Member Spotlight: Bruce Cody

From the Midwest to the United Kingdom, and points beyond, art has taken Bruce Cody places. “It really has,” says Cody, who hosts GroupWorks’ Drawing and Painting Channel.

Cody is a fine-art painter currently based in the Phoenix area, where he lives and teaches classes in the master-planned community of Sun City. His work, especially his cityscapes of bygone-era movie theaters, motels and diners, harkens back to his upbringing in Casper, Wyo., where his portrait-painting father operated a shop that produced neon signs.

“I got very interested in art very young,” Cody says. “In grade school, the nuns said, ‘Don’t sing, ┬áBruce, just draw.'”

He took his first art class in high school, and continued his studies in college, eventually earning a masters of fine arts degree from Washington State University. He later taught at Wisconsin State University-Stevens Point and Colorado State University. While a professor, he took a sabbatical to London with his wife and children, giving himself the opportunity to study art in major museums in England, France, Germany and Italy. He wanted to find out, he says, if he had the “gumption and drive to produce a lot of work.” He did. After, he held a show featuring 50 of his London-produced paintings; he sold about half. It was time, he decided, to call it a career in academia.

That happened in the early 1980s. Following several highly successful shows of Denver cityscape paintings and many favorable art reviews in the press and TV, the family moved to Santa Fe, where his wife opened an art gallery and Cody expanded his exposure to a wider, national audience.

Now based in Sun City, Cody remains dedicated to a full-time life at the easel. His predominant medium is oil (though, interestingly, during his key time in London, the humidity did not agree with his oils, he said, and he adapted by moving largely to watercolors). By his count, his paintings have been featured in 30 museums, and included in more than 500 corporate and private collections around the world.

Through all this time, Cody admittedly was not much of a joiner, club-wise. His years in academia made him wary of the group–too much politics, he says. But when he moved to Sun City, art clubs were part of the scene, and he stopped by one. “It was a place to meet some other artists,” Cody says.

As it turned out, it was also a place where Cody was asked to teach.

Today, Cody is involved in two Sun City-based clubs, Palo Verde Artists and Artists By the Lake, as both a member and teacher.

“I think I’m a better teacher now than when I was teaching in colleges,” he says. “I can explain it, and I feel an obligation to share what I know.”

Cody enjoys his students, too. They’re largely women who studied or made art before putting those ambitions on hold. “When they come back to it,” Cody says, “they’re quite driven to make something of it.”

The idea of the self-taught artist leads Cody to crack a joke about the person who’s convinced he’s invented the wheel: To him, artists are always learning from other artists, and from other art.

“We are to a certain extent partially self-taught,” Cody says, “because no one can tell you exactly how to paint or draw.”

You have to find that yourself, in any and all the places that your art takes you.