Featured Artist: Ernie Gammage

Meet featured artist, Ernie Gammage!

Gammage's artwork will be on display through the end of February at our Central location, 3704 Kerbey Ln.

Gammage is originally from Houston, Texas, but has lived in Austin since 1963 with the exception of a year-and-a-half-long stint in England from 1970 to 1972. It was during that brief hiatus in England that Gammage became inspired to create the body of work now on display at the original Kerbey Lane Cafe location.

Gammage began drawing while living in a gardener's cottage on a large English estate. "Growing up in Houston—a city of shades of green— I’d never truly experienced spring with its riotous explosion of color. After a long drab first winter living outside of London and longing for a break in the monotonous gray, these images burst forth, mirroring what was taking place in the landscape around me," Gammage explained. "It was the advent of seasons that struck me while living in England. After 10 months of winter, spring would come and would just explode with color!"

Upon arriving in Austin, Gammage immediately became involved in the music scene. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1967, he went on to law school but eventually decided that the legal field wasn't for him. Despite abandoning the pursuit of his law degree, the dichotomy between the professional and creative worlds is a gap that Gammage has always been able to bridge.

Gammage forged a successful career working in high-level positions at academic institutions and civic organizations, including St. Edwards University, the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, from where he retired in 2011. From 1993 to 1994 Gammage was the Executive Director of the Austin Aqua Festival, a ten-day music festival held the first week of August on the shores of Lady Bird Lake from 1962 until 1998.

It was forty-five years ago that Gammage returned from England, with a collection of drawings stored in a folder. Upon the recent rediscovery of this folder, he began scanning the drawings and posting the images to his Facebook profile. The overwhelmingly positive feedback he received from the posting of those images was what led Gammage to begin researching how to have prints made.

All of Gammage's works on display at Kerbey Lane are canvas prints of the original drawings that were created over four decades ago. The originals were created using oil pastels, a medium that yields the rich and vibrant colors that are characteristic of Gammage's style.

Gammage hasn't created any artwork since the mid-1990s but he told us that, "Given the recent interest in these images from the past, there is no doubt that I will pick it up again."

Although Gammage enjoys a wide variety of creative endeavors, there's no denying that music was his first love. At eight-years-old he discovered he could sing, and he has been making music ever since. Gammage jokingly told us that the epitaph on his gravestone will be, “He likes to rock.” He added, "I like things that are bold and vibrant and that comes through in my artwork; it’s not soft and beguiling. That's definitely the way I like to make music as well."

After retiring, the first thing on Gammage's to-do list was to digitize every song that he had ever recorded while playing in several bands over the years. You can listen to these songs on his YouTube channel. Currently, Gammage is a member of the Lost Austin Band, which the Austin Chronicle described as "a musical flashback to the seventies featuring a posse of cosmic cowboys, including members of the Lost Gonzo Band and Denim, all performing songs that kept Austin weird originally."

When he's not focusing on art and music, Gammage enjoys gardening, traveling and spending time with his children and grandchildren. Musical ability runs in the family, as Ernie's youngest son, Troupe, is the lead vocalist and guitarist of Austin synthpop band SPEAK.

You can see more of Gammage's artwork on his website: ernies-artmusic.com. All of his paintings displayed at Kerbey Lane Cafe are for sale. Questions for Ernie? Send him an email.