A frequent collaborator was the graphic designer Malcolm Grear, who recalls Sgouros drawing renderings of signs that the firm was developing for a Saudi Arabian city. “He would illustrate our thoughts. He was incredible at it,” Grear says.
Sgouros painted watercolor landscapes during work for RISD in Rome in the early 1980s, as well as Maine and Cape Cod observed during summers. His New England scenes are alive with woodsy greens and browns. Untitled (Boat and House) from around 1980 shows a green boat canted on its side atop a line of grass along water; in the background stands a white house brightly lit by the sun. His skillful technique parallels Andrew Wyeth. Sgouros pulls out certain details, but these paintings are about moody atmosphere.
During these years, he was also painting watercolor and oil still lifes of a bicycle horn, teapots, and jars; they’re done in a tight realist style that is part William Harnett, part 1980s preppy neoclassicism.
That precision evaporated as Sgouros’s sight failed and he began his Remembered Landscapes. They are like Impressionist evocations of the way the sky moves. They feel suffused with nostalgia, like recalling pleasant days of fall as winter comes.
They were an ingenious solution to his vision problem. Van Allsburg says, “The reason he felt compelled to solve the problem is he had to make art — he just had to make it.”