We always feel like we hit the jackpot when we find a new artist whose work we’re crazy about. We have to click a couple boxes before we sign on the dotted line: we have to love the work, we have to have a good vibe with the artist – oh, and they have to like us too. Such is the case with the lovely Gail Foster, whose work we spotted at a fun artist/dinner event at Serenbe earlier this summer.
Gail’s work has a wonderful enigmatic, mysterious quality that really appeals to us. She’s a gifted abstractist, too, but it’s her smaller, monochromatic, mixed-media pieces that get us going. We love the delicate brushstrokes and the application of medium that is luminous, textural and full of depth. Take a look at these:
We had a chance to sit down with Gail and chat – and here’s her story:
HHFA: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from and how did you begin your art career?
GF: I was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. I started painting when I was really young, I can’t remember the exact time but I was a kid. It was all I ever wanted to do, to paint. I would work odd jobs for art supplies and negotiate with my father for art classes and everything went towards the goal of becoming a painter.
I took my first painting class at 13 and never stopped from there, taking night courses and special classes at Brown University and RISD to keep building my skills. When it came to college, I ended up being able to secure a full scholarship to MICA and then went to Parsons for graduate school. Throughout all my life, I have been working to create and sell my work as my career – I even sold drawings on a boardwalk and did portraits at the Maryland State Fair! I also spent some time teaching after graduate school, but ultimately painting was always the driving force behind everything I did.
HHFA: Describe your painting style and what inspires it? Nature, people, experiences?
GF:I get inspiration from both nature and people. Nature is constantly in a state of change and every moment and second counts – that’s what I’m trying to emulate. The human spirit and its resilience is a part of that too. I also find myself looking at pictures of space and galaxies a lot, another element of nature, but on the macro level.
HHFA: Tell us a little bit about the technical side of your craft: what kind of medium do you use; do you like paper, canvas or board; and what about brushes and other tools?
GF:I work primarily with acrylic paint, but also dabble in photography and drawing. My work typically has layers upon layers because I love to build up surface texture; I could do a whole painting with a palette knife. I also enjoy taking photographs and using them as a substrate, painting on top of the image. The medium has an influence and I gravitate towards a certain direction depending on what materials I have.
HHFA: Have you had an art “a-ha” moment when a lightbulb went off that steered your artistic direction?
GF: I had always wanted to know how to paint like Rembrandt, like the masters. I spent a lifetime getting there, taking classes and learning how to paint literally anything and everything, from copying great works from art history. That learning led me to a point where I couldn’t even remember why I started painting. Because I had learned how to do everything, I was stuck. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I decided to build a studio in the middle of a field and close myself off. It was around 1990, my “letting-go” period. I closed myself off on purpose to focus on learning how to forget. It was in this phase of my life where I started to work with a single figure, which you still see in a lot of my work today. (HHFA: we love those figures!)
HHFA: Tell us a little bit about how you paint: where do you paint? What time of day? Do you listen to music?
GF: I still have a studio out in the middle of a field! It’s an old Butler building in Chattahoochee Hills and that’s where I paint, really any time I can. I usually light incense and listen to all kinds of music while I work. From classical to dance to Tina Turner, oldies and newbies too. I was just listening to Japanese flute music the other day!
HHFA: Okay, this is tough. Name your top three favorite artists (this is an unfair question – we could never narrow it down to three!)
GF: Agreed! This one is very difficult. Kiki Smith. Peter Doig. Rodin, the sculptor and Redon, a colorist. But above all, Nature is my top artist. I’ll always be chasing nature. (HHFA: nicely answered!)
HFHA: We love travel so tell us your favorite art city and your favorite art museum?
GF: My favorite art city is Paris and favorite art museum is The Frick in NYC. It’s tiny and gorgeous, I used to sit there all the time back when I lived up North. (HHFA: we love how manageable the Frick is. You can take it all in without being overwhelmed.)
We’re delighted to welcome Gail to Huff Harrington – her work is on display at both the gallery and Huff Harrington Home so pop by and take a peek. Oh, and if you were up in Cashiers a couple weeks ago, you may recognize some of her pieces from our space at the Cashiers Designers Showhouse. Her mysterious little paintings added the perfect artistic punctuation point!