Forgiveness of Oil: The Palette Knife Paintings of Denise Gilroy
There’s something about forgiveness that sets us free. Anyone who has incontrovertibly messed up (that would be all of us, I imagine) knows what this feels like.
You can’t fix the situation. But the person on the other end can by retracting judgment, pulling back, and through grace, release us from a debt we cannot pay.
But as awesome and as supranatural as forgiveness is, it is not limited to relationships between humans. For artists, certain mediums are forgiving, because they allow the creator to “mess up,” without having to throw out the canvas with the baby’s bath water. For painter Denise Gilroy, she finds artistic amnesty in oil paint.
“I tried painting for years with oils, and thought it wasn’t my thing. But I finally realized that the forgiveness of the medium is perfect for me,” the Naples, ID, artist says.
Oil paint dries slowly, giving the artist time to reflect, make changes, sometimes even wipe down to the surface of the substrate and start over. Gilroy appreciates this, especially since she has made a conscious choice to use a tool that takes extra finesse and care, an added element of grace, so to speak: the palette knife.
The Power of the Palette Knife
“I painted with brushes for years, but as I got more frustrated with getting caught up in detail, thought I would try a palette knife to loosen up.
“It was a mess at first, but now I can’t not use the knife. I may not get the detail a brush may provide, but that is not my goal.
“I want a more impressionistic feel to my work.”
Gilroy paints both in her studio and plein air, finding benefits in each. An outdoor enthusiast who developed a keen appreciation for the mountains when she grew up on the East Coast and spent summers in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Gilroy has always lived in or near wilderness. For 30 years she made her home in the Sierra Nevadas of California, and now lives 35 miles south of the Canadian border.
“One of the main reasons we moved to the beautiful area in which we now live was for me to be able to paint my surroundings,” Gilroy says. “The house we bought has an old milking shed out back that my wonderful partner converted into a beautiful studio for me.
“I never had a studio before, so it is my heaven.
“It is usually messy, but that’s the beauty of it; I don’t have to put everything away like I would if I were painting in my dining room.” (There’s definitely a forgiveness about a space that allows us to be messy.)
Room with a View
Windows look out onto a seasonal pond, rich with wildlife and surrounded by aspens that turn glowing gold in the fall. Sometimes Gilroy just sits in the studio, music gently playing, while she looks out into the vista. In the winter, when she needs to shovel a path through the snow to get to her heaven, she chooses to work in the warm, lighted studio as opposed to setting up a chair in the cool, frosty woods. Come warmer weather, she moves her palette and easel outside.
“I love waterways, creeks, rivers, ponds. And I love spending time near those places.
“Often, I paint on location, and I love being alone in the woods.
“I like to share the places I get to go to with my viewers, and I hope that others will see the beauty that I see. In a way I say, ‘Look how lucky I am,’ with every painting.”
A Sense of Forgiveness in the Wilderness
Gilroy travels to plein air events throughout the west, and has participated and placed in numerous prestigious shows, including Charlie’s Miniature Roundup at the C.M. Russell Museum, MT; the Montana Miniatures Out West Art show; and the Dixie State University Invitational Art Show of the Sears Art Museum in Utah. Awards include First Place at the 2020 Palouse Plein Air, ID; Judge’s Choice at the Into Nature Show at the White Bear Center for the Arts, MN; and Artists Choice at the Hockaday Museum of Art Plein Air Paint Out, MT.
Where she likes to be best, though, is in the woods, in the mountains, in places where there are wildlife, domestic animals, and landscapes that she brings to added life with a palette knife, an array of oil paints, and a skillful hand. And whether she’s in her studio heaven or outside, she’s where she wants to be.
“Northern Idaho has proved itself as one of the most beautiful places to live, providing plenty of subject matter, both landscape and wildlife.”
A little bit of forgiveness, a touch of grace — in oil paints, in life itself — goes a long way.
Denise Gilroy is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from August 30 through September 26, 2022.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.