Finding Simplicity After Chaos
How much can one learn about an artist by viewing their work? A review of painter Gail Haire’s latest pieces reveals a great deal about the soft-spoken artist’s passions – simplicity, calm and color. Her interpretive Southwest landscapes convey a sense of peace with simplified lines and shapes juxtaposed with a bold dose of color. Her paintings invite the viewer on a journey to explore a world that lies far from the hustle of everyday life.
Haire was born in St. Louis, Missouri and moved several times as a child finally landing in Springfield, Illinois. She grew up with a strong sense of family. “We were always encouraged to try something new. Outside of the usual coloring book and crayons, paint-by-number sets and various arts and crafts projects, I did not have a strong interest in art. I dabbled a lot growing up and had yet to discover what would become my passion. I guess I was keeping my options open!” Haire excelled in school, math was her favorite subject and science her least favorite. She went to a high school that ran split shifts so after school activities were limited, but Haire loved field hockey, tennis and gymnastics.
After earning an undergraduate degree in Marketing, Haire began a career in sales and sales management. “Early in my career, I was completely consumed by it, everything came second to work.” Then came a time when she was in her late thirties, where she felt something was missing – balance.
Coming from an artistic family, she had always wondered if she had any talent buried inside. So, when she was looking for balance, Haire decided to turn to art.
She found art lessons that started with drawing and moved to oil painting. When she told the instructor that she had no experience, the instructor answered with ‘passion was more important than talent’. “That was all I needed to hear - I was hooked from the very first lesson! I couldn’t wait for the next lesson and then my first canvas.” Even though work was still consuming most of her life, Haire lived for time to paint. She sought out instructors and mentors that helped her with all aspects of creating art. She expanded to watercolor and worked hard to learn how to let go and let the paint do what it wanted to do.
The artist that had the biggest influence on her is Eric Wiegardt. He’s a master watercolor artist in the Pacific Northwest. She took workshops and lessons from him early in her career and read his book cover to cover. He taught me how to ‘see’ a landscape and always tried to get me to see the big shapes. I really struggled to translate that thought to my paintings in the beginning, but now it has finally made it to the canvas!
During her career, Haire moved from Seattle to northern Virginia and finally to Scottsdale, Arizona where she currently resides. Her sales team sold software to
hospitals which involved a lot of travel, stress and more irons in the fire than you could count. She summed up her life as chaotic. So, when she started her art career, “I wanted two things: simplicity and calm. That is my inspiration for my art and life today”. Haire has always loved the outdoors. The one event in her life that had the most profound effect on her was a college spring break trip to backpack the Grand Canyon. Haire had never backpacked or been to the Canyon. “When I saw it for the first time, I was dumbstruck at its enormity and beauty. I was also quietly terrified that I was backpacking to the bottom of that Canyon and then hiking back out!” She did not appreciate much of the beauty of the Canyon on that first trip, but fortunately made a few more trips many years later where she fell in love with the Canyon. “My subject matter was chosen for me before I ever held a paintbrush.” Now that she had found a subject matter, developing a technique was much more elusive.
After spending 30 years in Seattle where it is gray outside more often than not, Haire developed a great love of color. She transitioned from a very realistic style to her current interpretive style over time although both styles have a strong sense of color. When she moved to Scottsdale, Haire joined the Sonoran Arts League. A group of artists from the league met every week for breakfast to talk all things art and to show their latest pieces. This group helped her focus on her desire for simplicity and calm which led her to see her reference photos in a completely different light. “I now search out the most simplistic shapes and lines to create the composition. Then I add the color and light and shadows.”
When she is not painting, Haire can be found on the golf course. “I love being outside in nature and away from everything. It is not uncommon for me to stop, pull out my phone and snap a few photos for painting references as I play!” She also enjoys traveling both in the US and abroad.
People have said that Haire’s paintings remind them of Ed Mell’s work, which she views as a tremendous compliment. They have also mentioned her use of color and the simplicity of her compositions. Those comments are like a gold medal to Haire. Her mission is to create work that draws a viewer in and takes them on a journey to see that simplicity is everywhere and to feel the calm that simplicity exudes. Haire believes everyone can use a little simplicity and calm in their life today.