A Varied Palette

PAYSON ARTS

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Geri Wood Gittings is a woman enchanted with the extensive palette of techniques gourds offer.

"I can use do anything with painting, use watercolors, oils, acrylics temper paints, even stamper dyes," she said.

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Geri Wood Gittings

Gittings also uses a high RPM turbo carving tool and wood burning tools to create her designs in lightweight naturally growing ornamental gourds.

Gittings' high school history teacher might be surprised.

In 1959, he recommended her for the job of graphic artist at Employer's Insurance Company in Wausau, Wisconsin.

From the insurance company, she moved to Minneapolis, where she worked as a graphic artist until 1969.

Then a young man named Bob, also an artist, asked Geri "Will you marry me? We'll go out West and paint it."

With Montana as a base, the Woods traveled to powwows all over the West.

"Those were pretty fun times," Gittings said.

She painted in oils, drew in pastels, pen and ink and did etchings.

"We were starving artists, living from painting to painting, but we lived great because we bartered for things and we got to hobnob with lots of lawyers and movie stars," she said. "My husband had the gift of gab so we got onto a lot of movie sets."

Denver Pyle, Slim Pickins, Dawn Wells and Jan-Michael Vincent were a few of the actors Geri met.

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"Floral Caress" by Geri Wood Gittings

On one film, "Winds of Autumn," Gittings recalled Playboy Bunnies were flown in from Chicago as movie extras.

Gittings photographed them wearing Western costumes, lounging between takes.

The photo earned her a commission for the Best Western Convention Center's Outlaw Inn. That painting now hangs in the Ace Powell Gallery in Montana.

At a powwow in Harden Montana Gittings met the Chief of the Crow Nation.

"We went through tent after tent, getting into the chief's primary tent," she said.

The chief was an elderly man sitting there with his sword and I kept on trying to talk to him and as I moved closer and closer, we bumped heads.

"It was pretty exciting," she said.

Times are different now and Gittings does not think artists could travel, as she and her husband did 35 years ago.

A move to Phoenix 20 years ago gave Gittings the opportunity to work off the left side of her brain as an accountant. But she never stopped painting.

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"Spirit of the Incas," carved gourd, by Geri Wood Gittings.

RESUME

Name: Geri Wood Gittings

Medium: Commissioned portraits, oils, ceramics and gourds.

Motto: The best thing to do in one's life is something that outlives you -- be that children or a piece of art.

Advice to beginning artists: Follow your dream. That is what I did.

Why Payson? The beauty of the West.

Upcoming project: An intricate, involved carving on a large gourd that I am kind of scared to start.

Favorites

Food: Pizza with everything except anchovies

Author: Robert Ludlum, or John Grisham. I love romantic thrillers and mysteries.

Vacation spot: Montana. It is in my heart.

Music: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and country western.

Points of contact: On the Web at www.artbygeri.com, e-mail artbygeri@hotmail.com, Down the Street Art Gallery, 703 W. Main St., Payson (928) 468-6129.

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