Bill Guffey paints landscapes and locales all over the world, but he hasn't necessarily been to many of them. And he's created a community of artists who do the same.
For the past 36 months, Guffey and his virtual community have traveled together, painting pieces based on views they spy through Google Street View. He calls his project Virtual Paintout, and with it, he's amassed hundreds of images from Amsterdam and Barcelona to the Canary Islands, Cape Town, Cote d'Azur and Czech Republic, to Florence, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Romania and Norway.
This month, he's settled in Summit County, and as of Wednesday, 20 artists have shared their paintings on his Facebook page. People like Suzanne Queen submitted trees viewed from Keystone's ski lift as a watercolor, L.J. Change painted 164 County Road 1041 with pastels, and Ehren Snyder posted Giberson Bay as an acrylic. Guffey expects 60-80 submissions this month.
To participate, artists must use a view found through Google Street View as the reference for their painting or drawing; they can't use photographs or paint on site.
"The whole point is for the artist to treat this project as they would a real life plein air paintout where they walk the streets of a community, choose a subject and create their artwork," Guffey said.
Through Google Street View, artists search for a good composition to paint or draw, then send Guffey a photo of their completed piece, which he posts on his blog and on Facebook.
Guffey is a self-taught artist who works mainly in oils. He grew up and now resides in Kentucky, but he lived in Breckenridge from 1985-95, where he worked various jobs, including bartending and a seven-year stint at City Market. He was one of the artists in residence in April 2011 at the Tin Shop, where he completed a series of plein air paintings in Breckenridge, and he returns to the Tin Shop in June.
He made a name for himself worldwide by inviting people to use Google Maps with Street View to "meet him" at the same location, virtually take a 360-degree look at the place, and paint or draw their renditions. Major British newspapers, PBS Television, ABC News, "American This Morning" and many others have covered him.
"Bill's use of Street View, to inspire his paintings and to create a virtual community of artists, is a remarkable example that we hadn't imagined but are really excited to see," noted Google Street View product manager Stephen Chau on Guffey's website.