Peninsula artist captures the realistic essence of his surroundings

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

For Philip Garbowski, painting is not only a hobby, it is an obsession.

"I have just painted, painted, painted, all my life," he said.

But unlike most artists, Garbowski does not often take money for his imaginative works.

"I enjoy painting, but I don't have it in me to promote myself," he said, adding he will probably give more of his works away than he will ever sell.


Philip Grabowski's "A Prayer for All," a portrait of Mother Theresa, hangs in the lobby of Peninsula Internal Medicine in Soldotna.

Photo by Jay Barrett

Instead, his works are displayed at friends' homes or at area doctor and veterinary clinics for viewing. Many others sit in stacks in his home.

As a child, Garbowski moved to a homestead midway between Ninilchik and Clam Gulch in 1950 from North Carolina. He said he grew up commercial fishing.

He attended a Washington art academy and moved back to the homestead 26 years ago where he converted an older barn into the house he currently lives in with five cats, a bird and a dog.

"I wouldn't live anywhere else," he said, adding that in Alaska, he never runs out of subject matter to work on, including using his pets for subjects sometimes.


Philip Grabowski poses with his pencil drawing of Canada geese, which hangs in one of the examination rooms of Richard's Veterinary Clinic, where he works, in Soldotna.

Photo by Jay Barrett

Aside from painting and drawing, he works as a beautician at Kathleen's Beauty Salon, and he helps out at Richards Veterinary Clinic. His art is displayed at both places, as well as Peninsula Internal Medicine.

In a drawing that hangs in the Richards clinic, Garbowski was able to capture the innocence of a baby moose that was rehabilitated at the clinic. He said that in many of his pieces, he strives to capture a moment in time.

Another painting that reveals the realism of his work is "A Prayer for All," a drawing he created from an image he saw of Mother Theresa. The combination of the drawing and the red and gold matting and frame can invoke powerful emotions in the viewer.

"It always grabs a hold of me when I look at it," he said.


Phillip Garbowski's "Barn Owl"

Photo by Jay Barrett

Garbowski said artistic talent was passed down from his mother to him and his brother.

"Art kind of runs in our family," he said.

He said his artwork became more serious after he returned to Alaska and attended various art classes at Kenai Peninsula College.

He enjoys experimenting with art mediums, including painting and charcoal drawings.

He often goes on hikes to find subjects for his works.

"If you can't see it, you can't paint it," he said.

Often times he takes pictures of his subject to capture the image, or else he will take his watercolors on location and quickly capture the essence of the piece.

"I like really true realism," he said.

The realism that creates a peaceful feeling is what he strives for and is what is rewarding for him.

Viewers of his work will notice that Garbowski does not stick to one subject to paint. From fishing boats to wildlife to scenery, everything is up for grabs.

"It all depends on what I see, or photograph, that grabs me at the moment."

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