Blog Your Hearts Out!

"You'll Be In My Heart" ( A Commission Story) 

In my last blog I wrote that I hadn’t posted a lot of pics of paintings leading up to Christmas because I was sworn to secrecy until the gifts of commissioned paintings had been given. 

I still have several I will be posting weekly. Today’s blog is about Truman the beagle. Truman was the pup of Joe and Patty Thomas. I have known the Thomas’s for a very long time and had the pleasure of having one of their daughters for voice lessons when she was in high school. They are a beautiful and loving family. 

Joe and Patty’s daughter, Courtney, contacted me before Christmas about painting a picture of their dog Truman for Christmas. I learned that Truman was truly the love of their life. He has since gone over what all pet lovers refer to as the Rainbow Bridge. I was touched and honored to be ask to do this painting for them. 

I first asked Courtney to give me a little verbal snap shot of what Truman was like and a bit of his story. These are her words. 

“Truman a miniature beagle or what Joe and Patty Thomas thought was a miniature beagle won the heart of every person that met him. Truly a beagle when he was a pup he was wild and silly. Constantly up for a chase.  As he grew older his sweet demeanor and loving soul was always evident. Anytime Truman met someone his tail was wagging and he loved to get treats. He would come barreling through the room just for a snack. He gave his family endless love and plenty of snoring. He will always be remembered for the sweet, gentle and loving dog that brought such joy to our family.” 

After receiving this story, Courtney’s mom, Patty, wrote me a very sweet note about the painting. I was overjoyed to know that she loves and treasures it so much.  Her story of going to get Truman was amusing. So many people are led to believe they are buying a “pocket pup” only to learn they weigh over 50 lbs when they are full grown. 

From Patty: 

"Gayla, I love the picture of my beloved Truman that you painted. It is beautiful and captures his spirit. I will cherish it forever. 

Yes, it is a funny story. I had never had a dog before and decided I wanted a little pocket beagle. (They usually weigh around 8lbs) When I found Truman and brought him home Joe looked at his paws and told me wasn’t going to weigh 8lbs. Needless to say 55lbs later he was right! But oh how we loved him!"

Thank you, Courtney, for having the faith in me to commemorate Truman. Clearly he brought a lot of joy to your family. And Truman, my prayer is that you are living your best dog's life over the bridge. "You'll Be In My Heart" just seemed like the right title because of the loving paw prints he left in the hearts of his family. 

Because I was trying make the Christmas deadline, I didn’t get a chance to get the painting professionally scanned for my files so bear with me. These are only cell phone pics. Thanks for reading and if you are interested in a commission, please contact me for a price/sizes sheet at 


New Roads, Back Stories, and Commissions 

For the last few months leading up to Christmas I’ve been keeping some of my work top secret so as not to spoil the Christmas gift surprise. I’m making some collages of my four pawed subject matter. 

Process begins with pics sent by the client. After staring at them for awhile, there is always one that speaks to me. The other pics help with color and expressions. This guy has a super sweet face and the pic I chose to paint of him hit me immediately. Some of the pets come with little back stories and undoubtedly bundles of love and comfort to their owners. I’ll be posting more as I do them as the gifts have been given by now. 

Entitled “You Needed Me” because, in my eyes, that’s what his face is saying to his masters. I believe him. 

So the pet commissions resulted in a very fun and unexpected detour for me. I’m still making them and still taking them. 

If you are interested in a commission, kindly 
PM me for pricing and policies. 


Once Upon a Lifetime: The Governor Will See You 

Last April the Executive Director of Explore Licking County, Dan Moder, sent me a message and asked if I could take a conference call from the team in his office. He said they had (in his words) a crazy hair-brained idea and they wanted to know if I’d agree to be a part of it. The Explore Licking County Team, if you haven’t met them, is a genius power team that cooks up very cool experiences designed to  promote tourism for Greater Licking County. Their efforts lead to putting this neck of the woods on the map in Ohio, hence stimulating economic growth and jobs. Talking with them always just “feels like home” to me. 

