Herb Parsons is a lifer — both as an artist and Recreationalist. We learned about Herb after discovering his signature in the Cross Country Journal and on a t-shirt from the Kangaroos Olympic Scientific Congress Run in Eugene, Oregon in 1984 (pictured above). We loved the design, and contacted Herb to see if he would be interested in collaborating on a t-shirt. Promptly, Herb told us that he would have been “interested ten years
ago, but I stopped doing custom work long ago, so I’m afraid you’re out of luck.” He went on to say, “I’m 81 now, still running after 62 years, and still enthusiastic about the whole thing.” With a response like that, we knew we had to learn more about Herb, who has exhibited paintings for over five decades, taught at Harvard and the University of Maine, all while maintaining a lifelong passion for Recreation.
01. How do you describe what you do?
I’m an 81-year-old traditional landscape painter and distance runner; retired part-time teacher of studio art and art history, retired part-time graphic artist and cross country coach, and a retired 29-year owner/operator of a summer art gallery/gift shop.
02. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
03. What’s your favorite piece of work you’ve created?
No idea. I have over 1600 pieces I’ve photographed since starting art school in 1960. Some I definitely like more than others, but my self-evaluation often shifts.
04. What’s your biggest influence?
What my eyes see, what my heart feels. And I’m a dinosaur: I avoid modern technological devices other than my laptop and digital camera, which I think keep my senses more in tune, more receptive.
05. What would be your dream collaboration?
I’ve never collaborated.
06. How does movement play into your work? Either in your style, or process, or how movement is represented in your work.
In landscapes: the movement of brush marks on the canvas. In graphics: the movement of the human figure.
07. What’s your favorite Recreational activity?
Running and sailing. Both lift my spirit and keep me in touch with the natural world, especially on the island in Maine where I live half the year. Running helps keep my head on straight and seems to help slow my aging process.
Sailing… just being on the water in a boat mellows me out. I was unathletic as a kid, but that didn’t matter much in sailing, and being skinny, I was built right for running. My first Boston was in 1967, when there were only about 600 runners!
08. What’s your best tip for Doing Things?
Maintain steady work habits, pluggin’ away, so that artistically, something good, and perhaps even pleasantly unexpected, might happen. And at the end of a day’s work, leave something unfinished so you can use it to start the next day, to get rolling.
9. What are some of your favorite works of art?
Probably Rembrandt self-portraits or Vermeer interiors.
10. Where is your favorite place to move?
For sailing: Maine coast ocean in the summer.
For running: Deception Pass, Whidbey Island, Washington State, whose trails are empty in the winter.
11. What do you want to see more of in the world?
More tolerance and understanding.
For more on Herb and his artwork visit his website here.