“I am fascinated by the paradox of order and chaos found in nature. This interplay is oftenwhat makes natural scenes so beautiful and awe-inspiring. In my work, a watercolor may look like many abstract shapes when seen up close, but from a distance a peony emerges. A restful image materializes from the chaotic repetition of similar forms, such as water-worn pebbles on a beach.”
Montclair, New Jersey watercolor artist Gayle Mahoney spent the first 30 years of her life in California, exploring just about every inch of the Golden State. Growing up in the West gave her access to wild places on a grand scale, and from childhood on she absorbed and relished the vast diversity of landscapes, flora and fauna that could be found within arm’s reach. Adventures in the natural world taught Mahoney that there is great beauty in the ordinary things around us, which can be seen only if the right light is shone upon them. “I strive to capture that feeling in each of my paintings, no matter the subject,” Mahoney says. “Whether I am painting landscapes, flowers, animals or still life, I try to express the magic found in every moment.”
Born into a family of artists and craftsmen, Mahoney learned to express herself in a visual language before she learned to read. Early lessons from her mother and grandfather helped shape the eye of the budding artist. As a child, Mahoney’s family loved road trips, and the phrase “Let’s go for a ride!” meant an open-ended exploration that taught her to appreciate the concept “the journey is the destination.” She grew up believing there was something to discover anywhere one went, and that each place held treasures worth finding. “These adventures made me very conscious of place and transience,” she says. “It was always fun exploring new areas. I loved the possibility of going anywhere on the map, and I would imagine what it must be like to explore each place.”
Such experiences impacted Mahoney as an artist by teaching her to observe her surroundings and capture the subtleties of the changing light, the seasons and human activities. “This is partly why I am drawn to painting landscapes and flowers,” Mahoney explains. “They are constantly changing, yet the inherent qualities of one moment can be captured in a painting.”
Mahoney began taking her art seriously when she signed up as a teen for private watercolor classes taught by Sacramento-area artist James Estey. He recognized and helped cultivate her skill as a painter and encouraged her to enter juried exhibitions. Mahoney studied studio art, marketing and communications at San Francisco State University. Living in San Francisco gave her access to original art at the region’s internationally acclaimed museums. Mahoney found the support of other artists and local collectors and soon earned most of her living by selling her watercolors.
After moving to the East Coast in 1995, Mahoney continued her art education by returning to school to complete a bachelor’s degree in Art in Society at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Her studies there included the centrality of art to many native cultures, place theory, and the impact of art as an agent of change in local communities. She supplemented her studio art education by studying at the Yard School of Art at the Montclair Art Museum, the New Jersey Visual Arts Center, and through private instruction. Mahoney’s studio is currently located in Montclair, New Jersey, just 12 miles west of Midtown Manhattan.
Being a professional artist is not easy, and artists experience the joys and struggles all small business owners share. Having the freedom to direct one’s own path is one of the greatest rewards of living a creative life. But Mahoney also feels a responsibility to share her vision as a painter to bring light, beauty and reflection into a world that is not so easy to navigate. For Mahoney, painting is an act of love. One of her favorite quotes is “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso
“Watercolor is the perfect vehicle to share my message: Life is short. We don’t have much time to really see, let alone enjoy, all the beauty that surrounds us. I aim to capture just a moment of that beauty in every painting, to draw viewers in, transporting them to a place of peace and wonder.”