Artist Spotlight: Gail Ragains

Gail Ragains is a remarkable person who has done so much, and is still doing so much! We’d all like to take a stroll in her back-yard and talk to her all about the crazy experience of participating in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon! Amazing and driven, her painting style is relaxed and riddled with improvisation.

She allows the paint to just be what it is, and non-intentionally reacts to the paint as it’s applied with ease. The work speaks for itself as it portrays it’s raw form and seemingly exists to the viewer as an experience.

With 25 years of being a massage therapist under her belt, she depicts the human form with a hands-on outlook; and having been painting since the early 1900’s, she is represented in galleries in both the US and Canada— Where her figures induce a sense of overall relaxation.

Read on to learn more about Gail Ragains, see her life and love for coffee, and works available here at ANFA Gallery!

When did you start your career in art? How long have you known you wanted to be an artist? Why portray the figure? What does it mean to you to depict the human form? 

“I’ve always been an artistic person. As a child my art expression was manifested through gymnastics, ice skating, dance. Through my 20s I competed in triathlons. I live life in a physical way, I am a People Person. I also had a career as a Massage Therapist for 25 years. All of these past experiences play a part into the connection I have with the human form.”

“Ever since my first life drawing class some 30 years ago, I haven’t put the charcoal down.”

“As an observer of art and an artist, I find the depiction of the human form expresses more emotion than other subjects.”

Describe your aesthetic in three words: 

“Gestural, Colorful, Bold”

“Conversation” by Gail Ragains. Currently available at ANFA Gallery, Charlotte, NC.

Describe your artistic process and preparation—How do you start your creative process?

Image provided by artist.

“I just dive into the process, whether I am drawing 1 minute poses with a model, or standing in front of a 5’x 5’ canvas.  I work quickly and intuitively. I don’t worry about the outcome.  In fact, I try not to think about anything, just being open and allowing the canvas a direction of its own, allowing for discoveries to happen. When finishing a piece, I slow down, I think more, and study the piece for balance in composition, value and color. I try not to overwork. I want the gestural energy that I start with to be retained to some degree in the finished piece. That gives it life.”

Image provided by artist.

Favorite piece you’ve painted to date—why? 

“My favorite piece is always the painting I’m working on.  I’m not one to look back.  I’m always evolving, just as the world around me is always evolving.”

“Woman at the Beach” by Gail Ragains. Currently available at ANFA Gallery, Charlotte, NC.

Who inspires you personally and/or professionally? 

“I volunteer with Hospice, and I am deeply inspired by witnessing the love and care between people during this time of profound transition.”

What challenges do you think exist in the world of fine art? How do you approach/overcome them? 

“From the studio to getting your work “out in the world”, there is the business side of being an artist, and that can be challenging, but you learn as you go. Asking questions, and having a positive attitude helps.  The possibilities are endless on the creative side and for me that overshadows the challenges that come with art business.”

Biggest accomplishment to date (personally and/or professionally)?

“Big accomplishment? Well, back in 1983 I competed in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco (no wetsuit), biked over the Golden Gate Bridge to Mill Valley and then ran the Double Dipsea, a 14 mile trail run with  4500’ elevation gain. I enjoyed every moment, and my friend and I placed #1 and #2 in the open female division. Was I crazy enough to do it again? Yes.”

The boat escort has always and already been a part of the Escape experience. In ’91 Oakes and Co. organized a traditional whaling boat to keep the swimmer safes from cargo ships and white whales. Photo courtesy of Eric Gilsenan.

“Nowadays my big accomplishments are more simple, like accepting the fact that I’m not able to do the things I used to do.”

Favorite location to paint/what is your studio like? Top 3 studio must-haves?

Image provided by artist.

“My studio is located in my backyard, so there is not far to go. It’s nothing special, but it has everything I need: good light, music, fresh air, and my studio mate, Sadie, the cutest 14 lb mixed breed rescue pup.”

A random fact about you: 

“I wear second hand Italian boots.”

Favorite place to vacation? And/or dream trip?

“My life is a vacation- why go anywhere?”

Image provided by artist.

“When I do get away, it’s to the mountains, or ocean with my husband and our dog.”

“I don’t care much for big cities. I prefer the trailheads.”

Image provided by artist.

Favorite color/medium to work with?

“I like exploring new mediums. It keeps me from getting in a rut. For example, a few years ago I worked in nothing but clay. The couple of years I spent working in this 3 dimensional format has influence on the work I do today.”

Image provided by artist.

What are you currently reading?

“I just finished a beautiful memoir, “This River” by James Brown. (not to be confused with JB the Godfather of Soul). I am about to start a book by James McBride. He has written a book about JB, the Godfather of Soul.”

What are you currently listening to?

“I listen mostly to blues, and jazz. And I love Fiona Apple.”

Photo of Fiona Apple. Courtesy Here.

What would you be doing if you were not an artist? 

“I’d probably own a cool coffee house with live music.   I love coffee and people and I used to be an espresso jerk when I was young and cool.”

One thing you couldn’t live without?  


Image provided by artist.

If you could switch lives with anyone for a day, who would it be? 

“The lead dancer for the NY Ballet. Just to see how it feels to be able to do what they do.”

Young ballet dancer dancing in studio. She looks beautiful, muscular and graceful. Photo is taken while she was in motion and in perfect balance. Image provided by artist.

Your all-time favorite artist and/or your favorite emerging artist?

“That’s a tough question, there are so many artists that I admire.  I will say I love the work of the German Expressionists. Their paintings are raw, and loaded with emotion. Richard Avedon’s photography of the West are powerful. He exposes the soul of the subject.  My favorite emerging artists are the 2ndgraders. They are fearless.”

Photography of the West, by Richard Avedon’s. Courtesy Here.

Dream commission?

“A permanent mural on a wall in MOMA.  Dream on.”

What do you want your audience to know about your work?

“I can’t do copies of other artists.  I can’t even copy my own work.”

What do you think, makes your work unique? 

“I don’t have a method or a formula to my work. I work intuitively, so each piece is unique.”

“Bathers” by Gail Ragains. Currently available at ANFA Gallery, Charlotte, NC.

What is/was a pinnacle moment in your art career?

“I would have to say my first solo show with my first gallery representation.” 

Name one goal for your career you’d like to achieve in the next 5 years:

“I would like to earn a living wage before my retirement age.  Not that I ever plan on retiring.”

Gail Ragains is one of our featured represented artists in our current show: Form, Figure, Gesture that opened May 30th! Come into the gallery anytime to view her works and learn about all our artists!

—Written by, Sophie Lane at ANFA Gallery