J.J. Galloway is an artist who loves to depict pigeons and food in her work—sometimes together! Her whimsical and colorful work has delighted viewers at a range of Art shown in numerous American states.

Based in Maryland, J.J. creates mostly oil and watercolor paintings which she has sold to companies like Bed, Bath and Beyond and a calendar producer in Europe. Her work is also in many private collections and is available for sale, publications, and licenses.

J.J. Galloway also answers to the name Jill and, aside from being a talented artist, she also oversees a drawing program at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

On April 17, 2019, she granted an exclusive interview where she discussed pigeons, art, programs, and more.

Art, animals, and food

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you first get interested in art and how did you discover your ability to draw?

J.J. Galloway (JJG): I come from a family of artists, although I’m the first to take on art as a full-time profession. My mother and grandfather both had artistic skills. I started to consider myself an artist in the 8th grade when I won my first award.

MM: What most interests you about pigeons and when and why did you start including them in your artwork?

JJG: Pigeons are funny. I draw many different kinds of animals though. The best animals to draw are the ones with deadpan faces.

A pigeon’s expression never changes. They can’t smile or frown or furrow their eyebrows. But with a simple tilt of the head,, their attitude changes completely. I try to pick animals who have the deadpan face. I started featuring pigeons after an installation I put together for The Affordable Art Fair. The response guests to the fair had to the pigeon spun us into creating a whole Pigeon Cafe for the next Affordable Art Fair.

The nice thing about the pigeon is it’s a NY thing…really a city thing. People see them every day. It’s fun to make comical portraits of something so common.

MM: You give money to the Wild Bird Fund, so what do you wish more people knew about birds and coexisting with them?

JJG: I had an option for people to donate to the Wild Bird Fun when they made an art purchase at the Affordable Art Fair.

I used to work in the zoo and aquarium world and have long appreciated the need to educate people about wildlife so they will respect animals and conservation of natural spaces. In particular, the Wild Bird Fund has a school program where they take pigeons into the classrooms to teach kids about the birds and the care of them. This is a concept that I strongly believe in. Kids need to learn to respect animals of all kinds. By the way, sadly, no one donated.

MM: You also feature foods a lot, so which are your favorites and why?

JJG: I love painting food. I love food! But I’ve found paintings of foods invokes memories. People have such interesting responses to food art. Putting food on animal’s heads seems to make people happy.

Is it Rembrandt? No. But the animal and food art generates a huge response from people and that works or me.

Teaching calendars, and ArtExpo

MM: Of all your pieces, do you have any special favorites and which have been most popular with the public?

JJG: I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite animal or a favorite food. But I have found that I automatically paint all my favorite things…which seems to be a little bit of everything! But I can say this, by far, the most popular painting has been the pigeon with chopsticks and a ramen nest on his head. I made a series of 12 paintings and have one left. I’ll be showing it the first week of May at the SuperFine Art Fair in SoHo.

MM: How did you get your work into huge outfits like Bed, Bath, & Beyond and made as calendars?

JJG: From the beginning of my art career, I’ve paid attention to what art is more marketable than others. Meaning what kind of art can fit into a lot of people’s homes not just one type of persons home. I’ve always made sure a portion of my portfolio was marketable, so I could license it. Over the past ten years, I spent a lot of time learning everything possible about the art licensing world and what I needed to do to be a part of it. Over the years I’ve made lots of good contacts, nurtured them and always made sure my end of the business was professional and ready to go. So, when a company like Bed, Bath and Beyond called, I was ready to give them everything they needed and then some.

MM: How did you get into teaching and how did that lead to your position at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery?

JJG: I teach once a week for the Smithsonian as a way to fill my creative well. I work alone in my studio Monday - Thursday and spend Friday’s in Washington. It’s a nice balance. I learn a great deal from teaching and have been contracting for the Portrait Gallery for almost ten years. It’s so important for artists to get out and around other people’s art for inspiration.

MM: What was it like to be at ArtExpo in NYC and what other exhibitions are happening for you in 2019?

JJG: Artexpo NY was a massive show. I sold some art, made excellent contacts and especially made many new artist friends from around the world. I scheduled three shows in NY this spring, the Affordable Art Fair, Artexpo NY and SuperFine in SoHo.

This fall I plan to at least do SuperFine in DC and perhaps I’ll head down to Miami art week. Last year I did seven shows across the country. From LA to Chicago, to NY, to Miami…I’ve learned a lot about the art fair business as a result and am paring down which shows I’m doing this year. The art fair business isn’t for everyone, but I’ve found it to be the best way to get my art out of the studio, on a wall, and in front of people to get feedback. I’m hooked!