The Pete Morris Watercolor opening reception was met with a warm response from locals at the Betsy Lueke Creative Arts Center on January 6.
During the event, Morris unveiled 120 paintings and 8 sketchbooks that he’s crafted over the course of the last 10 years. This is the largest collection that Morris has ever shared with the public. The works of art showcase a variety of California buildings, beaches, flowers, people, and more. Among the subjects captured in the pieces are Crescenta Valley Park, Morro Rock Beach, Lizzie’s Trail Inn, people walking through and working in Descanso Gardens, and others riding public transit in Panorama City. Morris used ballpoint pens for the sketches, and for all of the paintings he used watercolor materials, which is a method he enjoys due to its challenging but rewarding process.
“Watercolor is hard, and that keeps me interested,” Morris said. “You know, if it was easy, I’m sure I would have moved on to something else.”
The artist has been painting for more than two decades and has painted every day for the past 10 years. Morris has been dubbed “The Metro Da Vinci” as a result of the sketches he’s drawn of fellow passengers on Los Angeles Metro lines. A 2012 YouTube video with over 26,000 views shows Morris riding Metro, observing and drawing travelers. At the time, he said he was filling up a whole sketchbook with these drawings once every two weeks. Through his dedication to his artwork, Morris says he has found contentment and creative freedom.
“I’m happy as long as I can paint. I’m reasonably happy. And not euphoric, necessarily, but it grounds me …” Morris said. “And with me, there’s no self-discipline involved. It’s actually just giving myself permission to do it.”
The images in the sketchbooks that are on display at the center vary from ballpoint sketches of passengers to drawings of people and locations that have been finished with vivid watercolor paints. Morris says these items of the gallery are especially telling in regards to how he “process[es] things.”
“Those are good to look at because that shows my thinking, the way I process things,” Morris said of his sketches. “You don’t understand me unless you look at my sketchbooks. You wouldn’t get the picture unless you look beyond the paintings.”
Aside from making his own art, Morris instructs students at the Creative Arts Group in Sierra Madre. In the past he has served as a judge for a Burbank Art Association show, and this exhibit is his first at the Betsy Lueke Creative Arts Center. Although he was slightly uneasy that the number of paintings in the gallery might be excessive, Morris was satisfied with the reactions of attendees.
“I was very nervous beforehand. I was worried maybe I was showing too many things, but it doesn’t seem to be true,” Morris said. “And I’m pleased with the response. This is a good deal.”
The collection is available for viewing at the center now through January 26.