Friday, February 13, 2009


My grandfather William G. Gallaher was the painter in our family, and though I never had a chance to know him in my adult life, I have always felt an intimate connection with him through his work (perhaps the reason I became a painter). But it was my grandmother that shared with me his many talents that remained hanging in her house. Growing up I would spend weekends at my grandmother's little house, just hangin' out and discovering the wonders of her mystical property shrouded in oak trees and hideouts to be discovered.

Alice Gallaher was a grade school teacher in her day, who loved learning. My sister reminded me on the phone recently, how she remembers everything was always about learning with grandma. This struck me in a peculiar way, maybe because I too am now a teacher, and I began to be reminded of all the things she did teach me that I never really thought about but somehow still remember. The little things in childhood that we hold on to in a distant memory, almost a dream-like place. There were some very clear specifics too, like her mannerisms, the way she spoke, paused, breathed, hobbled along, hummed a crackly tune. They are the wonderful nuances that we carry very deep in our memories and hearts throughout our lives, and even after theirs...

My grandmother was a crafts person, she collected, always widdling away at something, some project, a book, some music on the piano, a church program. Never anything fancy, or even noticed, but steady, steady the way grandmothers are in our lives. Almost like she could spend hours alone just noodling away in her own little world, cozy and safe. I remember her always showing me her latest painted-china piece she had been working on, or digging through an old closet way in the back to find some little puzzle we could work on together. Letting me explore and discovering on my own.

Decades later I was poking through a bunch of my grandfathers paintings, documenting them, trying to make some sort of record of all of his work that is scattered throughout our family, when I came across this painting, not signed, and hanging in my aunt's house. My aunt was quick to remind me that this was a painting her mother had done, NOT her father. I was taken aback... "This?" I thought... "Grandma? I didn't know she painted too? This is good! Really good!". I kind of wish I could find more of her works like this, especially now that I'm really into the impressionists and painting alla-prima! (a painting term for immediate quick, thick, impasto painting technique).

Though this painting may never be seen on the walls at Christie's, I am proud of my grandmother's painting (one of the only paintings she ever did) and amazed at the many secret gifts she had, the many projects she was always chipping away at. It's funny how we often think we know somebody all of our lives, only to discover something brand new about them, something that we see in ourselves that explains our own behavior and interests. I look forward to learning more about my grandmother's many secrets as well as my own. I guess we are still working on that puzzle together.

Painting: ©Copyright Alice Gallaher

1915 - 2009 a.d.

R.I.P. Grandma G.

Thank you for...

being easy going, peaceful and gentle with me
giving me your wide smile
being a good teacher
teaching me to play my first piano song (Silent Night)
having your doorbell and letting me ring it over and over
teaching me to love home-made whole wheat bread
teaching me to love almonds
teaching me about painting on china-ware
teaching me to love the great oak trees
teaching me to collect stuff and value the little things
giving me a sense of family
teaching me about my family
showing me my grandfather's paintings and telling me about him
making me feel safe
always giving me love and looking after me

I will miss you and your sweet smiling face,
I love you always...

Saturday, February 7, 2009


With the New Year comes a new series of paintings I have begun. Last Year's SAGACITY series was a success and I continue to make new paintings in that series. But I have recently begun another venture that I am excited about... they are in oil paint. I'll be the first to admit I do not have a long tenure with oils (being an illustrator) but I am experimenting to find my method of using this bold and versatile medium. But let me say this, ITS FUN!!! This shot above is Easel #1, a piece I am doing in oil for a friend.

Mixing, mixing, mixing those oils. The colors are rich and deep. JUICY!!! I've been using Windsor and Newton's Artisan oils which I am finding really great. Being a mostly water based medium painter, these babies are great medium for me. They make clean-up hassle free, and are not nearly as toxic as using turpentine or mineral spirits. Just soap and water for clean up and they can be mixed with regular linseed oil or any other medium of choice... ain't technology grand! I've been reading a lot about these oils (water based), and they have been around since the seventies for professional printing, but have really begun to take off in the painting world over the last twenty years as a healthier alternative to traditional methods, while still delivering the rich buttery and deep color effects.

I've been prepping a bunch of new canvases and boards as well. I love painting on wood panel and have never been real fond of stretched canvases. Being a draftsman and a lover of drawing, the bouncy surface of canvases is like having sex on a springy matress, it can be wild, but not much control. But none the less I am doing a few on canvases too, mostly portraits.

Easel #2 features a piece I am finally getting back to after my SAGACITY show, and is part of a series of pieces I started a couple of years back and have been slowly building on.

On Easel #3 I'm finishing a piece that there was no more room for in the SAGACITY show at Sweet Inspiration last September. I really wanted to put this one in the show, but it didn't make it in time, and there wasn't any more wall space anyway. Almost done.

My boy Ti-Jean... Jackie Delouz... angelic skid-row bum... Kerouac, looking back at me from behind the clutter... never far from my thoughts! Great writer of sadness, savior of my soul, again and again always picking me up and putting me back together, making strange but truthful poetic sense of all this madness we call life.

Pickin a few Dead tunes out in-between paintings. For me, my guitar and harmonica are never far from my easel. To me music and painting go together, like illustrations and literature. Painters and musicians, musicians and painters. Most painters I know also play music, somewhere in there lives.

Photos: ©Copyright Trey Gallaher