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Meet Gabriella DeLay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabriella DeLay.

Gabriella, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As is true for most artists, I can’t remember a time in my life without art. I have always felt an urge, almost a necessity, to create. I grew up taking art classes at the Glassell and The Art House. However, art was always presented to me as a hobby, an enriching pastime to be respected, but nothing more. When I began studying at Rice University in 2009, I didn’t have a clear idea of what exactly I wanted to do there—I ended up switching majors 3(!) times (first from English to Philosophy, then to Religious Studies) before taking my first university-level art course (Drawing I) with Karin Broker. Immediately, everything clicked—well, maybe not immediately, as I do recall being told I had the “attention span of a piss ant” during my first critique! Still, I felt like I had finally found a home. There I developed an interest in large-scale drawing. I graduated with a BA in Studio Art in 2014. Soon after, my husband and I moved to the UK for three years (where I desperately missed the warm Texas sun). Upon returning to Houston, I taught preschool at the House of Tiny Treasures before finally committing to trying to make this whole art thing work.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has been anything but a smooth road. There is a kernel of truth to the characterization of the “starving artist,” as it takes so much time and energy before you start to see any interest in your work. That in turn can be quite demotivating and makes a regular 9-5 job and paycheck all the more enticing. After graduating, I didn’t pursue art seriously for several years, but in the end I think that the time away was beneficial to me, and I have been lucky that I have found some success fairly quickly. I’m also very particular about my working conditions: if I’m surrounded by clutter or don’t have a dedicated area to work, I feel mentally cluttered as well and struggle much more with creating. Thankfully, in the last year, I’ve been able to have a studio, and that has made a tremendous difference to my productivity.

Please tell us about your art.
I am an artist who focuses primarily on large-scale Conte drawings and, in particular, portraiture. The idea of having to put into words what I do and what I am trying to achieve is daunting! The concept of a self that there might be intrinsic and tangible elements that can be used to define and capture what identity means is something that frequently preoccupies me. I guess it makes sense that much of my work is accordingly focused on the “selves” of others—in trying to distill that presence and capture a moment of something that is pure and true about them. I worked at a nonprofit preschool for families struggling with homelessness, and my current portrait series is of my former students. In addition, I also take commissions for portraits. I think what sets me apart from others who are doing similar work is that I tend to avoid heavily-posed and bland portraits, and really try to create a dynamic and engaging portrait. I think a good portrait does two things: it is equally important for a portrait to capture the physical likeness of its subject, as well as to capture a sense of the subject’s inner being or soul.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Best: The diversity—there are so many unique and interesting pockets of Houston that all have their own distinct flavor, it’s hard to get bored here!
Worst: The mosquitoes.

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