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.
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.
“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.” 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. 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.