The Art of Greg Burns

When you look at Greg Burns’ work, you will be amazed. If you watch Greg Burns at work, you will be equally amazed. “I physically paint with my teeth, but I really paint with my mind,” he said. “The end justifies the means.”

Burns was born with Arthrogryposis, a condition characterized by multiple joint contractures found throughout the body at birth. The major cause of Arthrogryposis is fetal akinesia (decreased fetal movements) due to fetal abnormalities or maternal disorders.

Yet throughout his life, Burns has always kept to one basic principle. “Most of us [people with Arthrogryposis] are determined, head strong and stay busy. We have to be involved in whatever gift we have been given. I have never met anyone with Arthrogryposis that didn’t feel this way,” Burns said.

The gift that Burns has been given is his art. A long-time veteran of sketching and watercolor paints, Burns has spent close to fifty years perfecting his craft. He lives with the understanding that one can never fully master their skill.

“I’m learning everyday. It is important to understand that you can never learn everything about your art,” he said. “Everything I do is practice for the next thing that I am going to do.”

A graduate in fine arts, from the University of Oklahoma, Burns began developing his painting at an early age. In high school he took all the art classes available. After graduation, he spent many late nights taking art classes

Greg has won numerous art competitions, beginning in high school in 1964, then continuing at the University of Oklahoma in 1967, and the Governor’s Art Award for the state of Oklahoma in 1978.

Burns realized years ago that life was going to be somewhat different for him. “It costs a lot to be handicapped. I understood at an early age that life was going to cost more. When I began selling art at an early age, I thought it could help me with the costs, and it has,” he said.

At his side you will find his wife, Patricia. The two have been married for 30 years, and he quickly recognizes her as the major lifeline for his existence. “When we first met, she was not dismayed. Now, she takes good care of me, and hopefully I am able to do things for her,” he said. “She has got me to do things that I never thought possible. Together we have done everything from camping to traveling around the world.”

Another close friend is his Labrador retriever, Carlyle. “She is my angel around the house. She goes wherever I go. I am forever dropping keys, pens or something, and she’ll pick them up. We have been together for eight years; she is a great companion.”

While realizing that he is lucky to be able to do what he loves, Burns is always searching for something else. “Normalcy is something that I strive for. When you are handicapped, you stick out. I have an entourage with the wheelchair and the dog,” he said. “However, I am just a normal story. Some people are standoffish, but I have gotten used to this.”

Together, Greg, Patricia and Carlyle spend their winters south of Oklahoma. “Pompano Beach, Florida. We have a condo on the beach and I have to stare at the sunsets on the beach. It has been a great inspiration for many pieces of art.”

Their summers are spent in Crested Butte, Colorado. The inspiration from the Rocky Mountains is noticeable in his work.

Burns doesn’t mind giving you a few pointers on the art of watercolor. However, the biggest inspiration comes from inside. “The only secret to being great at watercolor is learning how to clean your brush. After that, you need to find out what works best for you.”

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