Savant, list-maker, accordion-player, artist extraordinaire – Gregory Blackstock

Gregory L. Blackstock

1946 —
Seattle (Green Lake), WA
Drawings (pencil, pen, marker, etc.)

“Oh yeah, relieved, I’m famous.”

– Seattle Times, 6 October 2006.

Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock catalogues a wide range of subjects on varying sizes of paper. Using ink, pencil, marker, and crayola, freight trains to insects are laid out in neat rows and columns, each item annotated in near obsessive detail. Gregory’s work is compelling and stands alone, but his story is equally as compelling, and adds another dimension to the work he has been creating since 1986.

Gregory is an autistic savant, and has overcome many of the limitations of autism, retiring in 2001 after “25 1/3” years of work as a pot washer at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC). Gregory exhibits many of the remarkable traits of the autistic savant; he speaks many languages, is an incredible mimic, and is able to recall events with uncanny precision. In 1986, he began to create his drawings for the WAC monthly newsletter, which each month would feature one of Gregory’s new drawings.

It is without doubt in our minds that Gregory Blackstock would be an artist under any circumstance – his autism did not make him become an artist, nor is he an artist because of it. Still, autistics exhibit an inherent inability to show intimacy and intimate communication with those that are close to them and others. Through his art and his music, Gregory has effectively been able to combat this disability and to meet the challenge, with fantastic results.

Gregory is as passionate about his music as his drawing. He can be seen playing his accordion outside the Key Arena for Sonics and Thunderbirds games, and also outside the Opera House. Gregory has been drawing for most of his life – in 1966 the Seattle Times published one of Greg’s drawings based on the TV series “Batman” of the 1960’s. Now, his subjects range from state birds to state prisons, tools to WWII bombers, and mackerel to Boeing jet liners.

Gregory’s drawings are often large, on several sheets of paper pieced together by Greg with tape and glue. Using pencil, crayon, ink and marker, Gregory depicts insects and baskets with incredible precision, straight lines and text executed without the aid of a straight rule. The detail is minute, shading impeccable.

(Photos courtesy of Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations and Garde Rail Gallery)

Bibliography & Links:

“Detour Art—Outsider, Folk Art, and Visionary Folk Art Environments Coast to Coast, Art and Photographs from the Collection of Kelly Ludwig” by Kelly Ludwig, Kansas City Star Books, 2007.

“Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations Coast to Coast Travel-o-Pedia” by Randy Mason, et. al., Kansas City Star Books, 2009.

On DVD – Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, “No Rest in the Northwest,” KCPT, Kansas City Public Television, 2006.

Garde Rail Gallery

Wisconsin Medical Society

Seattle Weekly

Seattle PI