Drowning in curiosity, I agreed to take the conference call.  They proceeded to pitch what they referred to as their crazy idea. The concept they were then working on was for The Ohio Tourism Expo Day, May 8th, 2019, which was to be held on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. They asked if I could paint a specific side of the Statehouse and act as a “live artist” during the Expo. What occurred to me at the time was that the crazy part of the idea was not the idea itself, but that they thought it was ME that could do it :) 

There is something about the ELC team that I would admittedly jump off a cliff for if they asked me to. I just trust their instincts that much. I was intimidated by painting a government building. Ya’ll know me for painting, fishies, mermaids, kitties, suns and you know, stuff that just can’t be real. They insisted that they completely wanted me to do this with my own spin on it. They emailed me some pics, and requested that I work on representing the west side of the building. And so it began. 

The Ohio Tourism Expo Day 2019 came and went. Of all the crappy, rainy days we have in Ohio, somehow, by some miracle, May 8th, 2019 was a picture perfect day. I spent the day in a very inviting ELC booth with Dan, Carol, Garrett and Alex. Great company and really fun to do live art. 

Upon conception of this idea, Dan Moder also explained to me that after the Expo they were going to inquire, through their network of associates, about having this painting given to Govern Mike DeWine as a gift from Licking County. I remember thinking….. WHAT a cool idea. I also remember thinking….. could that REALLY happen? 

On July 17th, 2019 at 2PM my painting, inspired by the ELC team,  “The Statehouse”,  was indeed gifted to Governor Mike DeWine at the Governors Residence in Bexley, Ohio. Dan, Carol, Garrett, Alex, Mike Fornataro and myself were invited into the Governor’s dining room to sit with him and his assistants. Upon arrival, his people escorted us towards the front entrance and there he was. Huge smile, hand outstretched to meet us right on the front steps. He couldn’t have been more welcoming and gracious. Since my mind was sufficiently blown over it all, I’m not even sure how long we were even there. I’d say better part of 45 min. Dan, Mike and Carol discussed the happenings and tourism growth opportunities of Licking County with Governor DeWine and invited him to some of the cool things happening there. He said he loved the colors in my painting and pointed out the sun. I explained to him that since we were almost always struggling to get sun in Ohio, I felt it was helpful to just put one in almost every painting I do. We proceeded to photo ops under the expert direction of Garrett, the ELC official photographer, and said our good byes. 

This was not my first time in the Governor's Residence. During the Celeste administration, I provided musical entertainment for seven years of his 8 years in office. It was a double blessing to be invited back for a different art form. 

Visit over, Gayla giddy. 

Thank you, Carol Tress, for introducing me to your beautiful co-workers. Thank you Carol, Dan, Garret, Alex and Mike for spending this once in a lifetime, unforgettable day with me.  I am a better person and a better artist for having been invited into your orbit. You guys are just flat out too cool for school. 

Thanks for reading. 




"The Statehouse" will be available as a limited edition print from my website within 3 weeks. 

To pre-order, please copy and paste the following link:

OR click here: 

The Statehouse



Buckeye Lake is B A C K 

Last night, Mike Nelson and I had the pleasure of playing at The Buckeye Lake Winery. Buckeye Lake has so many beautiful pockets of community all the way around the pond. South shore folk, West Bank Folk, Liebs Island Folk, Harbor Hillers, Heron Bayers, Crane Lake Folk, North Bankers etc. They all believe their little pocket is the best place on the lake and they are ALL so right. They all have a close knit group of friends and I love to see the strength and comfort of their relationships. I watch them collectively raise a glass & dine together living life to the max. It gives me joy. 

The DAM project challenged these lake folk. It challenged the residents and the workers. Not the end of the world, but it made some very happy people quite sad. Receding shorelines, not much boat traffic, not quite as much fun under the sun. 24 hour chaos. Not life threatening, just sad. Hearts were a little bit heavy. But, as I knew they would, they soldiered through it. Some of the challenges continue, but I know from what I witnessed last night at our official summer opening gig round the lake, they are rejoicing. There are still challenges, still adjustments, still questions and still some who wonder if the "new lake" will be their cup of tea. All merited. Time will tell. I'm rooting for us all. 

I didn't get many pictures last night. TOO BUSY LOL. The Winery was ROCKIN'. The staff and manager worked HARD and kept smiling. KUDOS guys.  SO polite and so good to us. There was a beautiful wedding in progress on the grounds. I saw LOTS of friendly faces from my past and not so distant past. Anniversaries, birthdays, and, in general, a celebratory atmosphere. As always, I am grateful for ANYONE who takes the time in this busy world to come see us play. We REALLY appreciate it. 

