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August 17, 2005

Cowley instructor has pen-and-ink drawings in Wright exhibit


Gary Gackstatter has a soft place in his heart for old things.

So it's no surprise that Cowley College 's director of instrumental music and longtime art lover purchased a 75-year-old pen and ink holder after conducting an online search for a higher quality pen.

“It creates a line that's much finer,” said Gackstatter, who has been creating pen-and-ink drawings for many years. “Having that kind of detail available to you opens up more doors. It's like painting with a brush that has one hair.”

Gackstatter's pen-and-inks from the past three years are on display in an Earle N. Wright Community Room Gallery exhibit titled “Beyond Bridges.” It will be on display through Sept. 30. The Wright Gallery is located inside the Brown Center on Cowley's Arkansas City campus.

Many of the 25 pieces on display took Gackstatter 20-30 hours to complete. He just completed what he deemed a successful summer, finishing six drawings. All of his work on display is for sale.

Gackstatter, who along with wife Shannon has conducted the Stone Bridges of Cowley County tour for 2,000 people since 1996, doesn't draw something unless it sparks an emotion inside him.

“I feel like if you're going to draw something, it has to have meaning,” he said. “My recent series of pieces of mountains are from places I've visited every year for 46 years. There has to be a connection, or else they're just pretty pictures, and I'm not into drawing pretty pictures.”

While “pretty” may not be the right word to describe some of his work, words like detailed, breathtaking and real seem to fit well. One work on display is that of a huge thunderstorm brewing near Oxford that Gackstatter photographed this summer. Still others show aspen trees in minute detail near Durango , Colo.

An ultimate perfectionist, Gackstatter dislikes drawing the same things over and over. Each of the stone bridges of Cowley County has its own story to tell through a drawing, and each object presents a unique challenge to him, he said.

“I challenge myself to do things that I've never done before or that I think the pen can't do,” Gackstatter said.

Growing up in Oklahoma , Gackstatter said there always were drawing materials in the house. He received his first pen-and-ink set when he was 16.

“Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma , and not being interested in sports, it allowed me to develop as an artist, even though I had no idea what I was doing,” he said.

Although he's never had a lesson, he is inspired by Cowley Art Instructor Mark Flickinger.

“He's really helpful to me,” Gackstatter said.

Gackstatter's newest series of works are of grapes at Windswept Winery near Udall, which opened in May.

“The complicated interaction of the grapes, leaves and vines is so interesting,” he said. “It's really cool out there.”