Michael A. Gibbons, a self-described “poet with a paintbrush” whose art evoked the beauty, wonder and mystery of nature, passed away on July 2, 2020, at home in Toledo, Oregon, as a result of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2016. He was 76.
A self-taught painter, Michael Gibbons was born in Portland, OR in 1943. Experimenting with art as soon as he could hold a crayon, he began painting in oils while still in elementary school. He would later attend Benson Polytechnic Institute, where he attracted the attention of the Oregon Society of Artists. At the age of 16, he was the youngest person to be invited to become a member of the society. By the time he graduated high school, he was awarded all honors in the Scholastic Art Awards competition.
After graduating high school in Portland, OR he invested in a small manufacturing firm and worked as a designer of specialty automotive accessories. Yet, he knew what he was meant to do with his life as far back as he can remember. When he was 25, an opportunity to pursue his dream opened. Gibbons quit his job in Portland, packed his bags and relocated to the countryside on the central Oregon coast. He began to pursue painting full-time and hasn’t looked back ever since.
He began painting original oil works of Newport, OR and surrounding areas, creating his reputation as a well-renowned regionalist painter. Portable field equipment, solitude and focusing on a limited geographical area have helped him create his very personal, intimate portrayals of the land he and his wife, Judy, have called home for more than 30 years.
While Michael’s most meaningful art was created in and around the community he called home, he visited many other locations to gain additional inspiration. He painted scenes in Washington, California, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, as well as in England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Mexico.
The ocean was a constant source of inspiration for Michael and his seascapes are among his most vital works. His painting re-creating the moment when the submersible “Alvin” discovered the hydrothermal vents off the Galapagos Islands in 1977 was given to Dr. Robert Ballard, who was a diver on that expedition. (Ballard gained worldwide fame for his discovery of the wreck of the “Titanic” in 1985.)
As longtime Toledo residents and civic leaders, Michael and Judy found constant inspiration in the town’s history and setting amid the naturally beautiful Yaquina River region.
“Life is an endless series of opportunities brilliantly disguised as hard work,” was one of Michael’s favorite maxims. In that spirit, he saw potential in Toledo as a place where art could flourish.
Michael was a signature member of the Oil Painters of America and the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association. He also was a member of the Allied Artists of America, the Copley Society and Christians in the Visual Arts. He was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newport and the Knights of Columbus.
Michael is survived by his beloved wife, Judy; four stepchildren, Vicky Ross, Michael Ross, Randy Ross and Stephen Ross; a sister, Laurie Gibbons; a niece, nephew, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He has gone before hundreds of friends, admirers and collectors of his art from throughout the world.
“Somehow the artist is the mercurial figure, the messenger, the alchemist, sent to add to the benediction of human history. I pray my offerings will, in some way, contribute to the collective blessings evident in this region.”