A pastime of a lifetime
As an only child growing up in a small Missouri town, Carol Gallion would often accompany her mom to work. She would draw and paint to occupy herself, a pastime that continues today.
Though fine art may not have been a staple of her early Midwest surroundings, Gallion learned about creativity and self-sufficiency from her then-single mom, who constructed things around the house, sewed and decorated.
“You have a gift,” Gallion’s fifth-grade teacher told her with a mix of sarcasm and sincerity after catching young Carol drawing in her notebook during a lecture.
Gallion’s mom later remarried and the family moved to Michigan, but the world opened up to the budding artist after she married Bob, a Navy man.
“I was 18 years old and what an exciting adventure it was to take my first airline flight to Washington, D.C. to get married,” Gallion reminisced.
“I arrived in the wee hours of the morning, and we were to get married that afternoon,’’ she said. “D.C. was a different world from anything we had ever known. I went to my first art gallery, took a job working for Blue Cross-Blue Shield, my first real job, and prowled the monuments.”
Gallion raised her two sons as a stay-at-home mom and worked the occasional office job. She, Bob and the kids lived the itinerant military life, pulling up stakes in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Manama, Bahrain; Subic Bay, Philippines, and in states across the nation. Experiencing the sights, sounds and flavors of different cultures provided fodder for her artistic inspiration.
But it would take until she was in her 40s to work up the courage to attend art school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“My professor became more or less my mentor,” Gallion recalled.
“He was doing hard-edge abstractions, and I really loved his work, and he kind of took me on as a special student, so, that’s what I did for quite some time, but then I grew weary of that,” she added with a laugh.
“I wanted to go back to painting figurative work, but I wanted to maintain the abstract part of it. I worked in layers with the abstract work, with a lot of pouring paint on and brushing paint on in multiple layers.”
Carol and Bob now live in the Del Webb Spruce Creek community, where Gallion continues to paint a few times a week. Though they’re settled in one spot, they still enjoy traveling together and are taking a cruise to Alaska this month.
Since her college days and moving to the Summerfield area two decades years ago, Gallion has challenged herself to experiment with different styles.
Gallion’s watercolor portrait of a horseman, “Yes, There Really Are Cowboys,” is featured in the Marion Cultural Alliance’s “Art of Aging” exhibition at the Brick City Center for the Arts in downtown Ocala through the end of August.
One of her striking portraits, “Jazzy,” depicts a young fellow art student who recently attended a drawing group with her at NOMA Gallery and will be featured in the Florida Watercolor Society’s 2023 52nd Annual Exhibition Reception on Friday, Sept. 29, at the College of Central Florida’s Webber Gallery.
“Some people are able to paint landscapes, and that’s what they do, but I have never been able to do that,” she admitted.
Gallion dabbles in different media and reveals an impressive range in her work. In most of her paintings, however, remarkably realistic illustrations draw the viewer in, and more often recently, expressionistic, abstract elements imbue her works.
Although she mostly works in acrylics and mixed media, Gallion also works in watercolor and mixed media and has been a member of the Florida Watercolor Society since 2007, having gained her Signature status with the organization. She also nabbed a Jean R. Faulkner Award while living in Nebraska and has honed what she calls a storytelling style, capturing her own emotions or the candid expressions of her subjects, sometimes a combination of both.
Her narrative knack is compellingly evident in the painting “Look at Me!” which received “Best in Show” in the 2020 “Summer Spotlight” exhibition at the CF’s Florida’s Webber Gallery.
“My model entertained me with her exuberant and light-hearted self-confidence,” Gallion recalled, adding that her pose and costume and the painting’s background provided unique challenges for her.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts has one of the lifelong artist’s paintings in its permanent collection, and her mixed-media apron was published in the magazine “Cloth Paper Scissors” (July/August 2016 issue).
In conversation and in her works, Gallion reveals an enviable combination of professional achievement and a laid-back, take-life-as-it-comes serenity.
When asked more about her process, she laughed a little.
“Being the undisciplined soul that I am, I just do what I want to do.”
To learn more about Carol Gallion and her art, visit carolgallion.com.