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Eugene B. Hayes, a native of the Wallowa Valley of northeastern Oregon, has been drawing since the age of four. From his childhood he was at home in the mountains and valleys of the "Switzerland of America." His natural artistic abilities, coupled with his love of the outdoors and his keen observation of nature, have produced realistic works of detail and beauty.
Hayes served in the First Cavalry Division in the Pacific during World War II from 1943-1945. Safely back from combat, in 1947, in a tragic feed mill accident, he lost his right hand. While still recuperating, he began sketching with his left hand and made the decision to pursue art as a career.
In the spring of 1948 Hayes began studies at the Jean Turner Art Center in San Francisco, then went on to earn a diploma in commercial art from the Oregon Technical Institute in Klamath Falls.
In the ensuing years Hayes worked in commercial art in Oregon and Idaho while developing his amazing talents in fine art. He has explored various media, including oil, watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil, specializing in realistic wildlife, landscapes, and historical scenes.
Hayes’s work has been shown in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Hawaii. A commemorative show featuring over 30 works depicting the Oregon Trail was held at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. He was commissioned to do two oil paintings for the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and he has painted over 20 public and private murals. Hayes has also taught drawing and painting privately to youth and adults.
To begin one of his landscapes or historical scenes Hayes first does a preliminary pencil sketch on location, often doing background research, then works out his final piece in watercolors or oils. Recent subject matter includes Native American life, one-room schools of Wallowa County, and horse logging.
In addition to his drawings, paintings, and murals, Hayes has produced cartoons, maps, and book illustrations. The book A Wallowa County Sketchbook: 50 Drawings by Gene Hayes featuring his pencil sketches, was published in 2003, followed by A Logging Sketchbook and Winter Scenes: A Collection of Watercolor Paintings.
Through his art Hayes is endeavoring to preserve the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest as well as the scenes of the everyday life of an earlier time in the history of the Northwest.
Hayes has operated galleries in northeastern Oregon and northern Idaho. At 92, he still opens his gallery by appointment at 301 Donald Street, Wallowa, Oregon. Phone (541) 886-3311. Explore our website and visit us at Gene Hayes Gallery on Facebook.