Sharing love of painting

Published 1:55 pm Monday, December 14, 2009

Five hundred acrylic hand-painted ornaments adorn a beautiful floor to ceiling holiday tree at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Among those pieces sits a Venetian city scene created by Gayle Jones of North Shelby and lions painted by Sandy and Gary Johnson of Westover.

“To know that my stuff is in there with Picasso and Rembrandt — it’s such an honor,” said Sandy Johnson.

Artists were asked to replicate one of the hundreds of pieces of artwork from the gallery and transform that work into an ornament.

Those ornaments selected will hang on the gallery’s tree through the month of December.

In the past, Sandy, who has been painting for more than two decades, has painted ornaments for trees displayed at the Whitehouse as well as the Library of Congress. She said the honor never ceases to amaze her.

All three of the selected artists are members of the Alabama Guild of Decorative Painters. This guild meets monthly if to do nothing else but gain knowledge from one another. They critique each other’s latest work and discuss new art techniques.

Gary Johnson just picked up painting as his own hobby last year. He said he’s loved diving right in though.

“A lot of people who think they can’t paint turn out some beautiful stuff,” Gary said. “It takes your mind off of things and allows you to express yourself.”

The painting guild also puts a lot of heart and soul into sharing their passion for painting.

Members paint wagons for Children’s Hospital, decorate memory boxes for families who have lost young children and personalize suitcases for women and children escaping from abusive situations. The group often shares the therapeutic benefits of putting paint to paper with Alzheimer’s patients throughout Central Alabama.

The Johnsons also organize a Paint and Pray ministry at Union United Methodist Church. The ministry offers painting classes to anyone interested in mixing their love of art with their love of God.

“You can just get lost in it,” Gayle said of painting. “I can start painting and before I know it the house gets quiet and I look up to find it’s midnight.”

The three said they find new reasons to paint something or paint on something every day.

“We paint on ceiling tiles, clothes, light bulbs — we don’t throw anything away because we might be able to paint on it,” Gayle said.

To learn more about the Society of Decorative Painters, visit To learn more about the Alabama Guild of Decorative Painters, visit