GCU professor connects with people


GCU Online English Instructor Michael Feather has rediscovered his love of art during the pandemic. As part of a group called Urban Sketchers, he goes outdoors to sketch and find inspiration.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Desk

There is a joy in Michael PlumeThe work of , vibrant with a wavy movement, in ink and watercolour.

But above all there is life in his ink and watercolor pieces.

Take his sketch of a sea-foam green, classic 1961 MG. It’s somehow happy – as happy as a classic car can be – in all its chrome, sea-foam greenness.

Feather sketches on site in downtown Gilbert, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of 12 News, story here)

Or take his postcard-worthy colorful ink and watercolor from a street corner of Postino Restaurant in downtown Gilbert, the covered patio shading the lunch crowd as the skinny-legged Gilbert water tower towers over the clump of green trees, parked cars, yellow sidewalk umbrellas and diners below.

Or his rust-and-red images of barns, roosters, people, and even a men’s basketball game, with Havocs galore in the stands at Grand Canyon University, where Feather works as a member. of full-time online faculty teaching first-year English composition. .

Feather took to the streets during the pandemic and rediscovered his love of art — a love he developed about two decades ago.

“I was really struggling — I don’t know if that was true for you,” Feather said of shutting herself off from the world during COVID-19, like most people have. “It was wonderful to be able to work from home throughout the pandemic, and yet it was very constraining.”

Restaurants and the bustle of sidewalk scenes are often the subjects of Feather’s works.

At the time, Feather had taken a deep dive into the novel he was writing, and even when COVID-19 restrictions eased a bit, all he saw was negative stuff.

“The novel is about demonic possession and a variety of things related to that,” Feather said. “I found it difficult, especially when the pandemic hit, to keep my thoughts clear and to actually see the good in the world.”

That’s when a friend of his who knew he wasn’t in the best place asked him, “You know, have you ever thought about going back to drawing? It stuck with him, so one day he picked up some paintings and decided to see what would happen.

“When I started drawing, I realized that it actually helped me see beauty again. It calmed my brain. It calmed my thoughts to the point that I could function well.

Since then, he’s worked on his art pretty much every day, especially after discovering an online group called Urban Sketchers. The global community of artists, from 336 cities in 60 countries, is dedicated to practicing drawing on location. As their motto says, they share their love for the places they live and travel, one drawing at a time.

Feather does most of his inks and watercolors out of Gilbert, Arizona, where he lives.

His associate and bachelor’s degrees are in advertising, design, and illustration. As he rounded the corner from the finish line for his bachelor’s degree, he took an animation class “and fell in love with it.”

One of his animation teachers had a studio in Syracuse, New York, where he was living at the time, so Feather started working with him.

Feather paints outdoors at Carl’s Damaged Pet Warehouse in Gilbert.

“Animation was the first thing I thought, ‘Hey, I could really make a living doing art. “”

So he and his wife decided to move to the Phoenix area, where Fox Animation Studios was located at the time.

He started working for a small animation studio here while trying to land a job at Fox – and he thought he could fulfill that dream after a friend who worked with him at this small studio was hired by Fox as a computer animator.

One of the GCU men’s basketball games and the animated Havocs got the Feather art treatment.

“So he calls me. We get together and he says, ‘OK, I think we can get you in now, so why don’t you apply again?’ He takes me around and shows me around the whole studio, and while I’m walking around – it was 25 years ago – it’s 8 p.m., because we were out for dinner and went back to the studio afterwards – I noticed that many animators were still at their desks.

That’s when Feather wondered, “Do I really want to do this?”

In the end, he didn’t.

At the time, he had begun to move away from animation and study the scriptures, eventually graduating from seminary.

“As a result, I kind of gave up on all art,” said Feather, who has done a little bit of everything from serving as a prison chaplain to a pastor and, most recently, teaching English.

Feather wanted to work in animation but became a pastor and teaches English.

He was hired at GCU to teach Academic Success, which helps develop students’ learning strategies, as well as a Christian worldview. But at the same time, he was also getting his master’s degree in English to help him write his novel. It was then that GCU transferred him to the English department.

Feather thinks he’s come full circle by reconnecting with art, the passion that originally brought him to Phoenix.

Gilbertonians often see him sitting in a chair, ink pens and watercolor brushes in hand, on a sidewalk in sunny Arizona, sketching those restaurants, bustling corner scenes, iconic buildings , an assortment of people, etc. The purpose of this type of plein-air painting, Feather said, is to tap into life.

Since starting to draw again, he’s filled three sketchbooks — you can see his work at 13 Colors Art on Facebook and Instagram — and participated in various art challenges, like drawing 100 sketches of people in a week.

He also started taking orders from restaurants, pets and the like and started selling his work.

His art on Facebook or Instagram has received responses of this nature: “Please keep doing it because it’s actually a good thing to have in my feed with all the fights and stuff going on. constantly.”

A post of his drawing of Postino on the Go Gilbert Facebook page garnered a slew of likes and comments, and he met a neighbor who saw his painting of this 1961 MG – it’s his grandfather’s vehicle – on the Go Gilbert page. This neighbor was driving by, saw him painting another Gilbert scene, turned around, stopped, and started talking to him about seeing the work on social media.

Feather’s watercolor and ink from Postino’s in downtown Gilbert.

Being outdoors, soaking up the sun and creating art has also helped him connect with people like never before.

“What I’ve found is that people come up to me while I’m there and talk to me,” he said. “I’m a bit introverted by nature, so it’s not like I would naturally go out and talk to a group of people. But just doing that, people are intrigued from all walks of life.

“Guys who would never have spent time with me (otherwise) come up to me and talk to me about the designs, so it’s been a great bridge for me as well to engage with people and talk to them.”

After all the darkness of COVID, Feather has slowly stepped into the light.

“It was just a wonderful change.”

GCU Senior Editor Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


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