by Len Lear
If you were a young person looking for a career with a strong likelihood of providing a secure financial future, painting just might be near the bottom of the list. On the other hand, there just might be intangible benefits like memories and psychological uplift that can last a lifetime. For example, in the case of Chestnut Hill artist Ginger Garrett Arthur, there was a woman in New Orleans who owned one of her prints that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“She tracked me down,” said Ginger. “I had moved and married, so I had a new city and a new name, but she still was able to find me because she wanted to buy a new print. I sent her one gratis. She rebuilt her home and hung up the print, and she wrote to me that at that point she finally felt home again.
“Just last year a Mt. Airy woman bought a six-foot bay scene because she loves to kayak and wanted it to look at when she couldn’t actually be on the water. Sometimes I wonder why I paint. Who cares? I painted a scene from Goodstay Garden in Wilmington many years ago, and now the area I painted has been covered by a parking lot. That’s why we paint.
“Another painting for a friend was of his house with a fabulous garden, a brick wall and a huge Sycamore tree in front. The winter of 2014 wiped out that tree and took out part of the house. The root ball was close to seven feet tall! He has a record of it the way it was … A lifelong gardener with acreage and greenhouses moved into a high-rise penthouse whose bathroom had no window. It was a dilemma unsolvable by an architect or builder. This gent bought a painting of plants on a window sill looking out to a garden. He said, ‘Ginger is the only person able to put a window in this bathroom!’”
Many artists have a lengthy “Artist’s Statement” on their resume and/or website explaining the philosophy behind their art, their subject matter, chosen medium, mentors, artists whose work they admire, etc. However, when asked for her Artist’s Statement, Ginger, who requested that her age not be mentioned, simply wrote: “I enjoy painting God’s gift of nature.”
Ginger, whose work and Chestnut Hill studio will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11 and 12, noon to 6 p.m., as part of the annual Philadelphia Open Studios Tour, has always been involved in the world of beauty, even before she established a successful career as an artist. A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Ginger always wanted to be an artist. She graduated from the Randolph Macon Women’s College in Virginia as an art major, which was encouraged by her parents. (“Mom had a good sense of color, and dad had good sense of design.”) While in college, she also studied with a contemporary of Andrew Wyeth, Tom Bostelle, at the Brandywine Valley School in Lenape, near Chadds Ford.
After college Ginger moved to Manhattan, where she lived for 15 years. At first she worked as a waitress because the work just was not there for one of countless neophyte artists, but the tall, red-haired beauty was discovered by the prestigious Wilhemina Modeling Agency. They signed her to a contract, and she wound up doing lots of print work such as magazine ads for Clairol hair products, modeling and acting. She did TV work, soap operas, commercials, even movies. “Having red hair was my signature,” Ginger recalled. “There were not that many (red-haired models) out there.”
She acted on soap operas such as “The Doctors” (“They wanted a red-haired waitress”) and “One Life to Live.” (“I was a singer from Philly, but I got the job mainly for my red hair.”) She was in a TV movie, “Hijack,” with Lindsay Wagner.
“You really have to love it,” she said, “because you go through so much with auditions, rejections and so on. I did think about going to L.A., but Lindsay Wagner, who had been a big TV star,went to L.A. and could not get any work. So I figured that if she could not even get work there with all of her experience and fame, what chance did I have? Also, my first love has always been painting, so I decided that if I am going to suffer for an art, I’d much rather suffer for painting, not for acting. I certainly did meet a lot of interesting people (while acting), though.”
So after 15 years with the Wilhemina Modeling Agency, Ginger dropped out of modeling and acting, took a job with QVC for five years but devoted her creative energies to painting. Today she is also a floral buyer for Weavers Way.
Since becoming a full-time artist (almost), Ginger has had several solo exhibits in New York and Philly, has been a part of 19 group exhibits including those at Woodmere Art Museum and the Carol Schwartz Gallery in Chestnut Hill, has won several first- and second-place awards, is in prestigious private collections in Delaware, Texas and Virginia, and has been featured on the NBC-TV “10 at 10” morning show. She has received up to $6,000 for one painting.
Every year in October, Ginger opens up her studio to the public as part of the Philadelphia Open Studios Tour (P.O.S.T.), in which many other artists in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy also participate. “Since my first entry into P.O.S.T. in 2012,” she said, “I’ve sold 40 pieces.” In 2012 her paintings were scenes of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy. In 2013, they were stunning paintings of flowers and plants. (The works are all representational, although Ginger plans to get “looser” with the almost photographic nature of her works in the future.) This year her paintings are of dogs. She works on commissions but also paints “generic” pure-bred dogs that any pure breed owner might want. Because of the popularity of her canine paintings, Ginger is looking into giclee prints (fine art digital prints made on inkjet printers) of her oil-on-canvas or on-panel works. Most are square canvases 12” x 12” or 24” by 24,” but they can be as large as 3 feet by 4 feet.
When she was 38, Ginger was married (much to her mother’s relief) to Jim Arthur, who is 10 years younger than she is. Jim, a University of Pennsylvania grad, is a full-time master cabinet maker who is also currently building a sailboat. The Arthurs have no two-legged children, but they have two Parson Terriers (very similar to Jack Russell Terriers), Stobo, 11, and Wing, 5. When they got married, the Arthurs had a rescue, Sparky, a “Germantown Avenue Spaniel” who went to Jim’s carpentry shop every day in Bridgeport. Sparky lived to be almost 13. “To this day,” said Ginger, “if you bring up his name, tears well up.”
Ginger’s studio at 8044 will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11 and 12, noon to 6 p.m. Also on Thursday, Oct. 9, 5 to 8 p.m. More information at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Pinterest: Ginger Garrett Arthur and on Facebook: Ginger Garrett Arthur Fine Art.