British artist Gill Bustamante paints dream-like forest scenes in shimmering colors that elevate and inspire. A self-taught artist, Gill has been painting and drawing since she was a child, but it was later in her life, once her children were grown, that she was able to experiment and find her true artistic voice. She was drawn to mystical subjects that provided escape to what felt like another world that was still grounded in reality. We spoke with Gill to find out more about her inspiration and artistic process (interview below):
MG: What medium do you work with?
GB: Oil paint on large canvases.
MG: What do you like most about working with this medium?
GB: I like the texture, the vibrancy, the smell, the messiness, the tradition, the way it can be moved around the canvas, the lusciousness of it and the versatility.
MG: What inspires you most?
GB: The colours and patterns and vibrancy of nature and the thought that there is magic to be found in life and that it is worth trying to find it! I like to walk and look at the sea and countryside and animals and birds as I find them endlessly fascinating. I have always been far more interested in these things than in most human pastimes and am delighted that I have found a way, through painting, to express some of this interest in a way that also appeals to other people!
MG: What artists inspire you?
GB: Gustav Klimt is my favorite artist. I never cease to be amazed at how that man could take a subject as mundane as the corner of a muddy puddle, or a few dead birch trees and make a painting that is completely magical from it. I also admire how he could paint formal portraits like a pro, but was not afraid to add mad decorations and bits of gold leaf for no other reason what because he could. His art is a heady mixture of formal and bonkers. Of course I like many other artists work too – Alex Colville, Dame Laura Knight, Atkinson Grimshaw, William Holman Hunt as well as contemporary artists such as Scott Naismith, Annie Ovenden and Nicolas Hely Hutchinson to name but a few. All of them have a fantastic ability to make unusual compositions and viewpoint in their paintings as well as making them technically clever and yet mystical and beautiful and quirky at the same time.
MG: What are your hobbies (besides art)?
GB: I walk a lot, I keep fish (as I am allergic to animals much to my dismay), I like to drive and I listen to a lot music, especially when painting and I really like eating cake. Not a good hobby but one of my favorites nevertheless.
MG: Describe your workspace:
GB: I paint in one half of the attic where I have my easel, a big painting trolly and canvases plus storage for drying artworks. In the living room I keep finished artwork plus an area for my computer as I mostly sell online so am on it a few hours day. Next to that is another area for packing and shipping sold artworks. As with many artists’ houses, it looks messy but everything is orderly in a scruffy kind of way.
MG: How many years have you been an artist?
GB: I have been an artist for as long as I can remember - over 50 and counting…
MG: What jobs have you done besides being an artist?
GB: Like almost every artist I have always had to have other jobs in order to cover my basics. Art sales can be very unpredictable. Some of them are: lavatory cleaner, waitress, EFL teacher, animal portrait painter, sales manager, had decorated furniture artists, marketing manager at a publishing company and art tutor. The last one I still do as I enjoy seeing other people creating art as well as doing it myself.
MG: If you were not an artist what would you do?
GB: I would have still been in the arts but as a musician or writer instead I think. Although, had I not been allergic to animals I suspect I’d be on a farm or animal rescue somewhere.
MG: What is your dream project?
GB: I dream of someone very rich deciding they want to hire me for a few years to create bespoke artwork on their yacht and in their various mansion’s they have around the world. I would then use the money made to buy a house by the sea in Cornwall where I could work with other like-minded people in many other art forms or worthwhile projects including charity ones that would support humanitarian movements and nature preservation projects. I already do what I can on these but the big yacht thing is a genuine fantasy that helps me drift off to sleep at night. Sigh…
MG: Is there a painting or project that you are especially proud of?
GB: I am mostly in love with whatever painting I am in the middle of. I always have 3 to 5 on the go at the same time. Some don’t work and get painted over but those that do have to thrill me before they are offered to anyone else. As for what I am proud of, I think it is how I am able to help other people also become artists. I have taught art privately for nearly 20 years and have seen people blossom with their new found skills. Three of my ex students are now themselves art teachers and this make me happy.
MG: What is your favorite color?
GB: I don’t have a favourite but I can tell you my least favourites are brown and green which is probably the reason I don’t paint traditional English landscapes! I rarely use black either. The colours I get though most of are probably purple madder and Indian yellow. Purple is a colour you see in most shadows and Indian yellow is in sunlight so they are natural opposites and balance eachother well.