Special to Valley News
There are people who find peace in their purpose via saving lives, being a leader, or becoming an artist, but seldom do you find people who find peace doing all three. Fortunately, the City of Murrieta has an amazing firefighter and artist named Scott Ferguson. Ferguson has served in the fire service for over 34 years, the last 18-months as the Chief for the Murrieta Fire Department.
What many don’t know is how accomplished Ferguson is as a painter. He has painted a wide range of powerful images from Muhammad Ali defeating Sonny Liston to an iconic Joker painting that honors the late Heath Ledger.
When asked when he started painting and why he chose this art form, Ferguson replied, “The truth is, I am not sure that my style of art has fully been developed. Like most elementary school kids, I drew dinosaurs, cars, and people with heads way too big for their bodies. Looking back at some of the art my mom saved, it did not seem that remarkable. I do remember being chastised for not telling the truth when one adult claimed that I traced a picture that I had drawn freehand. I guess that was the first time I realized that I had an eye for ‘negative space’.”
He also shared that, “Over time, I learned to airbrush a bit and design shirt logos, but it was not until a couple of years ago that I landed on what I am focusing on now. Later in life, I found myself a little stressed at work and needing a weekend distraction. A friend of mine suggested that I paint celebrities wearing fire turnout gear and helmets. After tinkering with the ‘how,’ I landed on a blend of watercolor and pastels, finished with ink highlights. Jack Nicholson, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck, and a dozen or so more have immerged since then. The likenesses of Mohamad Ali, Jimi Hendrix, and Abraham Lincoln have also been done in a watercolor wash and scribbled ink style – there are fewer rules.”
As far as his source of inspiration, Ferguson said, “It is a little hard to explain, but I do not fit the profile of your typical firefighter. I am very comfortable thinking and even dreaming about things that fall outside of traditional lines. This impacts how I write, plan, build relationships and how I paint.”
Inspired by his mother, he said, “My mom is an amazing artist. I remember her taking one of those Art Instruction School courses when I was very young – the turtle with the hat was my favorite. She still builds some amazing jewelry made of semi-precious stones, but aside from oil and acrylic paint, Mom also dabbled in water color, batik scarves, and a few other art forms. Much of her work still hangs on our walls at home.” Ferguson also looks up to a wide range of artists, such as Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and even Picasso.
It typically takes him eight to 10 hours for a portrait, depending on the size and complexity. He recently finished an 8-foot by 12-foot acrylic painting depicting 9/11 that took him a couple of weeks. While on the topic of iconic political moments, Ferguson has also had the pleasure of meeting President Barack Obama.
“My time as the Fire Chief in Santa Monica allowed me to meet a number of high profile celebrities – most were remarkably cool,” Ferguson said. “It was an honor to shake the hand of the POTUS. At the time, I was the president of the Los Angeles Chiefs. I was in a short line of similarly positioned politicians and first responders. It is a story for another time, but of all the celebrities I met, Denis Leary was my favorite.”
The Murrieta Arts Council and all who know him are thankful to have Ferguson here in Murrieta.