With a splendid sunset and boats EVERYWHERE, I can't tell you how many times in discussions throughout the night that the comment was made "it's so great to have the water back in the lake". YEP,  Buckeye Lake is  B A C K. It's different, and it will continue to transform into something I'm sure will be beyond anything we could have imaged as natives. At the end of the day, I'm so glad you natives are still here, and I'm happy to meet the new ones. You're gonna like being "Lake People". 

Next week we road trip to Hollywood Casino Dayton on Saturday May 25th. Sunday night will be back on the OTHER side of the lake at the Buckeye Lake Pizza Cottage in the Heart of the Village of Buckeye Lake for music on the patio. May 26th. Each corner of the lake having it's own dynamic. I love it all. 

I'm posting just a few of the pics from last night. My musical partner in crime, Mike Nelson making crazy poses. Thanks Mike for making sure "the beat goes on". We will see you on the next gig. 


Ohio Tourism Day Statehouse Lawn May 8, 2019 

On May 8, 2019 I was privileged to act as a live artist for the Explore Licking County Group on Ohio Tourism Day 2019. 

I had one of the best days imaginable with the beloved and artistic crew from Explore Licking County. They provided a mini oasis upon which I was able to paint my spin on the Ohio Statehouse. Their booth was THE most inviting display in attendance, tho every county was awesome and unique in their own exhibit. It was like having a great day on the front porch. Thanx guys. To say I was honored doesn't even cover it. Your faith in me is a blessing and gives me great courage. I’m the lucky one for being in your orbit. Thanks Dan, Carol and Garrett. You are really cool dudes. 

Photo credits: Explore Licking County Guys






Mother's Day Gig 2019 

Can't tell you how many times I've thought, if ONLY I'd have documented every gig in my career. I know I would be amazed at the timeline of events and the shifts of the music industry over the years. Now and then I'll see a picture that reminds me of my footprints in my gig life.  The different fashion looks, the crowds, the bars and the venues. So colorful. So memorable. 

So another observation of being a musician over the years is "venue" people. By that I mean managers, staff, workers, servers etc. There are times that it is just a flatline experience. You walk into a cold room, find the human in charge, figure out the logistics and commence in set up. Sometimes these people are unfriendly, look at you like you're a misplaced alien and removed. Sometimes they barely look up. It's not like you need a ticker tape parade to get started. It'd just be nice to know you'reon the same team when you come in the room. However, sometimes, these people blow you away. 

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of playing a solo piano gig at the Athletic Club of Columbus. Tammy from Class Acts of Columbus graciously booked the gig. I appreciate all the talent agents at Class Acts Of Columbus beyond all imagination.  This gig was  extra nice for me because there is no PA involved. I carry nothing heavier than my purse into the club. They have a grand piano. YAY. There is no electric keyboard in the world that can please me the way a REAL grand piano does. Cadillac gig. 

When I entered the room my eyes were met with a breathtaking display of food, flowers and in general Mother's day themed decor that was tremendously on point. Pure class.  I was greeted by the hostess who handed me a cup of coffee WITH CREAM (my personal favorite) a bottled water, and a super friendly face.  I really have to shout this out. Not everyone, in every venue will greet you this way. I need to mention this because I was blown away by gratitude. Small things, but enormous in my book. 

So for several sets, I played this marvelous instrument. So many pleasant exchanges with the guests/staff and knowing the blessing I have received by my parents (who are long gone) providing and guiding me towards being a musician. Not every gig is like this, but I surely do recognize it when it comes along. 

And, finally, a message of love to my beloved mom. Virginia Smith you were a soldier in real life and a soldier IN life. Your strength, determination, guidance, intelligence and long suffering shrouded my brother and I in the gift of motherhood. There were many battles, there were many sweet moments. Getting a late start for having kids, I don't know how you did it. Most importantly, your love for us sculpted us into who we are. Your son always leaves the world a better place wherever he is involved and I play songs and paint pictures. I think that would make you and dad so happy. I miss you every day of my life. If there was a hotline to heaven, I'd surely be "blowing your phone up" every day. My deepest hope is that I can again look into the face of you and dad because nothing else matters that much. 


Back to the venue of this past mother's day, thank you ACC. You are above and beyond. 

