Longtime Centennial Hills resident Grizel Herhold is one of few painters in a position to donate her artwork.
She isn’t independently wealthy or internationally renowned, but a 30-year-old Rolodex and a recent high profile commission at the Discovery Children’s Museum have seen Herhold rise to sudden prominence among local art patrons, especially in nonprofit circles.
Just ask Those Left Behind Foundation founder Rae Erickson, who met Herhold through her husband, a subcontractor at the museum.
Erickson, whose nonprofit animal rescue helps feed, vaccinate and house more than a dozen rescued dogs at A Puppy Paradise, 1950 S. Rainbow Blvd., had no idea the recently opened shelter would be getting a wall-size mural complete with dolphins, hot air balloons and a “crystal palace” with floating pillows and towering, dog bone-shaped spires.
Then she ran into Herhold one night outside a Petco.
“She’s one of the most remarkable people,” Erickson said. “We saw her there at an (adoption) drive one night. My husband and her got to talking, and five minutes later, she said, ‘Let me donate a mural.’ ”
Herhold wasn’t always in a position to give away her time. The Cuban emigre and her family fled Fidel Castro’s regime in 1962, arriving in Miami Beach with only what could fit on the boat.
Not long after, Herhold remembers sketching her first pieces: hand-drawn renditions of Beatles posters that weren’t available in Havana.
“Growing up with my grandparents as a child, I used to sketch all over the walls, and they didn’t complain. They just encouraged me to do more and more of it,” Herhold said. “Instead of dolls, I got colored pencils, chalk, paint brushes, stuff like that.”
Slowly, without the benefit of formal training and with no connections to the rarified art world, the 60-year-old built her portfolio and reputation on portraits, murals and faux art interior finishes.
Herhold has since completed large-scale pieces for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas. One of her smaller, 3-feet-by-6-feet paintings is on display for $1,200 at the Rainbow Library Gallery.
Her self-taught hand doesn’t touch on the boring or political but rarely veers toward the inaccessible or avant garde. Everything is entirely improvised: She’ll paint Renaissance-style frescoes or pop art portraits of Alice Cooper and Tupac Shakur, depending on the mood.
When it comes to commercial commissions, Herhold doesn’t care to lay down a blueprint.
“My work just evolves,” she said. “I don’t like it when people don’t let me be expressive. They get cheated because I don’t even know what my work’s going to look like.
“You have to believe in yourself and stop making excuses for touching the canvas and starting something. That’s the message I want to give to other artists: Believe in yourself, expect the best and stop chasing the wrong thing.”
That’s as close as Herhold comes to a personal artistic philosophy. She admits to few hobbies, apart from hanging out with her husband Jeff, a state engineer.
Even those who have barely met “Gigi” tend to know one thing about her: She’s hard to keep away from a paintbrush, even when she is not getting paid.
“She’s really passionate about her work,” said Puppy Paradise co-owner Ed Schmieding. “She’s also really passionate about animals, and it shows.
“Gigi’s given us a really remarkable gift. We couldn’t be happier.”
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839.