Local Vet Finds Peace As Well As His Muse

Photos courtesy George Powell    The Alameda Theatre and Cineplex is but one of many subjects that have flowed from George Powell’s brush.

Artist George Powell understands the meaning of the word “survival” better than most of us. Powell is a veteran who served in both the Vietnam and Gulf wars. He suffers from wounds inflicted in Vietnam during a battle that cost 10 of his fellow soldiers their lives. He survived that battle (and others) at a cost. 

When George returned from the Vietnam War, he found himself lashing out at those around him. He also turned away from others sought respite in isolation. Like so many other veterans, Powell had taken the war home with him. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but was able to turn to a passion that he always held in his heart — painting.

“All my life I wanted to be an artist,” Powell said. “I found my first inspiration years ago on the silver screen.”

He remembers going to the movies as a youngster and seeing Lust for Life, the story of Vincent van Gogh. Kirk Douglas starred as van Gogh. The 1956 film also featured another artist that impressed Powell, Paul Gaugin. Anthony Quinn won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gaugin. 

When he returned home from a long, five-year stint in Vietnam, Powell used his GI Bill to attend the American Academy of Art. He graduated, but memories of the war and its horrors continued to haunt him. 

He spent years on the streets, homeless and addicted to alcohol.  When he couldn’t find work, he joined the Navy. His service in the Gulf War awakened old demons. In 1996 he retired from the military and returned to his passion. 

“I began to paint,” he said. 

He calls painting “a passionate commitment, a way of looking at and understanding life.” He allows his point of view to come out through his brush. He once painted a poster for BART to help soldiers like himself who suffer with PTSD. 

“Now my art is my life,” he said. 

He works in watercolor, oil and acrylics. Watercolor is his preferred medium. “I love how it bleeds on the paper and how sometimes I discover happy accidents.”

“I use photographs and sketches from life,” Powell said.  “Most of my art is done from mental images, though.” 

He also enjoys painting outdoors, plein air. “My art is not a one-day-a-week affair,” he said. 

Among the places that Powell has displayed and sold his work are Studio One in Oakland, Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, the Art & Soul Fair at Oakland’s Jack London Square and in Alameda at Art in the Park, at the Park Street Art & Wine Fair, at Frank Bette Center for the Arts and Alameda Eyes Optometry. 

He once painted City Hall for former mayor Beverly Johnson and the Alameda Police Department building for retired police chief Burney Matthews. Artist Magazine and Alameda Magazine have both featured his works. 

Once a year, he hosts an open studio. A visit to his Facebook page “George David Powell” will give you an idea of the scope of his work, and, perhaps, an idea as a gift for someone on your holiday list. 

You can also view his work at https://www.pixels.com/profiles/4-george-powell.html and at https://www.fineartamerica.com/profiles/4-george-powell.html.

“I always trying to put something of myself in my work,” Powell said. ”I’m always looking for light and freedom. If my art moves you, then I have done my job as an artist.” 

Photos courtesy George Powell    George Powell remains busy fulfilling his life-long passion for art.
Photos courtesy George Powell    This scene is available on a throw pillow on George Powell’s Facebook page and would make a great last-minute Christmas gift.