May 12, 2019 Mother's Day gig was amongst the finest I've played in a long time. 



Buckeye Lake Winterfest: What it Means to Art  

Buckeye Lake  is a small body of water approximately 30 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio. It is immersed in legend, rich history and an eclectic mix of out-of-the-box natives. In the 40's it was a booming spot with an amusement park acting as it's anchor and heartbeat. Big Bands, restaurants, entertainment of all sorts, swimming pools, ball rooms, river boats, rumors of mob bosses passing through and all the things that went so well with waterside fun. An era so precious. 

Over the years, the music faded, the amusement park caved in and the glamorous and legendary visitors faded away. Cottages became mansions, boating and lakeside bars became the primary reason for coming here and Buckeye Lake transitioned into a seasonal hang out for water enthusiasts from all over. 

Just recently, there was a four point one mile dam renovation on Buckeye Lake.The Army Corp of Engineers deemed it unsafe.  The lake was stopped in it's tracks for several years, the water level way down, boating was really lame and the residents found themselves smack dab in the middle of a construction zone that sometimes generated the noice of industrial war zone. For three plus years, the reimagining of the dam took place. In November of 2018, the construction fence went down, the monster machinery went away, the governor of Ohio conducted a Buckeye Lake Dam dedication ceremony and we found ourselves with a brand new bike/walking path that stretches lakefront for miles. 

Buckeye Lake Winterfest, a brainchild of the Buckeye Lake Chamber of Commerce was born 5 years ago. Like many small village festivals, it was hatched, stood up on it's wobbly legs, and over the past 5 years began to gain muscle and stamina. This year does mark the 5th annual Buckeye Lake Winterfest. It consists of a solid weekend of participating bars, restaurants, businesses, music, art, food, beverage and partying. 

As for art, it has offered a new road for this little piece of the world. I was not involved in the first Winterfest. I read about it, but basically didn't get it. It just went right past me. Four years ago, a member of the Yacht club messaged me and said she thought I should participate in the art show portion which was going to be held at the Buckeye Lake Yacht Club. I was mildly creating pieces of art at that time and posted my creations on Facebook. I thanked Lisa, the Yacht Club member, for asking but told her I felt that my stuff really wouldn't sell around here. She firmly disagreed, and encouraged me to participate. 

SO, I started out by pulling things off my wall that I had painted from the past, making new things and scurrying to create my first Winterfest "art booth". It was fun. I did fairly well that day and was a new fan of Winterfest. In the subsequent years, I began making it a part of my life. I created material just for the festival which included a lot of nautical themed work. I consulted a friend about getting prints made. I taught myself how to paint with replication in mind, market with social medial, build a booth, and fine tune a presentation. 

Here we are at year 5 of the Buckeye Lake Winterfest. 4th year for me. This year I have created my most professional booth. I invested in display panels, professional matting kits, many prints, marketing pieces and more bells and whistles than I have ever generated in my life. The response from the things I've posted on social medial has been great. We are 3 days away from the festival and the excitement for this event is mounting. 

It all means a LOT to art in this area. Over my past four years of involvement, I have watched the growth. I observed that there was very little live music up until this year. I have noticed that there is live music galore for the 2019 festival. I have noticed professionally generated maps of businesses, bars, restaurants, entertainment and sponsors. All activities have been published and there is so much to choose from that it will be hard to MAKE a choice.  Local business participants are striving to make sure their exclusive entertainment plans for all festival goers rise to the top. The first, to my knowledge, official Buckeye Lake Art Gallery will be opening the very day of Winterfest. January 26, 2019. 

In summary and brevity, Buckeye Lake Winterfest has evolved into meaning a LOT for art. A seed planted, an idea spawned, an endeavor coming to fruition. Members of the Buckeye Lake Chamber of Commerce and Buckeye Lake Yacht Club have flexed their marketing muscles beautifully this year. I can only imagine what the future holds for us here in the realm of music and art. There are growing pains, the competition will gain speed and the bar will be raised. I am happy to be a part of it with my Smith Girl Arts booth. 

January 26, 2019 

Buckeye Lake Yacht Club 

Buckeye Lake Winterfest Art Show 






Fall Contract on the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic.  

Hello. It's been awhile. 

