, Muskogee, OK

May 17, 2013

Theft spurs artist’s painting

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— James Garriott credits a stolen canvas with getting him interested in painting.

“In 1949 I painted a picture of Suicide Cliff in Guam,” Garriott said. “It was stolen soon after; I guess that’s a compliment.”

Garriott is the Muskogee Art Guild’s featured artist for the months of May, June and July.

A reception for Garriott is planned from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the guild, 315 Court St.

Garriott is an autodidactic painter, learning from his own courses of study. He also is known by his nickname, Cotton, which he signs on some of his paintings and which his late wife, Theda Vee Neal Garriott, gave to him.  

His painting was intermittent until he retired in 1986, after which he picked up a brush and has been fluent ever since; churning out more than 150 paintings in the last 27 years.

Garriott said it wasn’t until after retirement that he learned the basics of painting.

“I moved to Wagoner and joined the guild there,” he said. “I built a studio and started turning out work. Then, my wife got ill, and I stopped for a while. After she passed, I rejoined the Wagoner guild and joined the Muskogee Art Guild, and started going full blast trying to produce good work.”

Garriott studied art for two years in a private school in Texas where he learned the fundamentals, and today he studies and paints alongside Cotti, a renowned local artist.

Although some forms of art are expression, Garriott said for him, painting is a need that must be satisfied.

“I see something and it’s just like I have to paint it,” he said. “Some people get the urge to smoke. I get the urge to paint. It may not be exactly like that, but it’s close. I prefer painting over any other entertainment medium.”

He also said he has a tendency to get drawn into his work.

“I get really focused on paintings,” he said. “I get to work and sometimes I might not even hear the phone ring.”

Garriott uses mostly oil for his paintings, but also uses acrylics at times. His paintings featured at the guild are mostly portraits, with landscapes, still lifes and animals mixed in as well. One of his paintings, “Depression Boy,” features a blond teen in homemade clothing facing the viewer.

“That could have been me in the 1920s,” Garriott said.

Garriott said he paints some of his work from portraits, others while on scene and others from memory. Above all, he prefers painting realistic art. He said realism is his forte.

“I have a big library of paintings at home,” Garriott said. “Most of them I think are technically good.”

He also said the Muskogee Art Guild is a “wonderful place.”

“An artist lives on exposure,” he said. “This guild gives them that.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or

If you go

WHAT: Reception for artist James Garriott.

WHEN: 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Muskogee Art Guild, 315 Court St.

ETC.: The guild has an open studio from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.