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An artist who learns from his global travels
Published 6/12/2013 6:00:00 AM
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Curiosity may be fatal to cats, but it is essential to one Lewiston native’s spirit.

Craig Whitcomb, curator of the Valley Art Center in Clarkston, has trekked to the far corners of the earth and claims he isn’t finished yet.

Whitcomb’s adventures began while serving as a government analyst in the United States Air Force.

When he wasn’t working in the Pentagon, Whitcomb traveled the globe, spending time in over forty countries.

China, Japan, Russia, England and more have all been called home at one point or another in Whitcomb’s life, he said.

While he has settled down back in Lewiston, Whitcomb said he and his wife continue to travel. He has been to his wife’s original home of Aruba, an island off the coast of Venezuela, four times in the last five years.

Whitcomb said the couple hopes to soon visit New Zealand and Australia, the only continent Whitcomb has never been to.

From harsh Korean winters to unpleasant Mexican borders, Whitcomb said his ability to adapt has been crucial in his journeys.

“I’m very flexible,” Whitcomb said. “You have to be.”

Globetrotting isn’t his only hobby; Whitcomb is also a professional painter, with styles as diverse as his travels.

For over 50 years, Whitcomb has experimented with a number of different mediums, including acrylics, graphite and pastels. He said he particularly enjoys the challenge that watercolors bring, and calls them “unforgiving.”

Whitcomb draws inspiration for his artwork from his excursions. Native American and quaint Italian towns he has encountered are recreated on canvas. He points out the importance of artwork around the world.

“Art is intrinsic to every culture,” Whitcomb said. “I haven’t encountered a culture yet where they don’t have some form of art.”

Other artists are quick to praise Whitcomb’s work.

Judy Fairley, a member of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, has known Whitcomb for 30 years and works alongside him at the Valley Art Center. Fairley said she would describe him as being versatile.

“He’s a great colorist,” Fairley said. “He is absolutely vibrant. His style is all his own.”

Whitcomb actively engages in several artistic groups around the Palouse, including the Spokane Watercolor Society, Palouse Watercolor Socius and the Snake River Showcase.

He has a studio at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown, Wash., where local artists’ work is displayed and sold.

Whitcomb doesn’t keep all of his wisdom to himself. He previously taught art, philosophy and history at Walla Walla Community College.

He has also taught in China and Japan. He currently teaches art to children at the Valley Art Center.

His knowledge and approachability make him an excellent teacher, said Julie Hartwig, exhibit curator and store operator at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn.

“He’s very knowledgeable and works well with the children,” Hartwig said.

Whitcomb continues to dedicate his time to the pursuit of knowledge. He jokes that he is still unsure what he wants to be when he grows up.

“Inquiring minds want to know, and I have one,” Whitcomb said. “I’m 74 and I’m still learning.”

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