Buildings in Brushstrokes

Published On December 25, 2015 | By Hannah Bonnie |

To reconnect with her college years, 88-year-old art alumna Norma Driscoll paints architecture on the University of Oregon campus.

Words by Hannah Bonnie, Photos by Jordyn Brown and Jonathan Bach

Perched on a stool in the grass behind Fenton Hall at the University of Oregon, Norma Driscoll poises her paintbrush above her easel. Next to her is a box stuffed to the brim with art supplies and a table that holds the various colors of paint she will use. Her palette is filled with muted tan, sunshine yellow and cobalt blue. She is in the process of painting the colorful fallen leaves that surround the trees outside of Deady Hall. On her canvas is a quick sketch of Deady done in pencil that she will later paint in browns and tans, with a large yellow, orange, and brown painted tree in front of it.

This is not the only place around the University of Oregon that you can find Driscoll. If the weather is nice, you can find her around campus, wearing sunglasses to prevent the sunshine from bothering her wizened eyes, quietly painting various buildings, in particular the Knight Library. She wears long pants and long sleeves though the sun shines blindingly through the trees. Her weathered hands are steady as she perfects each stroke of the brush.

Born in 1927, Driscoll has spent 60 years of her life painting. It was never a job for her, but it was more than a hobby. She paints landscapes, and still-lifes in an abstract cubism style. She married another artist, her late husband Robert Gilmore. Together, they had six children.

(Jonathan Bach/Ethos)

(Jonathan Bach/Ethos)

“Well the Bible does say ‘be fruitful and multiply,’” Driscoll says laughing with a mischievous grin.  

 Driscoll received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Oregon, which is why she chooses the campus as inspiration for her art.

“I call myself a double duck,” she says jokingly.

When she began college, Driscoll thought she wanted to be a journalism major. Quickly, she thought different and switched into the art school. Within a term, she knew she was in the right place. While she was in the art school, she was inspired by the late Jack Wilkinson, a well-known professor in the department. Driscoll cites Wilkinson as one of her main influences while she was in school. In addition to her professor, she was influenced by the great Greek thinkers, such as Plato and Socrates.

“There was much more of an alliance between architecture and art.” Driscoll said of her days in the art school. She believes that now art has become more of a personal thing.

(Jonathan Bach/Ethos)

(Jonathan Bach/Ethos)

This is why Driscoll mostly paints the buildings around campus. She is intersecting art with architecture as she was once taught. She only paints during the beginning of fall term and during spring term, never painting in the rain or cold weather. During your walk to class, see if you can find Driscoll sitting on her stool, painting away the beautiful University of Oregon campus.

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