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With Karen Wickre and Tess Vigeland

News >  Washington Voices

Witherspoon paints her visions of love, happiness

Watercolor artist Gay Witherspoon creates realistic and traditional paintings. One of her pieces is in a juried show at the Chase Gallery through April. (Colin Mulvany)
Watercolor artist Gay Witherspoon creates realistic and traditional paintings. One of her pieces is in a juried show at the Chase Gallery through April. (Colin Mulvany)

Gay Witherspoon grew up on Long Island, N.Y. Her grandmother painted in oils and her father was a draftsman. He was a pilot who drew pictures of airplanes but after World War II, he never drew again.

“I wish he had,” Witherspoon said, “but he was all about ‘not letting that out,’ if you know what I mean.”

As an artist, Witherspoon understands the emotional benefits of creating. “When I was young, I was quiet and sensitive. Art gave me a voice and allowed me to share what I love with others.”

Motivated to continue sharing what she loves, she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1974 from Colorado College with a major in studio art. At the college, she met her husband, Peter. After he completed law school they married and moved to Spokane, his hometown, in 1977.

They had four children, and being a stay-at-home mom took precedence over artistic endeavors. She volunteered in her children’s classrooms doing art projects and she took occasional art classes. When her youngest was in high school, she took more classes from local and national artists. She used to draw and paint in oils but about 10 years ago, she began using watercolors.

“I enjoy the transparency of colors in watercolor and color is one of the more important aspects of art for me,” she said. “I also enjoy the challenges of watercolor. It is not an easy medium. Oil is much more forgiving. But the happy accidents of watercolor are fun, too.”

Her subjects include family members, the family dog, flowers and landscapes. She often uses photos as a reference, but she wants to do more plein air work – a style of painting produced out of doors in natural light.

“Cameras can lie,” she said. “The colors and perspectives are not always right. Painting in front of a scene allows for looser brush strokes.”

About five years ago, Witherspoon had her first art exhibit and sold her first piece at the William Grant Gallery in north Spokane. She has since shown at Barrister Winery. She also joined the Spokane Watercolor Society and has exhibited with the group. In 2011, she earned a second place People’s Choice Award at a Spokane Watercolor Society display.

Through April 28, work by members of the society will be displayed at the Chase Gallery in City Hall. Brought to you by the Spokane Arts Commission, the exhibit was juried by national artist Dale Laitinen who awarded Witherspoon third place for her painting “Under the Monroe Street Bridge.”

Witherspoon captures and shares the love she feels for family and the beauty that she sees seemingly everywhere.

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