The MoCA presents
an interview with
The MoCA conducts interviews with prominent artists who have gained wide recognition, as well as emerging artists who have shown exceptional potential in their fields. The published interviews help our readers learn about some of the most promising artistic voices of our times.
The MoCA conducted an in-depth interview with artist Gayle Printz. Analyzing the process that lets her create such flurry of works, she shares her thoughts on what the future likely holds for her. The mood of the interview was conversational and so has been lightly edited for relevance and clarity.
I had no formal, or even informal, training before picking up a paintbrush. I only had inspiration.
The MoCA > Hello, and welcome to THE MAGAZINE OF CONTEMPORARY ART! We'll be covering a lot of ground, so we encourage our readers to visit your profile page on our website to marvel at your abstract expressionist works.
The MoCA > First, give us some idea about who you are and what you do.
Thank you for having me. To be selected by The MoCA for recognition is a great honor. I am very grateful.
My name is Gayle Printz, and I live in Atlanta. I retired from the practice of law very early to raise our three children. Over the years, I have written several children’s books. In a year without COVID, not a week would go by in which I did not spend time with my 93-year-old father. I never would have missed a milestone occasion with my family. I would have traveled with my husband and children to experience different cultures, enjoy each other’s company, and make happy memories. I would have gone to the store and picked out my own fruit. And, I would have visited the ocean and slept with the windows open.
Since May of 2020, I have devoted myself to painting.
Acrylic on Canvas
The jury loved my work. But, before selecting it, they had no clue I began painting two months before. Or, that "First" was literally my first painting — ever.
The MoCA > We know you’re self-taught. Yet, has there ever been some sort of formal training that you’ve gone through before picking up your brush?
I had no formal, or even informal, training before picking up a paintbrush. I only had inspiration. But, to be fair, I havebeen surrounded by the arts all my life. Growing up, I spent two months every summer at a Fine Arts Camp, Interlochen Arts Academy, in Interlochen, Michigan. Although I was mostly engaged in playing piano, I was definitely influenced by the creativity I experienced there. At home, my mother was a painter, my father played piano, one of my sisters writes music, and my other sister was a sculptor. So, I grew up in a creative atmosphere and have always been moved by beautiful art, beautiful music, and people who work hard to express and share their feelings through artistic endeavors.
Artistically, I come from a different place than most artists but, somehow, it seems to work. I sometimes look at art as a combination of writing and playing a musical instrument. I tell a story using color in a free form of expression, just as a pianist might improvise a solo using different musical keys. I go where the music takes me.
The MoCA > You have reached your artistic career much later than most conventional artists. What was it that triggered the flame of creativity in you, and how did you decide whether to channel that into your visual arts or some other equally creative endeavor?
I think the flame of creativity was always inside me. I was drawn to painting because it was something I had wanted to do. I simply never had the time to devote myself to it because of family responsibilities. When I found myself with an abundance of time because of the mandatory regulations to Shelter-in-Place during COVID-19, I wanted to channel my energy into something creative that I could undertake without socializing. I began painting because I felt the need to bring lightness and beauty back into a world that was interrupted.
I throw my heart on that canvas. I gain inspiration from everything: what is happening in my life and the world around me.
Acrylic on Canvas
The MoCA > In your before-life, when you hadn’t become the full-blown artist that you’re today, did you ever think about pursuing an artistic career?
I never thought of pursuing a career in the arts—just as I never thought of pursuing a career writing children’s books. I wrote them because I began seeing fewer and fewer traditional books in the world. Everything was online. So, I wanted to write books which necessitated turning a page. And, my vision of that was children’s books—the sweet little picture books you read to a small child while holding them on your lap. Writing was my creative outlet. It was something that comes easily to me and I love doing. It is also something that can be done in stages; I could easily put it down when daily responsibilities kicked in.
Artwork is similar in that it also tells a story. The difference is, when I am painting and those responsibilities unexpectedly kick in, I am left standing with paint all over everything, including my face, my hair, and my golden retriever. Before I can do anything, there are paintbrushes, walls, floors, ceilings, and paws to clean, clothes to change and thoughts to record. If you could see all the pretty colors on my light switches and doorknobs, you would laugh.
Even though I did not begin painting to pursue an artistic career, art is entwined in my life. It somehow embodies everyday life and what is going on in the world. When there were feelings I needed to explore and express during the pandemic, I bought art supplies. Now, that I am a full-fledged artist, it is my hope that when someone looks at one of my paintings, it captures their eye, it captures their interest, and it creates an intrigue and value that differs from what they might usually see and feel. I want to be a necessary addition to the Art World, and the only way I can do that is by being who I am.
