Twin brothers Dan and Mike Burroughs didn’t hang out with one another much after high school in Swarthmore, Pa.
After graduation, they went their separate ways — followed different paths.
Dan (older by a few minutes) pursued an engineering career, designing innovative bridges worldwide. He also studied painting and sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and spent five years producing large welded metal artwork.
Mike, a licensed architect, became an illustrator for architectural projects. He composed intricate drawings of buildings and businesses back in the day when it was a highly-skilled profession and not a computer graphics program.
Now 68, both live on Whidbey Island, both are active in the arts community and both volunteer for many organizations. Since retiring on Whidbey, they joined forces to start a plein air painting group and a weekly arts discussion group.
“We lived in separate cities for 45 years,” Dan pointed out. “I was in Chicago and Mike in Boston and Seattle.”
Seen in double around the island for going on eight years, they now have an exhibit of their work called “Brothers with Brushes.”
They are the featured artists at Freeland’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation Gallery of Art.
Although both enjoy setting up easels outdoors, their individual styles capture differing views of Whidbey’s life and landscapes.
Dan prefers painting with oils. His work tends to be darker, more layered and nuanced.
“I like industrial scenes, boats, bridges, trucks, warehouses,” he said.
Mike is a quick-draw sketcher who can recreate a scene in front of him in two hours or less. Using ink and watercolor, his pieces tend to be loose, colorful and expressive.
“I love to go out on a sunny afternoon and sketch the street,” he said. “I use ink so I can’t go back and change it.”
At times, Mike also works in acrylics and oils to paint landscapes. He’s also known for his large format pen and ink drawings.
Both brothers say sales of their work cover the cost of art supplies.
While Dan received formal art training, Mike views his sketching as a natural extension of his architectural illustrations.
But both started out their art careers the same way, drawing and sketching with crayons and paper their grandmother gave them.
“I did take a sketching class,” Mike said. “I liked it so much I took it five times.”
Dan Burroughs also hones his craft in a classroom. He’s a fan of artist Deon Matzen, who teaches art at the Island Senior Resource Center in Bayview.
“I go there every single week, every Wednesday,” Dan said. “It keeps me painting and provides me with discipline and inspiration.”
There’s also a third Burroughs brother, Brian, who’s active in South Whidbey theater.
They all ended up here by way of their grandparents, who bought land in Clinton in the 1940s. Their early years were spent in Seattle, where their father worked at Boeing; summers were Whidbey wandering time.
Art wasn’t really on his mind, Dan said, when he and his wife decided to move to Whidbey.
“I never thought about it when I retired here,” Dan said. “It was a great wonderful surprise to see how many artists there are.”
Dan lives in a craftsman-style house with a view of Holmes Harbor while Mike lives next to their grandparents’ original house.
Dan and Mike can often be found at House of Hope in Langley maintaining the property that provides transitional housing for women and families and is run by the Whidbey Homeless Coalition.
Although the twins may seem to have similar low-key, laid-back personalities, they’re always in motion.
“We’re pretty industrious,” said Dan. “We’re either remodeling a house or helping with repairs. We’re always pretty busy.”
They also helped start a Friday morning art discussion at the South Whidbey Commons in Langley.
“We bring paintings in and talk about them,” Dan said. “But it’s for all mediums, photographers, glass artists, all visual artists.”
The plein air artist group they formed starts back up in April. A group of a dozen or so artists meet weekly at a designated spot on the island to line up their easels and draw away the day.
Sometimes they steal the scene away from the spectacular scenery.
“When we’re at Deception Pass, there’s so many people there visiting from around the world,” Mike said. “Of course, they stop and look at what we’re doing.
“I think we spend half the time talking.”