Artist of the Month

 

When Gail Kolenda was about 10, she got bitten by the art bug and has never stopped creating
since. “My father was a great artist in his private life and I loved his work, so I started drawing. I took art
classes in high school and majored in studio art and theater in college,” she explained. “Art provides me
an escape. I can take what I see in the world around me and interpret it without all the surrounding
noise.”


But needing to earn a living, Kolenda went to work for AT&T. Meanwhile she branched out into
crafts to sustain her need for creativity. She owned a porcelain China business in the 1980s where she
created custom designs. Once her kids were out of the house, Kolenda picked up her watercolor brushes
and studied Chinese brush painting. “I dabbled in a lot of things. I like the experience of trying new
media.”


In 2001, Kolenda began exploring what she could create using electronic tools. “I took classes in
photoshop and computer design. That was the beginning of my interest in using photography for art.”
In 2006, Gail and Bob Kolenda bought a home in SaddleBrooke. The Bucks County, Pennsylvania
native noted that they came here to experience a whole new world in an environment they’d never
experienced.

One of the first things she did was join the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. “I’ve been
involved in various aspects of the Guild. In addition to painting again, I taught classes both in
SaddleBrooke and in the surrounding community in a variety of media as well as served on the board
and in various capacities for a number of years,” she said. “I love introducing people to art. We all have
an ability to be creative. The trick is to find out what sparks your interest.”

For the Guild’s most recent contest, Kolenda went through her extensive photo archives
searching for a submission that could be used as the reference shot. “I was looking for something that
showed a flavor of Tucson and would be interesting for the artists to use. I took the selected photo at
the first rodeo we’d ever attended. I had my camera with me and took photos all day. I was glad to see
the variety of interpretations,” she said.

“The pandemic’s been difficult for all of us. The contest helped to encourage a number of
people. I was glad to play a part,” she said.

Kolenda noted that she explored online art classes while they mostly stayed home during the
past 18 months. “Experiencing the pandemic changed my art,” she said. “I’ve been taking a weekly
online class in portraiture. The classes are taught by artists from around the world and feature a variety
of techniques and media. It’s given me a chance to refresh and hone skills I learned in school and to
explore new skills and new approaches. It’s exciting. I can’t wait to begin sharing what I’ve learned as
we ramp up classes in the Guild here in SaddleBrooke.”

“Art is a part of your very soul. It’s just waiting to be discovered. Drawing, painting, cooking,
whatever. Just try something that gives you license to be creative. Don’t be afraid. I love being there
when someone discovers the joy of creativity,” she summed up