Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer Artist Spotlight: Gay Freeborn

Maine-based artist Gay Freeborn is showing new work at Harvest Gold Gallery! Harvest Gold Gallery has been showing Gay’s wonderful work for six seasons now, and customers never cease to be excited by her unique portrayals of man’s best friend. 
Originally from Palo Alto, California, Gay made her way to Maine almost forty years ago. Inspired by her artistically inclined family to pursue a creatively driven career, Gay attended Moore College of Art, in Philadelphia to study sculpture and design, and entered the work force as a landscape and interior designer.
"The Red Heart"
Gay’s experience as a technical designer shows itself in the carefully considered color schemes of each of her paintings. Her ability to create a subtle and cohesive marriage between soft and vibrant hues in a single painting amplifies the emotions of her subject to the viewer. Her love and respect for all animals and their sentient, emotional characteristics overwhelms her subject matter. “You have to have your heart in whatever you are doing,” Gay said, “be it painting or a desk job, you have to feel it. That’s what brings the subject to life and keeps it from being just a copy of a photograph."

 Animals of all sorts are sculpted in paint: pigs, ducks, chickens, horses, and especially dogs. Gay is deeply interested in capturing the relationship between the owner and the animal, in accurately representing the physical and emotional likeness of the creatures, and in bringing forth the unique personality of each creature. She begins her creative process by taking hundreds of photos of her subjects.  From these photos she might find a color that works better in one than another, or a body part that works with another photograph, like adding a tail when one wasn’t wagging when the shutter clicked. The paintings become a compilation of ideas which tell the story of the animal. She can pull from them the moment in time when the light was perfect and when she and the animal fell into a rhythm together.

             Loving to paint with large and visible brushstrokes coupled with vivid colors, Gay aims to capture movement and energy within her paintings. She stretches her own heavy canvas, and then preps it with gesso. When working on pieces in her movement-based series, she begins building motion and texture even in this first layer. Gay piles on the gesso, and uses tools that she finds around the house to scrape in patterns. Paint reacts different when applied directly to canvas and when used atop dried gesso, and Gay uses this difference to its fullest extent. “Negative space – the space outside of your main subject – is just as important to the feel of a piece as the main subject is. If I can’t fill that negative space up with color or large strokes of my brush, then I put my faith in the canvas itself to lend texture to the painting.”

"Just For Grins"
Gay starts building color right from the beginning as well. Her base sketch of her subject is done in whatever color paint is splodged on her palette at the time. Thinned out with a bit of liquin, Gay quickly draws out her outlines. This first step is very organic, and is frequently wiped away and redone over and over to see how the shapes she desires to paint will form over the textured gesso below.
“I then convey the motion, shape, and love for the animal with loosely applied sweeping brushstrokes or a pallet knife,” Gay told us. “Using glazing mediums, wax, chalk dust, and thick layers of oil paint I sculpt the subjects on the canvas: I bring them to life in an unconventional form.” It is difficult to do, but Gay tries to not think about her painting too much. If the mind gets too involved, too critical, then an artist – and in turn, the feel of her painting – can get lost in the details which the overactive brain thinks the painting needs. To counter this, Gay purposefully tries to work only with large flat brushes. She thickens and thins her paints in turn to build texture but also transparency of color.  

"Love Story - 8"
While Gay does switch between different styles of painting to attempt to avoid falling into a creative rut, Gay says that painting loosely with large brushstrokes and bright colors is her favorite style. “To paint is a constant process of learning. The paint often tells me what to put on the canvas and I try not to disturb an unexpected brushstroke once it is applied. I keep in mind the movement and shape of the animals more than the realistic image the photograph shows me. This helps to stay loose and less realistic: which is what I strive for.”
While Gay has been focusing mostly on painting recently, her deep love of animals goes far beyond just the canvas and paint. She grew up with many dogs around the house, and worked in a veterinarian’s office for some years. She also is a breeder of Labrador Retrievers, and a frequent participant in dog shows all around New England. Her work breeding dogs actually was what spurred her to return to painting. Being surrounded by such constant motion and energy gave Gay back the spark needed to pick up her paint brush again. With a fair knowledge of anatomy under her belt, Gay can focus on capturing those details which really bring her paintings to life: the sparkle in a pet’s eye or a dog’s body language that her audience can immediately recognize if they too are pet owners.

    Recently, Gay’s art has been featured in the book “The Contemporary Art of Nature: Mammals,” by accomplished author E. Ashley Rooney. The book highlights the human tendency to attempt to capture the essence of all animals in art and includes the work of nearly one hundred artists worldwide. We are so excited to have a local and Harvest Gold favorite be featured on such a scale! Gay was also chosen for a group show at the Guardino Gallery in Portland, Oregon. She will have a solo show up at the Damariscotta Grill in Damariscotta, ME, from October to December.

Great new paintings by Gay Freeborn have also made their way onto our walls here at Harvest Gold for the summer! We are located at 1082 Main Street, just past the Center Lovell Market. For more information on Gay, or the gallery in general, give us a call at (207) 925-6502 or check us out online at

"Love Seat"

1 comment:

  1. The images you have been painted are just fabulous. The way you painted the animals are beyond awesome. Hats off to you.



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