I just finished the most unusual contract at sea that I've ever done. On Aug. 19, 2013 I boarded the Disney Wonder porting out of Vancouver B.C. 
In the coming three weeks we cruised to Alaska. We ported in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan as well as creeping down Tracy Arm to see the South Sawyer Glacier.
I never anticipated the beauty I would see nor did I know that we would be cruising so close to the shore line while in that area. It was drop dead gorgeous. 
In the evenings when I was getting ready for work, around 6ish, I would see whale tales rolling in the water and spewing water flying through the air. So gracful. So majestic. Each port in Alaska had it's own charming character. Skagway reminded me of the show "Northern Exposure". VERY quirky and seemed like a place right out of the wild, wild west. Juneau was always dark, cloudy and rainy when we were there. Shops were nice and seemed like a lot of good restaurants. Ketchikan was very quaint. I had friends there from back in Ohio. They took me on adventures every Saturday when we pulled into port. All in all, Alaska is someplace that everybody should try to travel to. You will never forget it if you go. 

From there, we began relocating. San Francisco was next. Five day relocation cruise. San Fran was the only port. We had a 2 AM all aboard. Nice. My friend Betsy picked me up and we sat in a wonderful restaurant while watching the America's Cup front and center. She then took me all the way to Antioch, CA to see her home and family. Great day. Jammed with her son, Ethan, who played upright bass. I played piano. They had lots of great wine and it was so nice hang with them. 

We then sailed to Los Angeles to pick up the passengers for our 14 day Panama Canal crossing. I had never played a 14 days cruise and was most apprehensive about doing one. As it turned out, the passengers for that cruise were great. Two of them invited me to eat in Palo, the Wonder's 5 star restaurant while actually cruising through the canal. Most memorable experience. 

We finally relocated to our new home port Galveston. I played two weeks from that port and was then transferred to Miami, FL in order to board the newly re-imagined Disney Magic. I flew to Miami on Oct. 12th. I had a luxurious 5 days in the Crowne Plaza. I suddenly received a call that the Magic was running late due to running into some inclement weather on the way back from Spain. We were then transported to Port Canaveral to board the Magic while they were applying the finishing touches. 

On Oct 23nd we finally sailed back to our intended new home port in Miami. We then hosted a two day media cruise in order to promote and publicize the newly renovated ship. All Disney dignitaries were there. Quite sometthing. It was astounding to watch the process of a company such as that orchestrating historic dry dock  and carrying the completion over the finish line. 
Just prior to signing off, my boss invited myself and my fellow musicians to experience a dolphine encounter. I accepted the invitation. It was precious. What intelligent, gentle and loving creatures. Yet again, a new and mind blowing experience. 

On Nov. 15th, I signed off and flew home to Ohio. Tiny breather. I am scheduled to do two recording sessions of new originals while home with a couple of VERY pro musicians from the area. Should be great. 

I board the Disney Fantasy on Dec. 7 for another contract that will end on Mar 1st. 

That is all for now. 


 Hi. Been awhile since I blogged. Some good things about fall: leaves, cooler nights, sweatshirts and exotic coffee drinks. Speaking of which, Dan Clark, Chris Baker and yours truly had the pleasure of being invited to the Oktoberfest 08. We played Friday night in the middle of the sky breaking loose with much rain. Thankfully, our tent filled up to the brim and we and gang of very wet Oktoberfest attendants rocked the night away. 
Very special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Owens, Linda Casale, Jack and James for believing in us and standing at our sides during the performance. I appreciate your faith and promotion more than you know. 

The fall gigs begin in tents, hay fields, amongst pumpkins, apples, the sound of locusts, and foggy nights and mornings.  I hope to see you out and being happy as we move toward the coming change in seasons. 

True signs of spring. 

Hey now. The Harleys began to rumble around the lake yesterday. The sun and warmth brought people out of their cacoons and take on human form. We had a great time on the gig. Bruce and Greg stopped by to sit in, Randy was in rare form, and I was just happy to see other humanoids out and celebrating the hope of summer. See the pics on go to GALLERY
July 17, 2019
My painting entitled "The Statehouse" commissioned by the Explore Licking County Team being gifted to Governor Mike DeWine at the Governor's Residence in Bexley, Ohio.

July 17, 2019 My painting entitled "The Statehouse" commissioned by the Explore Licking County Team being gifted to Governor Mike DeWine at the Governor's Residence in Bexley, Ohio.