe itself. In “From Me to You,” an earth-toned knotted hand is presenting the “Earth” to the viewer. On the “Earth,” two continents look very figurative and appear to be reaching for each other.

Gray, 33, grew up in Spokane. After graduating from Mead High School, he hung around for a couple of years and then enlisted in the Air Force, where he spent six years in a deployable construction unit. He returned in 2005 and attended Spokane Falls Community College on the GI Bill. Six credits from graduating, Gray moved to Las Vegas. There, he worked in an art supply store and as a delivery driver. He showed his paintings at a half-dozen venues in Vegas.

About a year ago, Gray returned to Spokane. “I’m painting and figuring out what I want to do,” he said, “You end up where you’re supposed to end up I suppose.”

In January he joined Avenue West Gallery, 122 S. Monroe St., and his journey continues.

He also writes poetry in which he explains a bit about the journey in “Traveler:” “A straight road I see, confused is the hurry behind your feet. It’s the distance I can’t see that keeps my speed. Look behind you, back to where you couldn’t see me. It’s too far gone. None the less here I be.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by email at

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