Gay Shiles grew up in Las Vegas and attended the University Of Nevada at Las Vegas where she majored in art. However, she married Don and they had six children, and so she never finished her final year to receive her degree.

Disney offered her a job in their studio

As a newlywed, Gay painted numerous paintings for the nursery in Caesar’s Palace Hotel. The owners had decided on a theme of Disney characters and Gay approached the Disney studio for permission to use their characters. She was told they generally did not give such permission but told her to send samples of her work for their consideration. After reviewing her work they not only gave her permission to use their images in her paintings, but offered her a job in their studio. Don was serving in the US Army at the time and was to leave shortly thereafter for an over-seas assignment. She reluctantly turned them down and has always wondered how her life would have been different if she had accepted.

Gay taught art classes to various women’s groups and other interested aspiring artists, first in Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada and then in Fairbanks, Alaska. When her husband Don was transferred to Germany (where they spent 10 years) the two of them enrolled in the Wiesbaden Institute of Art.

They graduated with the highest honors

The artist in residence there was Herr Alfred Herzfeld, a renowned German artist, who specialized in the “Old Master” technique for oils. He was one of the few accredited artists used by the Louvre Museum in France, the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam and others throughout Germany and Italy, to clean and restore paintings which were in need of such work. Gay and Don both completed the four year program which covered basic drawing, perspective, European style water colors, Alla Prima (basic oil painting) and the Old Master technique. They graduated with the highest honors and received the Gold Certificate, denoting excellence.

Upon their return from Germany, Don was assigned to Fort Meade, MD and Gay began teaching art for the local High School where she stayed for several years. She and Don both taught evening classes for the County Board of Education’s Adult education program in the evenings for four or five years. They then transferred to the Anne Arundel Community college where they taught evening classes for a number of years. To this day Gay continues to teach special art classes for the local Montessori school. During this time, they opened their art studio and Gay began teaching private lessons both day and night.

They have an enrollment of between 50 and 60 students

The studio has been in existence for about 12 years and they have an enrollment of between 50 and 60 regular students.
Many of their students have won awards for their paintings in various art shows, juried art shows and contests. They have served as the judges for the County Fair’s art show and for the past five years, as judges for one of the local contests run for the public school children in the area.

Gay specializes in portraits, florals, seascapes and landscapes and works in oils, pastels and primarily water colors. Don, on the other hand leans toward western scenes, barns, ranches, horses and landscapes and works only in watercolors and oils. They love to teach and team teach effectively because they complement one another in their teaching techniques. They conduct a public art show of their student’s works on a twice annual basis in February and September. This show has been held every year for the past six years and has received recognition in the local papers and on TV for the beautiful work that is being done by the students.