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Artist gets back into the game

Former Nanoose Bay painter out of retirement, on exhibit in Qualicum Beach
Parksville artist Rosemary Gall stands among some of her acrylic and watercolour landscapes now on exhibit at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply in Qualicum Beach.

After a fulfilling career as an artist in Alberta and B.C., Rosemary Gall reluctantly succumbed to retirement when her husband suffered a long-term illness and she turned her focus to his care.

Well, the 85-year-old will never again treat painting as a full-time job, but she is back in the studio and enjoying a rediscovery of her passion for painting.

“For years, my attention was on my husband,” said Gall, whose acrylic and watercolour landscapes are on exhibit through March at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply. “I lost my husband three years ago and started thinking about art again.

“It’s like salvation, when I can get into the studio and immerse myself in the painting.”

Heinz and Rosemary Gall moved to Calgary from Germany in 1953, and rented for five years before purchasing their first home. That real estate transaction ultimately led Rosemary, already a commercial artist and fashion designer, into a life of painting.

“When we moved into our first house the walls were bare, and I was used to having lots of art,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is going to be expensive (to buy art).’ That’s when I started taking fine art classes.”

She would eventually enrol in the Alberta College of Art and, though her painting was “interrupted by work” and the raising of the couple’s two children, later teamed with a group of other artists to open the cooperative Centennial Art Gallery in Calgary in 1975.

The gallery remains open and active to this day.

“We never imagined it would last 40 years,” said Gall. “I did quite well there. It was a good time for art in Calgary. People in the oil industry wanted paintings for the walls of their offices. I work large, and they wanted large paintings.”

Gall has more recently begun to work small, creating bright, 11x14-inch watercolours that she paints on-site. But, unlike many en plein air artists, you won’t find her perched on a folding chair in front of an easel on the street or streamside.

“Oh, no,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll just sit on the ground with my little board and paint. I might sit on a rock, a bench, whatever’s handy.”

In 1983, the Galls relocated to Nanoose Bay, where they built a custom retirement home. It included a large, airy studio ringed with windows designed by Rosemary as she prepared to settle into the burgeoning arts community growing here.

“There were maybe 50 artists in the area,” she said. “Now, there are, like, 300. I call it art island.”

Having established herself in the Calgary arts community and having entered what was ostensibly a retirement period, Gall says she found it hard to “start over” on the mid-Island. And things got much more difficult when Heinz took ill and the couple was forced to sell their home — and its studio.

“That was a heartbreaker,” admitted Gall, who now lives in Nanaimo. “Now I just paint in a little room over the garage.”

But she is once again painting, and enjoying the pace of her newfound life. Her current exhibit can be seen at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply on First Ave., from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. These days, that kind of small, local show is perfectly fulfilling.

“I will not be committing myself to large exhibits,” Gall said. “Let’s just enjoy these last years. I like to walk, swim and do outdoors stuff like canoeing and kayaking.

“My life is pretty well-rounded. Again.”