From a very young age I’ve been enchanted by the way dramatic light intensifies its captives.  Colors become more vibrant.  Shadows deepen like curiosity.

These vivid moments, where light chases shadow, evoke a passion within me that has beckoned like a Pied Piper my whole life. 

As a professional photographer in Alaska for two decades I would often be found in the woods, or on a beach, waiting to capture the magical moment when our first or last light of day glows on its subjects.

As an artist, I work to create a similar experience with thick and luminous Acrylic paint on gallery-wrapped and splined canvases.  I paint around all edges of a piece, which gives a 3D appearance from various angles when it’s hung without a frame.

I don’t typically choose the inhabitants of my paintings – they choose me.  I’m less concerned about what I’m painting, and more excited about the colors I mix and the quality of my materials.  That said, most of my paintings reflect my love of Nature and people or wildlife interacting with it.

 

Biography

 

When Mrs. Cinnamon told our kindergarten class we were going to finger paint, I joined the others at a long table where we squirmed in the man-shirts she’d given us to protect our clothes. A sheet of slick paper was taped to the table in front of each student. 

After the teacher dropped blobs of red, yellow and blue onto mine, my pulse quickened when I ran my entire arm through it like a snake from bottom to top.  I recall feeling awakened at the sight of colors changing to shades of green, gray, and aqua. 

Then Mrs. Cinnamon stopped behind my chair and gasped.  I thought she was upset about the mess.  She gently untaped the paper and held it up to the class.  I looked around the table as my face turned scarlet and noticed that most had, with their fingers, neatly drawn a sun in the blue sky with a tree, or a sun over a boat on the ocean.  Oops.

“What have you done here, Gail?” she asked.

I leaned forward to scope out my masterpiece. “It looks like seaweed to me,” I said.    

This was 1958 and that was my first art lesson:  Never be afraid of paint.

Over the course of my youth, Mom – an oil artist herself, always made sure the closets of our northern California home were full of art supplies to keep me entertained.  She also made sure the shelves in our home were adorned with hand-painted china and the walls were hung with paintings, all of which were created by family members representing multiple generations.

Being the youngest of five, I spent a lot of time in my room drawing, painting, and working puzzles.  The others were much older than me and immersing myself in such projects was comforting.  It made me happy.

As a group, we mostly played or explored outside near our home in a suburb of Sacramento.  Back then it was baseball, hide n’ go seek, red-light-green-light and the like.

Later, when we moved 35-miles away to the rural community of Shingle Springs, I spent much of my time exploring by horseback with friends and swimming in Holiday Lake. Fences were rare back then, and it seemed the whole world was there for us to survey.

Later still, the tradition of painting and coloring continued into my adult years - especially once my husband and I started our own family.  It became something I did often with the kids.

But it wasn’t until after the birth of my fifth child, and having held various jobs over the years to help supplement the family income, that I signed up for art classes through our community schools program in Seward, Alaska.

First it was watercolors under a talented woman with the last name of Smith, who was visiting from New York.

But the numerous oil painting courses I took from regionally renowned artist Lee George were the most informative and will always stay in my heart.  Realism was at the root of his lessons, and he had a gift for making even the most complicated technique easily understood.

During one session, Lee stopped midstream and told the group of 8, “You’re going to find that the more you paint, the more you start seeing things differently.”

And it was true.  Drives or hikes through the wilderness areas that make up Alaska found me staring deep into shadows that were more violet than gray.  Early morning light on the lawn was yellow – not green.

Quite honestly, over time, I noticed that my views of landscapes and everyday life morphed from scenes to groups of colors. 

And that was my second real art lesson:  Paint what you see, not what others expect a picture to look like.

One evening, during my Intermediate course with Lee, I was taken aside from the group.  This was 1998.

“Gail,” he said.  “Why are you still taking classes?”

“I’m not sure what you mean?” I said.

“You’re at a stage where you should already be showing your work - get out there,” he said.  “We have a number of art shows locally every year. Do it!”

I laughed off Lee’s remarks as ‘teacher enthusiasm’ and continued to take more classes.

Shortly after the last course ended, Lee George made a trip north to Six-Mile Creek. It was the access point he regularly crossed to get to his gold mine.  The water was raging, but he attempted a cross in the icy water anyway.

Tragically - Lee’s raft flipped, and he drowned. I was heartbroken with disbelief. 

As a tribute, with the encouragement of friends, I entered five oil paintings into a wine-tasting art show fundraiser at the Edgewater Hotel.  It was the first local public exhibit that opened after his death.

Since that time, my style has developed a mind of its own.  And at some point, I switched from oil to heavy-bodied acrylics.  I now work mostly on deep canvases that are wrapped and splined – so I no longer use frames. 

I’m forever thankful that Lee’s keen eye saw something in my work that I was unaware of, as I’ve been exhibiting my work and selling across the US and Canada through galleries, art shows, and online ever since. 

 

                                                         

                                            

 

 

 

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