From palm trees to ships, Galveston artist captures life by the sea
Gayle Reynolds loves palm trees. She loves their colors, the way the fronds quiver in the breezes, their almost abstract arrangement and the way their lines intersect and create unusual shapes.
Reynolds, a Galveston-based artist, has created hundreds of paintings of palm trees that now hang in homes, businesses and restaurants all over the Gulf Coast.
“There is just something about the composition of palm trees that is so interesting to me,” she said.
Recently, she created a painting that included two pink houses behind a row of palm trees on Broadway in Galveston. Locals will immediately recognize the spot because of the houses, but Reynolds said the houses just happen to be there.
“It’s really about the palm trees,” she said.
The palm trees are palm trees, but they each have personalities and when she paints them, she can see the intricate differences, she said.
“They stand together, close together, like two friends,” she said, pointing to one of her paintings. “There are so many colors and they are light and dark.”
Reynolds and her husband, Rex, have been coming to Galveston since the 1980s when they bought a small beach house.
They lived in Bellaire, a small suburban city in southwest Houston, and spent weekends at the beach with their son. In 2000, they built a West End Galveston home, and opened Water’s Edge, a gallery and studio at 1302 21st St. on the island’s East End.
Gayle Reynolds’ artwork lines the two-story building; Rex created a workshop for his passions — building boats and Adirondacks chairs.
Both are native Texans, and Gayle Reynolds grew up near Beeville, where she experimented with drawing and painting. One of her first projects was painting a girl on the side of a cistern.
“No one ever said it was good, but I liked it,” she said.
She continued to draw and paint through her childhood and wanted to major in art in college. But her mother cautioned her that she needed to make a living, so she thought about teaching art. That didn’t pan out. She graduated from Sam Houston State University with a degree in English and taught middle school literature for 13 years. She took classes at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and has been seriously painting since then.
Besides the signature palm tree paintings, Reynolds dabbles in other subjects. She first photographs her subjects and selects images that give her the best detail, motion and light, she said.
Recently, she went crabbing off the dock at her home, caught a dozen blue crabs, photographed them and then the family feasted on them. But she carefully selected a few pictures so she could create some watercolors of the crawling creatures.
She also enjoys painting birds — roseate spoonbills, sandhill cranes, skimmers and snowy egrets. She takes the Bolivar Ferry on occasion to photograph seagulls in flight.
“Birds are everywhere and they are fabulous,” she said. But she also was enchanted recently by a sight of hundreds of black grackles clinging to telephone lines at the busy intersection of 61st Street and Avenue S in Galveston.
“I took that picture at sunset because it was so interesting to me,” she said.
When a fleet of tall ships sailed into Galveston last year, she took 475 pictures of the boats and created a series of a dozen paintings of them. Most of those are sold, but she keeps a few in her studio.
“I kept snapping away,” she said. “It was a sunny day and they were so beautiful out there.”
Reynolds prefers to paint with oils, which are “forgiving,” rewarding and easily mixed to create many colors. She also does watercolors, which tend to be a bit more challenging but faster. The very large canvasses she has completed have taken quite a long time to paint, but each one is a separate creative adventure in shape, dimension, color and form.
“Sometimes, I get stumped or discouraged and I will put the canvas in a corner and come back to it later or just paint over it,” she said.
She spends three or four days a week in her studio, listening to an unreliable radio, and paints. Visitors come to the gallery and she shows them around, but mostly she paints.
“I can’t imagine not painting,” she said. “It is one of the best things ever. I’ve done a thousand paintings and not everything was salable or wonderful. But I did it, and each time I get better.”