We're delighted to welcome Gemma to the Whistlefish family with her beautiful artwork showcasing Cornwall's natural and stunning coastline. We caught up with Gemma to find out more about her life as an artist and the inspiration behind her work.
Hi Gemma, thank you so much for taking some time out to have a chat with us. Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an artist?
I have always loved art – when I was a little girl I used to love drawing and painting and during my school years Art was the only subject that I was truly interested in. I studied Art & Design at College in Berkshire and then decided to focus on Fashion Design for my degree. As much as fashion is still a very creative industry, somewhere along the way of building a career in buying and production I forgot that I could paint?! The busyness of life took over and I didn’t paint for years. It was only when the Covid Pandemic hit in 2020 that I was able to re-discover it. Lockdown forced me to stop my busy life, but I missed going to the beach and looking at the beautiful ocean. So, one day I decided I needed to paint it. It snowballed from there…
Once I started, I remembered how much I loved to do it and couldn’t stop. I began painting wave crests, remembering the crashing waves on my nearby shorelines. Then one day I decided I wanted to change my perspective, so I painted an aerial view of the shoreline. I used various reference images of photos I had previously taken from the cliff tops and altered the perspective slightly. I loved the birds eye view of the shorelines and decided I wanted to focus on that. Whilst working on each painting I realised I loved texture, I began building it with thick layers of acrylic, then adding sea salt to the paint and then to get really deep texture, sand. I loved the link back to my subject matter, the ocean.
We love the textures you add to your art, they really add an extra layer of intrigue to the work. Where’s your favourite place to find inspiration in Cornwall?
That is incredibly hard to pin it down to one spot! I would probably have to say the stretch of coast between Polzeath and Daymer Bay. I spend a lot of time there and have some wonderful memories of moments spent there. I also love the contrast between the water and shorelines – from the big powerful waves breaking at Polzeath. Then the rugged rocky Greenaway beach, round to the calmer waters of the Estuary in Daymer Bay. So much inspiration in one walk along the coastal path.
We know what you mean about pinning it down to one spot! There are so many special places down here, we would struggle to choose! What inspires your about the seascapes of Cornwall?
How varied it is as a subject matter. As I mentioned above the big roaring waves from one location, to calm, clear almost tropical waters. The thing that fascinates me the most is the huge ever changing variety of tones of blue in the waters. It has always and will always fascinate me.
How would you describe your work? In three words, perhaps?
Warm, transformative texture.
I can’t keep it to three words!! Lol. I want the viewer of my work to feel the sea breeze and salty sea spray on their skin, imagine the sand between their toes. To take them back to a treasured memory or spot in Cornwall.
Well with the way you manage to incorporate so many beautiful textures into your work you certainly achieve that! Do you have a studio space at home?
Yes, I have converted my spare room into a studio. It is a really treasured space for me now, I feel instantly calm and focused when I walk in there. It is also my space to do my home yoga practice so that helps with the focus as well.
And how long does your work take to create on average?
It really depends on how textured the piece is. If it has really deep chunky texture then those layers take a long time to dry and build. But I would say minimum 8 hours, up to 3 days? I am currently working on a surfboard…yes an actual surfboard. I wanted to try out a different type of canvas so that has taken me a week so far, with all the prep work for the board, priming, layers of colours etc.
Wow an actual surfboard! We can't wait to see that when it's all finished. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
When I hear from a client, or see a clients face when they receive my work. It is the most rewarding feeling when someone loves something you have created. That it has brought a cherished memory back to them in their home, made them smile every time they see it. It is what keeps me creating.
The situation unfolding over the last 12 months has undoubtedly led to a lot of change, have you seen an impact on your work?
The situation itself is what has led me to re-discover my painting and begin this journey into being an Artist and a female entrepreneur. If I hadn’t been forced to stop in my day job I wouldn’t be here talking to you now. It has obviously made things tricky, not being able to meet with clients face to face, have viewings of pieces, take part in collective projects. I am very excited to be able to expand into that once we are free of Covid19 and lockdowns.
We are thrilled you re-discovered your painting and that we have been able to add you to the Whistlefish family. What are you most excited about for the future?
Really getting out into the creative communities in Cornwall, meeting new people, meeting clients. I have founded a female collective of Cornish artists, called the ‘Hyli Creatives’ (@hylicreatives) and we want to plan lots of group projects and events to spread of shared love of the ocean and to hopefully encourage more women to tap into their creativity. We have only been able to do a small launch so far so I really am excited to see what big and exciting things we can create together over the next year.
Thank you so much for for taking the time to talk to us Gemma – we look forward to seeing not only the surfboard but all of your