Artist of the Month: Gail Eleanor Wegodsky

Lifting Storm (oil, 64×22) by Gail Eleanor Wegodsky was a Landscape finalist in the 25th Annual Art Competition. Wegodsky is our May 2009 Artist of the Month.

Residence: Atlanta

Website: www.wegodsky.com

Her art background: My dad signed me up for summer art classes one summer at the Art Students League in New York. That was my first figure drawing class. When I was a senior in high school, I signed up for private classes with a local painter and paid for them with the money I earned working at Mayberry’s Ice Cream.

At the University of Maryland I ended up taking more art classes than anything else, and so I transferred to the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, where I earned a bachelor of fine arts degree. I loved painting more than any other medium, so I pursued an MFA at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

I taught drawing and painting at the university level for about 15 years. About 10 years ago, both of my parents became ill with their final illnesses, and I took a leave from teaching. I decided to try to just paint for a living, and I’ve eked out a living from selling paintings and teaching yoga ever since. Last year the cost of health insurance forced me to seek out a job with benefits, so I’m now a cafeteria lady in the Marietta, Georgia, schools. As much as I love preparing tater tots and chicken nuggets, I’d rather teach painting again. My sales have slowed to nearly nil in this economy.

Medium and genres: I enjoy painting in oils the most—they’re so forgiving. I can make major changes right up until the end; even after exhibiting a piece I can still change it. I paint realistically. For me, it’s a spiritual experience to examine the look of the world. I have a scientific bent and take joy in the details. I enjoy depicting whatever I see, so I’m equally interested in painting still lifes, landscapes, interiors and figures.

Inspiration for this painting: I was driving home from work one afternoon as a storm was lifting over Marietta. I stopped at the high school, where the sky is quite viewable, and watched the sky and took photos as the blue began to peek through the dark storm clouds. The day was so spectacular that it inspired me to begin a painting of it.

But a problem arose in that Marietta is not picturesque—an extraordinary sky with a mall underneath wouldn’t work. I chose to paint in the port city of Acre in Israel under the Marietta sky. The buildings there appeared to be mostly made of a golden stone, and I found the matching colors satisfying.

I probably spent 6 weeks on this piece. My favorite part of the piece was painting the sky. Clouds are so much fun—you need to paint the whole thing at once so it can be blended together. A painter needs a strategic plan to keep areas of cloud and sky wet at the same time so they can be fan-brushed into believability.

Why she makes art: When I went to museums and saw the paintings and drawings of the masters, I felt such joy that I wanted to try to make art myself. I hope I make a few things during my lifetime that end up at museums and create that joy for others. And I love the process—I love the planning, the organization, the studio time alone and these small accolades from organizations like yours. I am not painting for the money.

Grin and pear it: I had one painting for over a year at a gallery here in Atlanta. I went to pick it up and asked the owner what she was selling, if not my work. She took me in the back and showed me paintings of big pears and said she couldn’t keep them in stock. She pulled one out with a banana included with the pears and said she would never move that because of the banana.

I decided to paint some pears and actually made a living from it for about two years. A painter friend of mine talks about painting “candy” pieces to have time to paint her “meat and potato” pieces. I sold every pear painting I made, but after two years I couldn’t get myself to paint another. I guess that’s why I’m a cafeteria lady now rather than a pear painting lady.


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