Artisan Spotlight: Community-Inspired Painter, Ginger DanzApril 24, 2015
Many of the artists in the New River Gorge draw on its stunning natural setting. Ginger Danz finds her inspiration from the gorge, too— but its more personal side.
“I’m a small-town girl,” she said. “I wanted to capture that essence. What makes a community kick. What it’s like to know everybody, and feel like you can make a difference in the community. I’m interested in what people are doing with their everyday lives.”
She’s been focusing on a series of paintings of the town of Fayetteville, which sits right beside the usual artisan focal point, the iconic New River Gorge Bridge. Not that the beauty of that picturesque view is lost on her.
“I’m very inspired by the natural beauty. There’s just something about it,” she said. “But I see so much good photography and how other painters have captured it. I’m not sure if I feel intimidated, or if it’s just that I think it’s so great as is, I wasn’t sure I could capture it in a different way, or add a new voice.
“But the town itself hasn’t been explored in that way. I love old buildings. Rustic, old, historic buildings. I’m inspired by people and community, and the sense you get of really being part of a small town.”
Natural elements do still take a central role in some of her work. In fact, one of her recurring subjects is horses.
“As soon as I decided that I wanted to do a town series, all I wanted to do was paint horses,” she said. “I have a tendency to get wrapped up in what will sell, or what people want. But that’s no good. The best art is authentic, and has to come from a place the artist wants to be.”
“There’s nothing magic about being an artist, just doing it.”
Though, she says there’s a line to walk between following the whims of the current moment, and finding closure on the last one.
“When I come upon a picture or a sketch, I remember why I got excited about it in the first place,” she said. “I need to rein myself in a little bit, and force myself to stay with a subject till I’m finished. It’s good practice, to not leave it.”
And now she has more time to see each piece through, since she began following her passion full-time just last year. Before, it just didn’t seem practical. Instead, she began her career as a mental health counselor. But the drive to create never left her. She always kept her art as a hobby, crafting when she could.
Then, in 2010, she got the push she needed to rethink her hobby’s true place in her life when she got into a juried exhibition at Tamarack, the “Best of West Virginia” gallery.
“It sort of felt validated, and that maybe I could do more with this than just Christmas gifts,” she said. Soon after, her poster was named the official Bridge Day poster of 2011, representing the biggest festival in the state.
“The Bridge Day poster was a collage of cut up pieces of my paintings,” she said. “The odd thing is, it’s different from most of my other work, but it’s still one of my favorites.”
She often tells people, “There’s nothing magic about being an artist, just doing it.” And her own dedication to her craft does seem to be paying off for her. She recently racked up another high honor, winning a grant from the Division of Culture and History to attend a 9-day Intensive Studies Seminar in Taos, New Mexico.
The seminar is supposed to help develop a sense of style and motivation, not so much the technical aspects of painting. Writing for the grant got her exploring her own artistic motivations, which eventually led her to realize her creative connection to the town around her, and share that vision of her home— just not too specifically.
"I want people to take away what they want to take away."
“My work doesn’t fill in all the blanks,” she said. “I’m not a realistic painter. I like to indicate things more than spell it out. I want people to take away what they want to take away. When I put it out there, I feel like it’s not really mine anymore. It’s for people to enjoy, and I want them to get what they want from it.”
She achieves this through a very unique style, which focuses heavily on color and texture.
“I’m a colorist at heart,” she said. “I’m drawn to certain colors. There’s a certain teal that runs through my work. I just think it’s beautiful, and I keep blogging it on. I use Earth tones with spots of other colors. I start with the idea of vibrant, on the warmer side, with cool colors like blue.”
The colors help create the feeling she wants to represent, and also the feeling she’s projecting while painting.
“I think a cool palate is easier on the eye and calming, so I come back to it,” she said. “Painting is a very zen experience, and it feels right when I’m in that kind of mood. I’m a happy painter. I can’t work when I’m sad or depressed.”
Despite being open to people’s various interpretations of her work, she said she has been surprised at comments that her paintings have a Southwestern flair, perhaps a cue people take from her limited color palette and earthy hues. And, she recalled, she did live out West for several years. Maybe she’s brought some of that influence subconsciously through her work.
You can judge for yourself. Ginger’s “Scenes from a Small Town” are on display at the Art Emporium in Charleston, and you can also see some of her paintings at Cathedral Cafe.
For more insights into Ginger’s style and motivations as an artist, schedule a tour of her studio in Fayetteville. If you like her work, you can buy it easily on her Esty shop.
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