Greg Lewallen has been an artist all his life, but his artistic career did not really take off until he drew a moth.
“I had drawn a sketch of a moth and a colleague asked me where I had gotten the moth,” Lewallen recalls. “So I started telling her the story.”
The story was so fascinating that his colleague suggested he should write it down. So that’s exactly what Lewallen did. As soon as the colleague left his office, Lewallen picked up a pencil and started writing the story on the drawing itself. The resulting piece became the first of what Lewallen calls his “insect narratives.”
“The more I did it the more excited I got about it,” Lewallen says.
Lewallen has fascinating stories to tell about the insects he draws because he has travelled all over the world collecting them – to places such as Belize, Cameroon, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Serbia, Venezuela and Zambia.
Lewallen captured the moth that was the focus of his first “insect narrative” at the house of a goat herder who lives in the Talamanca Mountains of Panama. “I was on a very narrow, winding road, driving in a thick fog,” he recalls. “As I rounded a curve in the road, out of the mist appeared a herd of goats in the middle of the road. I almost ran over three or four of them before I could come to a stop. The goat herder and his dog were standing in the ditch alongside the road, and he seemed to say something to me, so I asked him if he needed something. He proceeded to climb into the bed of the truck, so I assumed he needed a ride down the road. I ended up clearing out a place in the back seat for him and in the course of our conversation, he began to realize that I was an insect collector. He told me he had a lot insects at his house every night. I ended up at the goat herder’s house that evening, and the collecting was magical.”
With his insect narratives, Lewallen says he has been able to merge his two lifelong interests – drawing and collecting bugs. Lewallen holds a BFA in studio art/printmaking from Baylor University and an MA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. He served as manager of Insects International in Ft. Davis, Texas, from 1999 to 2008 and has been an instructor at Baylor University since 2009, teaching classes in drawing, painting and illustration.
Lewallen has been creating his insect narratives since 2012. He says it is not uncommon for people to spend 20 minutes looking at one of his pieces, which are usually 22 by 30 inches in size. They are selling so well that Lewallen says he is having a hard time keeping enough inventory in stock.
An exhibit of Lewallen’s work will be on display in the gallery of the Temple College Visual Arts Complex from Feb. 4 through April 6. An opening reception for the exhibit will be held Saturday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. Lewallen will be at the event to talk about his work.