Marione Martin 

Because of 'the Lord and Fred'

• Graybill became a full-time artist


October 8, 2021

Marione Martin

The ever-changing clouds of Oklahoma are featured in many of Calvin Graybill's paintings. Graybill gave up farming to concentrate on his art.

Growing up in Leedey, Calvin Graybill was always drawing. "I've always loved to draw. I'd sketch and draw cartoons and different things while I was in school, but there were no art classes. I knew I loved to draw."

After high school he went to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford where he learned more. "There were two or three teachers that took me under their wing and showed me a lot of technique," he said. "I wasn't real familiar with a lot of the technique and the media, and I kind of filed it away as you might say." He even took a lot of ceramics courses and "got to where I could throw a lot of pots but that just wasn't my thing."

Graybill graduated with a commercial art degree, but it's difficult to get started in the art world. He went back and got a degree in teaching. But teaching wasn't his thing either. He said he was just too shy and couldn't imagine facing a classroom.

"After I graduated from college, I went back to the farm, and I kind of quit," he said.

"I finally got started back. The Lord and I had a little discussion. He told me that if I didn't get back to my painting, that I'd lose it. That just scared me to death!" said Graybill.

A push from a former college instructor added weight to his decision. "I had this one man, his name was Fred Olds. He was my mentor at Southwestern. I'd go out to his house and watch him paint. I got to be real close to him, and I stayed close to him, even when I was back on the farm," said Graybill.

"He sent me a Christmas card one time. It was a hand-drawn Christmas card, and it showed an easel with a painting on it out in a field and there was a tractor in the background. He told me that if I didn't get off of that tractor, he was going to come and put sugar in my gas tank.

"Anyway, between the Lord and Fred, I guess they kind of worked on me."

Graybill said he and Fred Olds remained friends until Olds' death. "Boy, he'd chew on me if he knew I wasn't painting."

Graybill made the decision to give up farming and really work at painting. In 1994 he moved to Alva. "My wife had a daycare building. She'd run a daycare and so I cabbaged onto that and made me a studio where I could do my framing," he said.

"I did the art show circuit for a while, and that's hard work. But I got to where I was making quite a few frames for people and things like that," he said. "I even had to work a stint at Walmart for the insurance, but things just kept a-workin'."

While he was still on the farm, Graybill took private lessons from a man whose teaching had big influence on his work. "His specialty was clouds. He called his paintings cloudscapes. He kind of took me under his wing, and he taught me a lot," he said.

"I love to do clouds. Matter of fact, when there's a storm coming up, my wife knows where I'm at. I'm out taking pictures. I love to take pictures of clouds. But also I paint wildlife. I paint birddogs. I've really kind of painted a little bit of everything. I'm not really afraid to take anything on.

"I've really had a good life. I love to paint. The Lord has really given me a passion to paint. I would rather be painting than doing anything. I wouldn't have believed it, and I don't think Fred would have either."

During October, Alva artist Calvin Graybill is one of the featured artists at Graceful Arts Gallery in Alva. Visitors can stop by the gallery on the south side of the downtown square to see the "Pathways in Life" exhibit.

Graybill has certainly found his pathway in life. "I get to paint. I really enjoy painting, and I've been really blessed," he said.


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