An introduction to Ray G. VarnBuhler, not-very-famous distant relative of the famous Varnbülers of Germany and Switzerland.
Ray VarnBuhler grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Design from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and later a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His early career included approximately 10 years working as a professional graphic designer in New York and Detroit. In Detroit he worked for the three largest graphic design firms in that city, and for several years was the art director of an in-company promotion art department supervising a four-person staff. He and his department received several awards for their work during that period, and the promotion department efforts achieved record results for the company.
While working as a designer, he also continued working and exhibiting as a fine artist. In addition, he taught a Creative Thinking course in an adult evening school program for six semesters.
Between 1973 and 1998 he was a professor teaching graphic design. After 1985 he also taught computer art and graphic design. He taught at Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona) for six years, and from 1980 to 1998 at the University of the Pacific (Stockton, California). At Arizona State University the graphic design program became one of the best and most recognized in the country. Feature articles about the Graphic Design Workshop, which he initiated and co-directed, appeared in both Print and Communication Arts, (the two foremost graphic design publications in the USA). The students' work won over 40 awards in both student and professional level national competitions, and an exhibition of their work was circulated by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Humanities. At the University of the Pacific his students continued to win awards, in national computer art competitions as well as in graphic design. He developed the computer art lab and computer art courses in the Department of Art.
Ray received several grants and awards during his teaching career, the most important of which was a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research in Turkey in the 1987-88 academic year. A result of the research was the publication of a 13-page article, "At the Crossroads: Graphic Design in Turkey" (Print magazine, January/February, 1990) which showed the work of many contemporary Turkish graphic designers. He is listed in Who's Who in American Education, 4th Edition, 1994-95.
In 1982-83 he was commissioned to do eleven color cover illustrations for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, a nationally circulated magazine based in New York. He did illustrations for several other publications as well, such as Sacramento magazine, Games, Ranger Rick's Nature Magazine for children, and The Detroit Free Press. His illustrations have also been used in advertisements for Upjohn, General Motors, Ford, National Bank of Detroit, and others.
Throughout his teaching and professional design careers he continued his involvement with fine art. His work was shown in several solo, group, and national competitive exhibitions including: The Michigan Artist's Biennial, Detroit Institute of Arts; Drawings U.S.A., Minnesota Museum of Art; several exhibitions at the Scottsdale (Arizona) Center for the Arts; Artwords and Bookworks, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art; over 100 mail art or artist's book exhibitions in the U.S.A. and many foreign countries; several computer art exhibitions (awards); and one-man exhibitions at Arizona State University, University of the Pacific, and galleries in Sacramento, California.
He exhibited work in the following media: painting (acrylic, gouache, oil, watercolor), sculpture, mixed media, drawing, color and hand-tinted photography, conceptual art, computer art, color xerox, artist's books, postal art, assemblage, collage, frottage, resins, ceramics, and weaving. In recent years he has worked with a Macintosh computer as a design and fine art medium, using graphics programs such as Illustrator, Freehand, Photoshop, PageMaker/InDesign, and Painter.
Ray and his wife Gay have traveled extensively. Their travel experiences include: Turkey, Egypt, Nepal, Tibet, China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia (Java and Bali), Thailand, Cambodia (Angkor), Vietnam, Myanmar/Burma, Laos, Japan, Taiwan, Morocco, Peru, Belize, Guatemala, Tunisia, Chile (Easter Island and Santiago), Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain; also Mexico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii (Kauai, and The Big Island), and Canada. They have traveled to some countries multiple times, for example India (5 times), Myanmar/Burma (2), Turkey (3), Nepal (3), China (2), as well as Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and many of the European countries.
Among his many other interests are: creativity and creative problem solving, nature, hiking, Buddhist art, Islamic art, Asian art, folk/naive art and architecture, and genealogy.
After his retirement from teaching in 1998 he traced his family roots to Germany and Switzerland as far back as 1375, and created a family genealogy web site.
Ray and Gay met in high school and have been married 50 years (as of October 2010). They have two married children and 4 grandchildren. Their children were valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of their high school graduating classes, and both graduated from the University of California at Davis, one summa cum laude. Ray and Gay have lived since 1980 on 24 acres in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains.