Gill Bustamante is a professional artist based in Sussex and she paints original landscapes, seascapes, animal and bird inspired paintings in oil on large canvases. Her painting style is a fusion of Expressionist, Impressionist, a little Art Nouveau and something she refers to as ‘Memory Impressionism’. Gill coined this phrase because her artwork is often created after visiting or walking somewhere she has an affinity for. She then makes a painting that captures her impression of that place along with the colours and the way she felt about it from memory.
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
It was the only thing I was good at without much effort and was cheap and I loved it.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Landscapes and wildlife that are semi abstract, traditional, art nouveau, a bit impressionist, recognisable as real but not quite this universe with a little mystery thrown in.
What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?
I see lots of good landscape and wildlife artists around but don’t want to be one of these as nature is so beautiful that I don’t feel I can emulate it as a painting no matter how hard I try. Instead I am trying to create something inspired by nature that can be beautiful without being in competition with the creatures and places that inspired it.
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
I like working with people and being with other people very much but I nevertheless prefer to make my own rules and play my own games at my own pace which is generally quite fast. Art enables me to do this. I never stop being excited by the possibilities of a blank canvas. I go on a country or seaside walk once a week and the impressions that remain in my mind from these often turn into artwork. I like to capture the essence of a place I like rather than the technical accuracies of it.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
My dad was brilliant. He paid for me to go art college. The Pre Raphaelite artists were an inspiration and the Dutch interior paintings I saw when living in Amsterdam for a year were wonderful. I love lots of art but generally take my inspiration from life itself as I wish to make my own translation of what I see rather than copy someone else’s method which irritated my tutors at college no end I am glad to say.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
Of course. Like most artists my tools are precious. Sticky and covered in crap but very precious. Oils are my preferred medium and I use acrylic brushes as they are softer. I love linseed oil and the richness of oil paint and the fact that you can keep manoeuvring it or paint over mistakes easily.
When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?
I was brought up in a bland and grey suburb of London and I hated it. I couldn’t wait to leave home so I could get to the sea and countryside. These draw me and always have so that is what I paint. I also adore animals and birds but am allergic to furry things so paint rather than touch them.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
Walk somewhere, look, absorb some smells and textures and sights of the place, come home, sketch an memory version of the place, paint and experiment with the paint, get an impression I am happy with, add an animal or bird if needed, play around, let layers dry, re work or glaze them and generally keep going until I really like the painting. This sometimes means two or three repaints as not all my ideas and whims with paint work.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?
My week is very organised and allows for three five hour painting sessions, teaching art, walking for inspiration and everything in between. Each day has a general schedule though I will drop everything if it is particularly sunny outside as walking is better then.
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
I paint on large canvases so paint in layers which have to dry before the next session. I have 4 to 6 on the go all the time and aim to finish one painting a week but it may take a month or two to actually complete a painting fully. I also rework certain paintings after months or sometimes years if they have not sold and this can be very interesting as my painting style evolves continuously so is a challenge to remember what I did before.
How has your art evolved to be where it is today?
I have tried lots of different art forms from mural painting to book illustration to portrait painting and some others, all of which taught me different approaches and skills that have proved invaluable. I also started teaching art 20 years ago and this required me to learn new skills I would not have bothered with otherwise such as how to draw in good perspective and watercolour painting etc. I learnt to deliver what my students wanted and this means learning new things so that I can teach them. In short, I use my abilities and they change and evolve in response to each new idea I have.
Which of your artworks are you most proud off?
I am always in love with the last painting I did. I don’t put them up for sale until I really love them but because I need to make a living I don’t get too attached to them either. If I had to choose a favourite it is one called ‘Messengers of the Gods’ which I love the colours, design and composition of.
Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?
Lots of them – I save them on my Pinterest page under ‘inspiring art’. Dead favourites: Edward Hopper, Alex Colville, Gustav Klimpt, John Millais and contemporary ones to name a few: David Grossman, Scott Naismith, Erin Hansen, Alexander Grishkevich, Ton Dubbeldan, Mark Gould, Steve Hanks, Judith Bergeson and many others.
If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?
Impressionists I think. It was so different and so fresh and the colours and style was such a break from tradition that those people were real adventurers. It is not easy to keep painting when being criticized or when broke and yet most of them did it anyway. They have my full respect and I would like to think I would have embraced it too.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
Well I think the internet has been great for artists as it has removed the snob factor that galleries used to have a monopoly on so I think we have it much easier now than ever before. We also have you-tube and new materials and tutorials and lots of people who can teach and inspire us so there is no excuse for not having a go now. I suppose the challenge is being seen among the throng which means individual artists have to also know marketing as well as painting – that can definitely be a stressful.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Lean what you can from others and keep learning new skills but go your own way. Trust yourself - not someone else. You know you best so ignore critics or tutors who are not actually useful to you.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
I love accurately painted art such as Alex Colville’s or Edward Hopper’s but would not paint this way myself. That is because I have the attention span of a toddler so have to paint fast and randomly. I admire artists who can take their time for this reason.
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
I do have one of these. It is called ‘making it real’ and is an unusual painting as it took six years of fiddling to finish it. It is not typical of my usual style and is trying to express the concept of making an idea into a reality. I kept trying different ways to express the idea but have only recently decided I have made it.
Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expression your creative nature?
My own art has simple messages. I rarely paint people as I have always been aware that I am a spirit in a body and that this is not a natural state so therefore don’t want to glorify bodies. Instead I lean towards the spiritual and the impulse to dream, to keep aspiring to be better and to basically look beyond the material which is finite whilst the spirit is not. Despite not advocating a specific cause or politics, though, I do support movements such as drugfreeworld.org and thewaytohappiness.org and other Scientology initiatives as have had personal experience of how they are helping the society.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have my usual 5 paintings on the go. They mostly reflect what I look at each week when walking so Autumn scenes beginning to appear as it is now September in England.
To view Gill's full collection - The Online Art Gallery of Gill Bustamante