It’s impossible to walk past the booth of artists Annie Stegg-Gerard and Justin Gerard without noticing their gorgeous oil paintings. And if you stop, enraptured by the compositions and subtle use of color, it’s even harder not to take a piece home to admire at your leisure. Each painting exudes beauty and joy. Annie and Justin collaborated for last year’s Dragon Con volunteer shirt, with Justin drawing the image and Annie painting it, and each has contributed a painting individually for shirts in prior years. On Monday morning in the Art Show, these two amazingly talented artists graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the Daily Dragon.
Daily Dragon (DD): How did the two of you happen to meet?
Annie Stegg-Gerard (ASG): Twelve years ago, we had booths across from each other. I had never seen Justin’s work before, but he wasn’t at his booth—he just had it set up and had walked away for a moment. I saw all his paintings and all these dwarves…I fell in love with his work. I already had an image of what this artist looked like, and it was a little old man, I was sure. I could not wait to meet this artist so I could tell him how amazing his artwork is. When Justin finally showed up and I saw him, I was like, “That’s the artist? Oh, I’m so sad because I think he’s so cute and I will never ever go talk to him now because he’s so handsome.”
Justin Gerard (JG): I looked across and saw her art, and she had this giant mythical painting of Scylla and Charybdis from The Odyssey. I thought, “That’s the best painting in the show, and there’s no way that the gorgeous woman standing below that is as beautiful and intelligent and talented. Something’s wrong here. She must be an axe murderer. I have to go find out.” But she was wonderful, charming, beautiful, and talented.
DD: When did you decide to chose art as your career? Has it always been your love?
JG: Yes, it’s that, always our love. We’ve always been doing it. We found out people might actually pay for it, and then realized you can make a career out of it. But the big thing is that we’ve always been painting and drawing and creating. [We] feel really lucky that we’ve been able to spin it into a career.
DD: How did you settle on oil painting as your medium?
ASG: I started with marker and colored pencil. I always liked to draw. I had only done oil painting in art class in high school, but the paint brushes were the lowest quality, the ones that come in watercolor sets, and the paint wasn’t good. I [decided] I don’t like oil paints. So, I worked in marker and colored pencil, but the image I had in my mind, I just couldn’t get the same effect in that medium. I moved to acrylics…but because of the plastic, the light bounces off of it instead of absorbing into it. I decided to try oils again. Now, knowing what kind of brushes to buy and what type of paints to get, it was a completely different experience. I realized this is the medium for me.
DD: Where do you get your inspiration?
JG: Nature is probably the number one.
ASG: Nature, yes. I have an all glass studio, so as I’m painting, I’m seeing little dramas unfolding with the little creatures and animals that live in our backyard.
DD: You have an all glass studio?
JG: It’s a sunroom we converted into a studio.
ASG: Justin wanted to have a giant boulder [outside]. It’s so strange, but that rock has housed so many animals underneath it. While painting there’ll be box turtles, snakes, chipmunks. Just seeing these things, I want to share them with everyone else so they can see these little creatures that might not be appreciated otherwise.
DD: How do you decide on a color scheme? Do you figure it out in advance, or do you have a standard preference?
ASG: I definitely prefer more subdued, natural colors. I think my very first palette had alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, hansa yellow, sap green, titanium white, and raw umber. I have kept with those colors as my basic palette.
JG: I bounce around a little. I love some of the classic palettes of the Old Masters—Lord Layton, Arthur Rackham—lots of earth tones, maybe one vibrant red. I do love night-blue palettes as well. There’s a painter named Caspar David Friedrich, who did really moody landscapes. I love those dark, deep blues. For me…its either a cozy, candlelit interior palette or a midnight, dark blue stormy-sky palette.
DD: Why do you choose to concentrate on fantasy?
JG: Fantasy offers a perfect blend of monsters, creatures, natural wonders, landscapes…it’s just a wonderful amalgamation that also allows for story. There’s so much possibility in fantasy. As long as people keep buying it, we’ll keep doing it.
ASG: I would keep doing it anyway, regardless.
ASG: When I first started out I worked in an art gallery and painted a lot of what I thought would be popular: horses, landscapes, and those things did sell, but it wasn’t my heart. The gallery owner gave me a little show. I had all those things, but then I decided to paint one fantasy piece. It was the first piece to sell. I couldn’t believe that the thing I truly want to paint, there was an audience for it, that somebody saw it and liked those things as much as I do.
DD: I heard in an earlier panel that you have two seven-year-olds. Are they interested in art?
ASG: Yes, two boys, identical twins. Even pregnant with twins, I was here at this show. I haven’t missed a Dragon Con in 15 or 16 years. It’s my favorite show. Last week my son came home with a little paper that said, “What am I going to be when I grow up?” He drew a picture of himself in a room with all these plants—my studio is packed with plants—and he wrote, “I’m going to be an artist with lots of plants.”
JG: They draw a ton. We have boxes of their drawings. Statistically, they’ll probably go some other place, and we’ll be happy for them wherever they go, but we’ll give them every chance [to enjoy art].
DD: What are your overall impressions of Dragon Con?
JG: I’ve been coming all 12 years [since we met]. Its interesting telling parents, “I met my wife at Dragon Con.”
ASG: It’s our favorite show. Now that we have kids, we don’t do many conventions. This is pretty much the only one now. Everybody here is so friendly and so kind and so welcoming. There are a lot of kindred spirits here who love the same things that we love.
JG: The crowd has gotten better and better, the volunteers have gotten better and better, the load-in experience better and better. It’s an upward trajectory. Hat’s off to the team in charge.
DD: Thank you for your time and for sharing your awesome talent with us here at Dragon Con. We hope you’ll be back next year. To view Annie and Justin’s work, visit their website, Gallery Gerard, at https://www.gallerygerard.com/