John Dougan of Riverside has embraced both art and adventure throughout his life. Born in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, he doesn’t remember a time when he had no interest in drawing.
“When I was a kid, I always used to copy comic book covers,” he said. “I still have a sketchbook from 1964 and ’65 with cartoons from Mad magazine, sketches I made from other artists’ work, and some original images sketched on school bus trips and excursions with my father.”
Dougan’s family moved west at the age of 6. He and his sister spent 10 years in and around Tombstone and Sierra Vista, Arizona. His father wrote independent historical articles for the Sunday Magazine section of the Arizona Republic.
“I often accompanied him during that research, excitedly exploring new places and people,” he said. “I believe my father’s outside love and a keen interest in history sparked my desire to see and do whatever is in my life. My sister and I were also Lachki children. Both parents With the work done, the local wide open spaces were open to exploration.”
The family returned to New York, where Dougan spent the last two years of high school. While there, an English teacher named Willem Lang told him about a scholarship to Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine.
“I got a scholarship and spent 26 days climbing rocks and sailing the Atlantic,” he said. “When I returned, a school outing club was formed under Mr. Lang and I became its first president.”
Dougan’s first taste of world travel was with the Navy during the Vietnam War. He spent nine months on the aircraft carrier USS Constellation in and out of the Gulf of Tonkin.
“Having visited Hong Kong and Japan during that time, I knew I would be back, and decades later my wife and I had the opportunity to travel and explore both China and Japan,” he said.
Dougan has traveled on the Amazon, walked the ruins of Machu Picchu, traveled through Italy and Spain, and visited the Taj Mahal in India. One of his favorite experiences was when he and his wife were visiting the Maasai Mara in Kenya during the great stay.
“It was incredibly amazing to see so much wildlife in one place and something I never thought was possible,” he said. “I painted and sold many wildlife pieces from that trip and look forward to painting more.”
In Dougan’s career as a risk control specialist, his fondness for imitating cartoons as a child came in handy. He said that one of his favorite works was the creation of a safety cartoon that was part of his monthly Risk Management magazine. When the magazine went online, the cartoon continued.
“Clients were always telling me that they looked for cartoons first and then went to articles,” he said.
After Dougan moved to Riverside in 1988, he became obsessed with the watercolors of local artist Don O’Neill. He took a half-day workshop with him, later with a weekend workshop in the desert city of Zzyxx.
“After that, I was sold and I started taking week-long art and watercolor workshops from favorite artists in various locations like Scottsdale, Sedona, and the Hudson River Valley,” he said. “That said, the best training is to draw and paint consistently. We learn something else with each new sketch or painting.”
Dougan said that his love of adventure influenced his choice of subject matter more than the genre. He likes to paint people, woods and wide-open spaces. What he really wants when making a heart.
After not being able to travel for so long, Dougan is eager to get back on the road. Although he is a lifetime millionaire with an airline, having flown 1,590,000 miles with them, he wants to spend as much time exploring this country as his knees will allow.
“Those activities will include more plein air painting and filling out sketchbooks, which should help me develop my skills as a watercolorist,” he said.
Patrick Bryan is the Executive Director of the Riverside Arts Council.