Dan's Cover Artist Gail Gallagher on Painting the Hamptons
This week’s cover of Dan’s Papers features a serene paining by local artist Gail Gallagher. Here, she discusses stumbling upon the boat that inspired a cover painting, writing her “Painting the Hamptons” blog and the artist she loves most.
A Conversation with Gail Gallagher
What inspired you to paint Mill Pond, and is this an area you’ve painted before?
If you travel along Old Mill Road from Montauk Highway to Head of Pond Road, keep going past the Water Mill Museum. Just before you reach Head of Pond there is a hidden gem to your right: Corwith Park. A short wooden boardwalk takes you steps out over a section of pond covered in lily pads. Time stands still as you watch dragonflies and an occasional plover jumping pad to pad.
In September of 2021, I noticed a yellow sailboat moored among the lily pads. I think I may have driven by and circled back. The scene of a beautiful wooden boat resting on the still lily pond begged to be memorialized in paint! Several photos and video served as reference material for the painting, which I sketched out in charcoal on a 20″ x 16″ canvas.
I then began blocking in shapes, looking to contrast the lightest lights and darkest darks, building up layers of color. I have not seen a boat in that spot since that day. This is the first painting, but hopefully not the last of this area.
How has writing your blog affected the way you view the Hamptons as an artist/resident?
My love for the area has deepened through writing about it. I began the blog with a post titled “A Lifetime of Learning to See” describing a plein air painting workshop with the artist, Casimir Rutkowski in Montauk. We painted on the beach below Andy Warhol’s former property. This was my first time painting outside in nature.
I stood at my easel, blank canvas in front of me with not a clue where to begin. I asked for advice and Casimir proceeded to draw with his pencil on the back of my canvas with cerebral commentary regarding the energy of the object and space. I was blown away. So much to learn!
Visiting local museums, like the Annie Cooper Boyd House, took me down rabbit holes of research, reading archived newspapers online to help imagine what Annie’s life would have been like. The post “To Be 18 in the ’80s” reflected on Annie’s life in the 1880s. Writing the blog tasked me to search out inspiration rather than just waiting for it to arrive.
Local papers, including Dan’s, served to highlight people, places and events which lead me to further inquiry. Many art explorations were not only personally inspiring but may have a had butterfly effect on my life. I would credit the blog for a sojourn as a board member of the Sag Harbor Partnership, working on the Save the Cinema campaign.
A post about attending an art film at the Sag Harbor Cinema with accompanying photos of the interior before the fire became an architect reference in recreating the new cinema. The blog has inspired my art, as well as community involvement.
Is there a Hamptons artist, living or late, whose work you greatly admire?
The living artist that I most admire is my husband, Hugh. Neither of us studied art in college. He was an English major; I was a music major. We met at a business function at Harry’s Hanover Square. We took some art classes together in the late 1990s, but it was Hugh’s idea to learn how to paint in oils. I think the conversation went something like this: “I think I can do this. Would you like to take oil painting lessons?” Funny, my first thought was, “This will be a mess, but why not?”
After working our Manhattan day jobs, we took lessons from artists Gregg Kruetz and Louise Kittel in their studios, lugging our painting palettes, toolboxes full of paints and brushes. We began painting in our Sag Harbor studio in 2002. Our easels are angled next to each other. Our paintings hang from floor to ceiling, stacks of canvases in progress surround us.
Hugh has been a full-time artist for some time now and inspires me with his dedication and encouragement.
What’s your favorite thing about spending the fall in the Hamptons, and where can your art be viewed this season?
I love the summer, but fall’s slower pace and the beauty of the season change captivate. Fall is for painting goldenrod en plein air at the beach.
I am looking forward to Guild Hall’s 84th Artist Members Exhibition, which is on view from October 28 until January 8, 2024. Art collectors will also be able to shop the show online. The show is great exposure for local artists and a fundraiser for Guild Hall. I am offering a painting of Ditch Plains inspired by its women surfers.