The MoCA > Just looking at the breadth and scale of your works is sure to make one realize how passionate you must be about the subject. We certainly understand passion, but how did you manage to go from zero to sixty in a matter of months?
Short answer: COVID-19 quarantine regulations
Long Answer: Ksenia Milicevic and The 2020 International Art-Resilience Exhibition
On July 13, 2020, while looking for a way to archive my ever-growing art portfolio, I happened upon a call for artists entitled Art-Resilience. Thinking it was about being resilient during the pandemic, I sent ten pictures of different paintings to eight of my most encouraging fans: one Art Historian, two artists, one publicist, and four art enthusiasts. I told them I was thinking of entering a competition in which the theme was resilience and the stated purpose in selecting artwork was "to present works characterizing the rigor in a search for artistic quality, creativity and technical mastery." I then asked them to rate the paintings in order of preference.
I could only submit two paintings for consideration by the jury. I tallied the votes and sent photographs of "First" and "Pond." It was the first competition I entered, and all I had to do was email my name, address, and pictures of two paintings. There was no entry fee unless my work was selected. There was no commission involved. Previous exhibitions were beautifully curated. In short, I simply saw no downside to applying.
The deadline was July 15, and that is when I sent my submission. A few hours later, I got an email from the extremely talented artist/architect, Ksenia Milisevic, requesting my photo for their website. Knowing she was the Founder of the Museum where the exhibition was to be held, I asked her if that meant one of my paintings was accepted. She said, "Yes, of course. They are perfect. Both of them."
I was thrilled and immediately sent her the only picture I had of myself. She then asked me for the name of my website. I sheepishly told her that I didn’t have one. My husband, who lucky for me is a great photographer, then took pictures of my work and posted them on Smugmug.com. I gave Ms. Milicevic the link. She very gently informed me that although my artworks looked beautiful on SmugMug, I should set up a storefront website before the August 8th Exhibition because collectors would want to see all of my work. Setting up that website was the most difficult part of my artistic experience. So difficult in fact, it will always have a disclaimer reading “This website is under construction,” just in case something is terribly wrong with it. So far, so good. But, the disclaimer will remain. Although I am thrilled to have it, that website took up so much time I didn’t have time to enter another competition until the end of September.
Back to your question:
Ms. Milicevic then asked me for my C.V. for their website, and I, once again sheepishly, told her I didn't have one. She very gently told me to send her what I had and she would work with it. I sent her a "C.V." with my education, past jobs, the titles of books I have written, all the Bar Associations from which I am retired and, realizing she wanted information relating to my artistic background, I included my eight summers at Interlochen Arts Academy. As that only amounted to two pages, I put in photos of my artwork. Ms. Milicevic was very pragmatic. She took out everything law-related, all of my work experience, and all the photographs of my paintings, and posted my education, Interlochen, and the names of my books.
Ms. Milicevic walked me through every step of the process of becoming an actual artist. When I was stuck on a painting, I would email it to her and ask her what was missing. She was incredibly constructive. The best part of our relationship, besides the relationship itself, was the way in which Ms. Milicevic inspired me to simply be myself. She thought I had a very distinctive style such that, at some point, when people saw my work they would recognize it as mine.
To me, there is no greater compliment—no more liberating advice—I could have received. I cannot be anyone else. I do not want to be anyone else. Ksenia Milicevic freed my spirit and gave me the confidence to become the painter I was meant to become. And, she left me with a website, which I suspect she checks on, because the Museum Commission in France voted in November to put my work in their Permanent (physical) Exhibit at Le Musée de Peinture de Saint-Frajou in France. When COVID-19 is behind us, you will find me on an airplane to Paris to see the woman who took me under her wing without expecting anything other than watching my future success unfold, in return.
End of the long story:
As it turns out, the Art-Resilience Competition had absolutely nothing to do with COVID. It was the coveted 2020 International Art-Resilience Competition that is held yearly as part of The International Art-Resilience Movement founded by Ksenia Milicevic. And, although I thought at the time that I must have been one of the few that applied to the competition, it turns out they were overwhelmed by applications, and I was one of only eight American painters whose work was selected for the Exhibition. The jury loved my work. But, before selecting it, they had no clue I began painting two months before. Or, that "First" was literally my first painting—ever. The whole experience was akin to being on "The Voice" with artwork. All that mattered was the quality of those two paintings. It is really the way things should be. But, I have been told it is highly unusual for a museum or gallery to be receptive to anyone other than an established artist.
After that, I was offered several solo exhibitions which I declined because the offers came during a time at which I thought no one should be anywhere other than home. But, I was written up in a three-page newspaper article dedicated to my artwork. That article, a few more online articles, and the forty-two online exhibitions for which my work was selected, all gave me great national and international exposure.
