Craig Gilliland, artist and owner of Gualala’s Spindrift Gallery has created, with the vision and expertise of his wife Lori, an exquisite showcase for contemporary artists.
Craig, a retired attorney has had a love affair with fine art since childhood. “I have a 98-year-old aunt who was a high school librarian and art teacher. She taught me how to paint. I gave up art during law school, and during my thirty years of law practice, I painted as a hobbyist. When I retired, I started painting again.”
Craig moved to California in 1978, falling in love with the ocean “once I actually got to see it, because I was working so hard,” he smiles. He purchased his Sea Ranch home in 1987, which over the years has been featured as a stop during art studio tours.
The gallery’s evolution is the natural outcome of Craig’s love of painting and Lori’s passion for art. She has a dual degree from the University of Maryland in art history and studio art.
Craig opened the gallery in 2003 and within five years needed to double the space. He moved into the current location in Gualala’s Cypress Village Gallery District. He credits Lori for the gallery’s success. “She travels extensively throughout California and beyond, attending studio tours and openings.” Currently, there are about 24 artists exhibited in the gallery who span styles and techniques – everything from classical work to abstracts and ceramics.
“My philosophy is to look everywhere and try to visit as many galleries as possible. Sometimes when I find a new artist, I’ll try a few pieces and see how they work with other artists in the gallery. If there’s a good fit, we’ll start representing them,” says Lori.
Lori looks for consistency in an artist’s body of work. “The pieces must be technically good, with good use of compositional elements. I’m seeking an emotional pull in the work – is it exciting? Is it quiet? We’re developing symbiotic relationships with our artists,” she continues.
There is no way to characterize the artists in the gallery. From the bold, bright abstracts of oil painter Rosemary Allen, to Diana Majumdar, who creates haunting, classic still life painting, from the deceptively simple portraits and landscapes of Sandy Ostrau, to Drew Fagan’s remarkably realistic oils of matchboxes and vintage signs, Spindrift attracts art lovers who are looking for peerless compositions created by highly skilled individuals with a compelling story to tell.
Comfortable couches invite visitors to spend time relaxing in the gallery. And if viewing the gallery’s outstanding collection wasn’t reason enough to linger, the couple’s magnificent collection of over 400 art books will dazzle both bibliophiles and art lovers.
“We can’t resist quality art books. We’ve looked at every single one, and we enjoy sharing the collection with our gallery visitors,” says Craig. The focus of the collection is primarily modern art, broken into sections featuring multi-artist studios and biographies. There is also an extensive jazz DVD collection and documentaries featuring numerous artists.
And then there’s Craig’s work, which even he is reluctant to categorize.
“I’d started out painting landscapes, but at a certain point, I hit a wall. Lori suggested I experiment with abstract collage work. It really shook things up. started putting things together with stuff laying around the studio.” For his collages, Craig uses an acrylic medium, adding paint and pastel chalk. “It certainly did the job of breaking that logjam,” he smiles.
His Horizon series is a group of 20×20˝ paintings depicting the sky and horizon from his deck. “They’re a series from my own experience. There are so many different lights,” Craig explains. He keeps a large reference of photographs, “but I never, ever try to paint the photo. I use it as a springboard. If you held up the photo to the painting, you’d say, ‘What’s that about?’” he laughs.
Craig paints a little each day, listening to jazz as he works, as does Lori. The couple share a studio together. “I listen to music and try to translate it into an artistic piece. I really see music in paintings,” Lori explains.
Craig’s goal? “To get better at abstraction. It’s a lot harder than it looks,” he laughs.
Spindrift Gallery is located at 39102 Ocean Drive in Gualala. The gallery is open Thursday-Saturday from 11:00-5:00, Sundays from 11:00-3:00 and by appointment.