In her representational watercolors, Heidi Gallo takes delight in the details, whether it’s the reflections off the chrome fender of a 1950s Porsche Speedster or the dappled shadows falling on cottages in Eastham. “I really like old Cape Cod—the old buildings, cabins, the old signs and the dramatic light we get right before sunset, the color of the grass in early morning. I love reflections, old cars, the curves,” she explains. Her work is decidedly and classically nostalgic, neatly fitting in to the Cape’s long artistic tradition of representational painting. Gallo sees herself as something of a documentarian, rendering perfectly iconic spots like the Lobster Pot in Provincetown. “I’m trying to capture all those little jewels on the Cape before they are gone,” she says.
Gallo grew up in central Massachusetts but often spent summers visiting relatives in coastal Maine, where she got her first taste of the ocean. “I just fell in love with the ocean. I never thought I’d live near the water, and it’s just so cool that I do now,” she says. Her path to becoming a full-time artist was not a direct or immediate one. While always acing her elementary and high school art classes, she had to work and save money for art school, where she studied commercial art and photography. After she finished, she found herself working in a bank for many years. “I always worked in banks,” she says. “Fourteen years, with no windows—I never got outside!” In 1991, she accompanied her husband to Eastham. “I ended up working as a clam farmer. Work at a bank and then end up as a clam farmer, how does that work?” muses Gallo.
In 1995, her need to tap into her artistic talents inspired her to start watercolor classes at Nauset Adult Education. She studied for nine years under both Doris DeCarlo and Kely Knowles. At that point, she was just giving her work away as gifts, then began selling them. “I approached the Strawberry Patch in Brewster and they took some of my watercolors and sold them for $40, and they were selling like crazy!” she says.
When Gallo was farming, painting usually had to be put on hold during the summer season, and she would have to settle for her camera. Having recently retired from being a clam farmer, she is looking forward to expanding her production and getting out more in the summer.
While Gallo has worked in other media, watercolors are her primary means of expression. “I always liked the look of watercolors; it’s the simplicity of it,” she says. “It can be so simple and beautiful. You really don’t have a lot of control; they take over and do their own thing. Plus, I’m kind of an impatient person—watercolors dry quickly and you can frame them!” Still, Gallo is a meticulous painter, often spending 40 to 45 hours on a piece. True to her commercial art roots, she is actively marketing her work in a variety of forms: originals, prints, greeting cards, tiles, and cutting boards. Her paintings are happy, joyous celebrations of the Cape, the place she calls home. “I really love it here,” she says. “I appreciate that there are so many beautiful places.”