And, that is how I went from zero to sixty in such a short time.
Serendipity at its finest.
Acrylic on Canvas
I have sold nineteen paintings directly from my website and another twelve to fifteen privately. I have been extremely lucky. Some paintings were even sold within hours of being posted on my website.
The MoCA > What keeps you ticking? Do you think you’ll ever get tired of working almost nonstop towards your newfound profession?
My heart, both literally and figuratively. I throw my heart on that canvas. I gain inspiration from everything: what is happening in my life and the world around me. The pandemic forced me to isolate and look inward. I chose to reflect upon and interpret the beauty that remained.
As I am what you might refer to as a blank slate, I can be myself when I paint. Without fear, I can lose myself in a painting. I do not have anyone else’s style to unlearn in order to express my own. I consider this a big plus. It gives me the freedom to make the painting completely my own without expectation or judgment. When there are no rules to follow the possibilities become endless. So, for me, there is great freedom in painting.
The fact that so many people in the art world think I’m a success is a bit shocking. I never even thought I would show anyone my work. But once I did, the viewer’s excitement was so motivating that, for their sake, I pushed myself to engage in the business side. As I am a bit camera shy, I don’t think I would be promoting my art if the online platforms didn’t exist. At first the platform is anonymous, but the next day I end up engaging with some of the most generous talented people I have ever known. There are so many talented artists out there whose only goal seems to be supporting other artists by providing a platform through which we can show our work.
If there is a silver lining in the pandemic, it belongs to those who used this time to grow by discovering what’s inside of them. When hard work is recognized it ceases to be hard. It creates a real sense of freedom to find out who you really are.
Now to answer your second question… At this rate, if I get tired, I may run out of paintings. I feel I have found my calling and a very private way to express myself. I may be forced to slow down when we get through the pandemic, but I will never get tired of painting. To try something new and realize you love it is one thing. But, to gain the recognition of experts in the field is thrilling. I have been extremely fortunate that the Art World feels I have a contribution to make. The more I feel my work is considered worthy of all the attention I have been getting, the more I want to translate the colors of my world into art.
The MoCA > The permanent collection of your artworks by museums in France has likely given you a jolt to continue to produce. Do you feel pressured – even if it’s to yourself – to keep up with the curator’s expectations?
I do not feel pressured at all—from the inside or the outside. Most likely, it is because I don’t paint because I have to. I am lucky enough to be able to paint because I want to. No one needs to pressure me. They need only look at my website to know I already want to paint as often as possible. The Museum Commissioners in France, who approved my work for inclusion in the Museum’s permanent exhibit, seem to have only my best interests at heart. The fact that persons of their artistic stature are interested in ensuring I have an artistic future, and think I have something to contribute to the art world, provides all the inspiration I need to continue on this unexpected path.
The MoCA > Are you ever working to meet a deadline – real or imagined – in the creative process?
Even when someone commissions a painting, I do not paint with a deadline in mind. Painting is all about the freedom to create. Deadlines would interfere with that freedom. That is not to say collectors are kept waiting. Quite the opposite. I get lost in what I am doing and lose all sense of time when I paint. I cannot tell you how many times, at noon, I begin painting what I hope might become a masterpiece and, when I get to a stopping point, it is 5:30 in the morning. I never look at the clock because, for me, creating something meaningful is an intense process in which time ceases to exist.
The MoCA > In the art world, the ultimate success story is when you can sell your works with some regularity. It’s not been too long since you embarked upon this, but have you sold anything significant thus far?
Yes. My work has proven to be marketable. I have sold nineteen paintings directly from my website and another twelve to fifteen privately. I have been extremely lucky. Some paintings were even sold within hours of being posted on my website. This is more than I dreamed. In fact, I never intended to sell anything. And, at first I got a bit too attached to my work; I would let people see it, but not buy it. After I opened myself up to the idea of spreading the beauty by letting it go, the response was overwhelming.
Those to whom I sell my paintings come from varied backgrounds: collectors, investors professionals, art lovers, and friends. I haven’t had an opportunity to meet most of my clients because so few are local. But my interactions have been touching. Every single time someone buys my work, I am humbled and thrilled. I love hearing the excitement in their voices when clients receive their paintings and call me from faraway places to say how connected they feel to their new investment. And, there may be no greater compliment than when they return for more because my work has touched them so powerfully. Why am I surprised? Because, when I began painting, it didn’t occur to me that sales and international recognition would be part of my artistic experience.
...To me, the meaning of my work has to be left to the viewer who, instead of trying to figure out what I was thinking when I created the piece, must be willing to consider what it means to them.