Born during a world at war (1943) Ray Lawler has followed a very untraditional road into the world of art. He showed unusual talent for drawing and painting from a very early age. At 3 years old his grandfather got him a box of crayons and he proceeded to cover all 4 of his bedroom walls with drawings up to 3 feet high for lack of paper. After that incident grandpa made sure paper was always available. He completed his first paint by numbers at 5, shot his first photographs at 6, and completed his first free hand painting at 7. (The subject was St. Thaddeus because he had a long beard which was easy to draw.) At 14 he completed a large pencil drawing of the chariot race from Ben Hur which hung in the family home for 13 years until it was stolen and disappeared. In high school he teamed up with his art teacher to expand the school’s art curriculum from a half year introductory course to a 6 course full scale art department by the time he graduated in 1963.
He joined the Navy shortly after graduation, completed photography school at Pensacola Florida, and was assigned to a reconnaissance squadron in Sanford Florida where he received additional training in aerial photography. The squadron (RVAH 13) then completed two tours of duty in Viet Nam. Among his unofficial duties Lawler published monthly cartoon placards satirizing events in the squadron and posted them on the bulletin board in the photography unit offices. These inevitably were transferred to the ready room for the benefit of the pilots and recon officers who often provided the subject matter. After a week or two on display there they disappeared into the duffle bags of the officers never to see the public light again. He also functioned as the squadron photojournalist and was responsible for developing and illustrating the squadron cruise book. In addition, having visited Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, the Navy experienced kindled a lifelong urge to travel.
After being discharged in 1967 he gravitated to California and attended the College Marin, in Kentfield, Marin County under the GI bill. Off course he initially majored in art and got intimately involved in the Marin county and San Francisco art scene. To supplement his meager income he worked at various arts related jobs including Architectural Draftsman, Graphics Artist for the County School system, Planner for the Town of Larkspur and as a free lance photojournalist covering the San Francisco State riots and other protest events in the region.
Several things happened during this time that caused his life to change. He discovered that he could draw and paint better than his teachers; he took a geography course that opened his mind to academics, and he was smitten by a pretty French lass named Babette who quickly became the Misses. The couple moved to Connecticut where he finished a degree in Geography with a minor in Art history and then went on to the University of Oklahoma to pursue post graduate degrees in same field with a focus on international development and logistics systems. With two children at hand it was time to find income generating work and as a consequence art to some extent receded into the background as he raised his family, developed an extensive resume in his profession, sent the kids off into the world, and created an international ports and logistics consulting company that he has managed for the last 16 years.
Though in the background, the practice of art never waned. As a consequence of his profession the artist has traveled, worked, or lived in more than 60 countries. As a closet photojournalist he has shot over 100,000 photographs focusing primarily on nature and the human condition in the US and abroad. He has also carried a sketchbook wherever he has traveled and has filled more than 10 hefty books (more than 400 drawings) with sketches depicting daily un posed life in the societies that have passed his view. His more than 75 painting and several sculptures borrow extensively from these photos, drawings, and academics to create a unique body of work that is much different than the current trends in art.
As he states in his motto: “The World is my Studio, Life is my Subject.”
Read about Ray Lawler's Art in Spectrum Magazine