Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

He’s stoked on art

Citizen Staff Writer
Visual Arts



Artist Gavin Hugh Troy sits in his studio surrounded by his paintings of serene deserts and craggy mountains.

Global drum and flute music flows from his CD player and fuels his creativity. Images of peaceful, whimsical villages spring from the canvases and woodwork hanging on the walls and leaning against the sides of the room. Shades of purple, blue and yellow dominate his work. They’re the colors he observes every morning over the Rincon Mountains as he drives toward the city.

When he’s not teaching he’s usually found downtown, sketching ideas for his paintings. He’s a quiet, reserved person who seeks inspiration from his surroundings. “It’s like an adventure,” he says.

The 40-year-old Troy knows a thing or two about adventure. Seventeen years ago he traded in the life of a professional skateboarder for a career as an artist.

As a teenager, Troy lived and breathed skateboarding. His dedication and discipline helped him reach a professional level of competition. In his early 20s, he participated in tournaments alongside such athletes as Tony Hawk, and he was sponsored by such companies as Gordon and Smith in San Diego.

Troy stopped skateboarding competitively at 23 to explore other interests. “Many skateboarders I used to know have companies now,” he says. “But I really didn’t want all that. I got burned out, and I started to get into abstract photography.”

Traces from his skateboarding past linger in his studio on 44 W. Sixth St. Long boards he carved from wood and bamboo sit on a rack in the corner of the room, waiting to be finished. “I love working with my hands,” he says.

Troy developed his art skills at Arizona State University where he graduated with a mixed-media degree that trained him to work with different types of art such as video and installations. In college his photos were published in Transworld Skateboarding magazine.

After moving to Tucson 10 years ago, he became interested in printmaking and painting. “I was photographing what I wanted to paint,” Troy says. “Painting is more of a live image than photography to me.”

While photography is a quicker way to create art, Troy savors the longer, involved process of painting. It’s difficult for him to know how long a piece will take him to complete. He may finish in a day or in months.

“It’s so timeless it’s hard to say,” Troy says. “I clear my mind from everything and I start completely new. I try not to plan it out.”

Common scenes in his paintings are Southwest landscapes, with purple sunsets, starry skies and golden adobe architecture. The images evoke a sense of tranquility that mirrors his personality.

“His persona is so peaceful,” says Tana Kelch, who has five of Troy’s paintings displayed in her store, Bohemia, 2920 E. Broadway. “They’re wonderful pieces I could look at all day long.”

Troy’s art is also in downtown-area coffeeshops and galleries.

“People love Gavin’s work. It portrays a divine inspiration,” says Christopher Steven, an artist and friend who owns 10 of Troy’s creations.

More Tucsonans, especially area youth, are becoming familiar with Troy’s talents and love for art. To supplement his income, Troy five years ago accepted a part-time job as a substitute teacher at Tucson High Magnet School. “It’s an art magnet school. That’s why I like it. You have lots of student interested in art,” he says.

He enjoys being surrounded by youth and finding inspiration from the different types of personalities. “It’s fun to be around the kids and to see what they’re into, and if I am not there every day it doesn’t get very annoying,” he says.

Troy also is an instructor for the Tucson Museum of Art’s summer and fall programs. “He is a great teacher with children because of his patience,” says Stephanie Coakley, TMA director of education.

“I like teaching all ages, but the 5-to-9-year-olds are great,” Troy says. “They don’t have a clear concept of anything, but they still create these wonderful pieces of art.”

He finds much of his inspiration through the children’s work. “Picasso said, ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child,’ ” he says.

Troy and his art students may share other interests as well. He occasionally relives his childhood years at the YMCA Skate Park on 401 S. Prudence Road. “I still skateboard for the soul of the sport,” he says.

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