From PRIME TIME, supplement to the Cape Cod Times, November 2017
Art and Soul
The many ventures of Gillian Drake
by Joan Graham, Contributing Writer
Gillian Drake lives in two worlds. On the Cape, this former Provincetown resident makes her home in Eastham in a house built in 1778. It was owned by a friend, and on Gillian’s first visit she fell in love with it, and says, “The moment I walked in the door, I knew it was my house.” Although she had no money at the time, she told her friend that if she ever wanted to sell it, she would buy it. Eventually, 17 years ago, she was able to purchase it. It’s a rambling three-quarter Cape and the property also includes the oldest barn in Eastham. She had fallen in love with the garden, too, and gets great enjoyment from working on it.
Her second world is in Italy. She and her partner, Ron James, bought a crumbling medieval villa in Tuscany in 2003 and spent 10 years renovating it. Asked to describe life at Casa della Quercia, where she goes several times a year, Gillian says, “history is everywhere – part of the ancient Pilgrim’s Way runs right through a tunnel under our patio, and the gatepost where the Romans collected fees for using the road is still there.” Gardening there proves to be a challenge with wild boar coming at night to root around and the herd of goats from the farm in the valley sneaking up to eat everything in sight. “But they are so cute; they come skipping up the meadow, their little bells tinkling; it’s hard to be mad at them. The cows across the valley have deeper-sounding bells, and the church bell strikes the hour so sometimes we hear all the bells at the same time.”
The daughter of a two-star general in the British army, Gillian says of her childhood, “We always seemed to be living in exile – when I was young, it was Hong Kong and Singapore, and later it was boarding school in Winchester, England — and home was always somewhere else. I was born in Wales, and even England seemed strange. So when I discovered Provincetown, I decided I wanted to live in the place that had won my heart, not just visit it for a few weeks a year.”
In her early 20s, Gillian had met her future husband, Mick Rudd, in London when she was working for his sister who owned an international fashion company. Mick lived in Provincetown and when she came to visit in 1973 she was enchanted by its natural beauty and vibrant creative community. “I had this feeling that this was where I had to be. It was a place that represented freedom and a chance to discover who I was. In England in the 1970s the class system was still very much in evidence. You were judged by how you spoke, what your father did, what school you went to. So when I came to America, I had this incredible sense of freedom and independence, that I could make my life whatever I wanted it to be.”
At first, Gillian worked for Exuma Jewelers making jewelry and the following year she and Rudd started Shank Painter Printing company. They printed and designed all kinds of material from Town Reports to Robert Motherwell’s art catalogs for Long Point Gallery to making copies of Norman Mailer’s manuscripts. Gillian says, “One day Mary Oliver, who was our typesetter, came to me and said she had to leave because she’d won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.” Later, their Xerox machine operator, Cyrus Cassells, announced that he had to leave as he’d won a prestigious poetry prize and would be going to Rome for a year.
In 1978 Gillian started Shank Painter Publishing with her first book, A Taste of Provincetown. She followed that with a series of “Taste of” cookbooks, including Cape Cod, Boston and Newport. She wrote The Cape Cod Fish & Seafood Cookbook, which has sold for 30 years and is still in print, and published Traditional Portuguese Recipes from Provincetown, by Mary Alice Cook, The Night at the Chef’s Table Cookbook, and nature guides by naturalist Peter Trull, as well as other works.
Continuing her willingness and interest in pursuing new ventures, Gillian began a career as a magazine publisher as one of the founders of Provincetown Arts Magazine. She went on to publish P’town Women magazine, and then Cape Women. The first issue of Cape Women, in 1998, featured Anne LeClaire and Lauren Wolk on the cover, both of whom went on to be New York Times bestselling authors. With a life-long interest in art, she started Cape Arts Review magazine in 2001, which she published for 10 years, and has run several galleries in Provincetown. Recently, she helped her friend, longtime Provincetown art gallery owner Berta Walker, set up a new art gallery in Wellfleet.
In 2010, Gillian discovered that she had psychic abilities which led her in a new direction, exploring the inner world and developing her spiritual and intuitive side. “I became a medical intuitive and spiritual counselor,” she says, “and helped many people all over the world, including Dr. Wayne Dyer. He was a fascinating but complex man and I became his confidante.” During this time, to help her clients and others with their dietary issues, she published “The Truth about Food: The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Dangerous.”
Slowly she began to focus more on the personality because, she says, “deep-rooted personality issues seemed to be the cause of many of my clients’ health problems.” This led her to develop the Soul Analysis Scan, an innovative approach to helping people understand themselves at their core so they can fully live the life they were born to lead, knowledge that is especially valuable for young people starting out in life. Her latest book, “Know Yourself, Be Yourself: Learn to Identify the Aptitudes and Archetypes that Form the Structure of your Soul and Frame Your Life’s Purpose,” which took four years to complete, has just been published. Books can be ordered at her website GillianDrake.com.
Gillian and Mick, now her former husband, are the parents of Tessa, who lives in Boston, works in Internet advertising and is about to be married. Although she loves the past, particularly the 18th century, Gillian never stays stuck in her own past, but continually reinvents herself as her path and our changing times demand.