Gail Begg Engel
I have been drawing and painting all my life and as a child I was sent to Vida Lahey's art classes in Brisbane. I recall sitting on the floor with large sheets of brown paper before us and being told to "express ourselves". All I wanted then was to be able to draw horses (which I have not yet managed, although many, many years later I met someone on the beach at Bilinga who really can do so! rosemaryparcell.com). These classes ended for me when the family moved to Warwick where I went to high school. Art was not an option in the course I took, but after leaving school I completed a correspondence course in commercial art where at least I learnt to draw "Head Hands & Feet" which probably stood me in good stead in later years. I still love life drawing.
I worked in London and travelled in Europe in the sixties and moved to Sydney when we returned to Australia. There I attended night classes at the Julian Ashton art school and continued to paint and exhibit. Around this time I met up with Lloyd Rees who was a family friend, having been taught by my great grandfather, Arthur Exley. He told me it was very difficult to make a living as an artist. He was right!
A few years later I was lucky enough to meet a group (mostly involved in the animation industry) which met for informal classes with Richard Zaloudek. By now we had two small children but I was able to get home-based work in the animation field with Yoram Gross Studios (The Little Convict, Dot and the Kangaroo).
In 1980 we left Sydney for Queensland, to Wellington Point, and I joined a local artists' co-operative, the Hitching Post Gallery, later the Old Schoolhouse Gallery, where I exhibited for many years. I began to collect a few awards in art competitions during this time, with various media, including assemblages of found material from the nearby seashore. In 1988 I gained a BA (Fine Arts) from Griffith University with the first intake of students in the degree programme at Queensland College of Art.
In 2000 we bought a house in France (frenchshoeshop.com). This old stone house was formerly a shoe shop and once we had done some renovations I began to display some watercolours, particularly the stones and weathered timber of local buildings, in the shop window. They proved to be very popular and I continue to paint and exhibit there when I go over to stay.
Last year, whilst in England, I took a residential workshop at Flatford Mill, made famous by John Constable. It introduced me to another medium, water-based oils, and rekindled an interest in cloud studies which is continuing.
This year (2016) I am taking part in the Artists in City Libraries project run by the Gold Coast City Council.
Landscape, primarily its textures and forms, remains an enduring theme in my art practice and ongoing exploration with mixed media and various mark-making tools are key elements of my work.