Elsie Gallinger: Artist


There was music playing quietly in Elsie Gallinger’s bright studio, light coming into the room from many sources. The studio walls were hung with the noted artist’s works, predominantly oils: but scattered amongst the oils were some water colours, an ink sketch and even a wax media painting.

On a comfortable old easel by the window, an unfinished landscape was waiting for her to return to it.

Elsie Gallinger is an established artist, whose paintings have found acclaim, and markets, far outside South Dundas. 

She paints with a knife. 

“It’s a style which takes bigger strokes and you don’t mix the paints. How you hold the knife shapes the marks you make on the canvas. When I first started to paint, everything I did had to be exact and blended. But now I go for texture and paint right out of the tube. I paint what I am emotional about and oil is definitely my medium.”

For Elsie, raised on a farm, what she is emotional about tends to be her farm roots. She finds herself  repeatedly drawn to painting images of the land. 

She cites the works of the renowned Group of Seven artist, Tom Thompson, as one of her inspirations.  “I love his impressionistic works. And I love to experiment, to push the boundaries, to discover what I can really do. True art has to live a good life and a long life.”

She admits that she may not actually ‘love’ all her own paintings. Some are different. Some are an experiment. “But all my paintings must pass a certain personal bar.”

“Sometimes a picture comes very easily to me,” Elsie Gallinger explained. She has been painting more or less full time ever since she officially retired from elementary teaching in 1990.

“The idea falls quickly into place. But other paintings are very difficult to do.”

She pointed to the landscape on the easel.

“Sometimes I get far along on a painting, and then suddenly I just don’t know what to do with it. See this one. It needs something else in one area, and there is too much of one colour in another area. I don’t know yet where to go, or how I will change it. What I’ll do, I’ll meditate on this painting for a while.

That’s why I work almost exclusively in oils, because I feel I have control in oils. Actually,” she added, laughing, “I have been known to ‘wipe out’ a painting because the day after I worked on it, I got up, looked at it and realized that I couldn’t stand it. You can do that with oils.”

Elise Gallinger is one of the featured artists on the Studio Home and Garden Tour scheduled for South Dundas Saturday, August 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The event, an opportunity for people to see some stunning gardens and incredible art works done by talented people right here in this community, is sponsored by the South Dundas Chamber of Commerce.

Elsie Gallinger describes herself as primarily a studio artist. “It’s that control element again. I need the lighting and the oils under my direct control.”

She calls herself a “very private painter. I don’t go into the field (she often takes photos of things which interest her) and I don’t usually paint where other people are. When I take courses, I tend to watch what others do, I gather ideas. 

I am especially struck by how many ways there are to paint the same thing.”

She encourages people who visit her studio, or see her works in shows or galleries to look at a painting in their own way. 

“It is amazing how interpreting a picture is an intensely personal thing. When someone sees something in my paintings, I don’t say that’s not what I painted! Instead I stand back, and let the person enjoy what he sees through his own eyes. I believe that each picture has a history, and each picture tells its own story.” 

Her art is a deep and abiding passion in her life. 

“It’s my belief that you are not here long, and you must do what you love in life. I am not in this for money,” said Elsie Gallinger. “I paint because it gives me joy. 

I love to see people’s faces when they look at a painting. One client told me once that a picture had to “talk” to her. Well, there are some pictures I have done that will talk to me forever. Forever.”

To learn more about the Studio Home and Garden Tour of South Dundas, scheduled for August 20 (admission is free) contact www.annebarkley.ca/TOUR2016.

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