The marauding band of raccoons man a ship like conquistadors on the open sea.
A serene country setting with a old barn among the changing autumn leaves is accented by a panda with a tropical shirt on. Penguins with tiny umbrellas and shirts congregate in a clearing in the woods.
Greg Potter has focused his work on traditional landscape painting, accented with the whimsical and humorous additions of animals doing unexpected things. The animals wear funny clothing, appear in environments you’d never expect them, and balance out the realistic nature of a traditional landscape.
“Everybody paints landscapes, and that’s fine. But what happens when you throw a panda in it?” he said. “Make it pop a little bit.”
Potter has been painting on and off throughout his life, but didn’t start taking it seriously until retiring from the U.S. Army in 2012. After serving four tours of duty in the Middle East, he wanted something to help keep his mind occupied.
“Most people, when they retire from the Army, they need something to do,” he said.
His foray into imaginative animal paintings stemmed from a night of watching the Discovery Channel with his daughter. One of the programs mentioned the fact that hippopotamuses killed more people each year than sharks.
“So my daughter suggested I paint a picture of a hippo killing someone or something. I didn’t want to do that, but said what about painting a hippo with a shark fin on or something,” he said.
From that point, Potter has emphasized his animal-landscape hybrids. Often, he scours antique stores for old landscape paintings that he can recycle and embellish.
The reaction from people has been worth all of the work.
“I like the reaction they get. They stop and point and laugh. And it gets people asking questions,” he said.
A collection of 15 of Potter’s larger paintings are currently hanging in a gallery at Michigan Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Michigan.
“People have sent me emails saying that since they got cancer, they feel kind of out of place in the world, and these paintings remind them of that,” he said.
Focus: Landscapes accented with whimsical and humorous animals painted into the scenes.