‘Gemma Compton is an artist/fashion designer based in Bristol, her highly detail work with its strong style has crossed from garments to gallery walls. Being brought up in a small town in the sleepy Cotswold’s sparked a lifelong love for nature, particularly ornithology and the British countryside. Her work draws influence from the flawless, high glamour imagery used throughout the creative industry. Beautiful women and modern day icons are mixed with wildlife, dead and alive, juxtaposing our modern human ideals of beauty with the natural beauty and cruelty of nature.’ Upfest Profile
Can you give me a bit of background and how you got into art?
Like all children I had a love for everything creative – I drew every day on anything and everything I could get my hands on. As a student, I went to the University of West England, and got a first-class degree in fashion design, which is still a huge passion of mine. I specialised in illustration and print making because art and drawing has always been my obsession. My degree taught me a lot of skills which I’ve carried forward into my artistic practice/career but I’ve always seen myself as a self-taught artist, art has been a driving force in my life since I can remember, it’s part of me and I’ll never stop creating it.
Influences on your work
I have a real affinity for Frida Kahlo and her artwork. Parts of our personal stories are quite similar. I suffered a spinal injury in my late teens due to a RTA and spent a long time in recovery. Getting back on an artistic path really helped me to keep a focus on moving my life forward. After Kahlo’s accident, she used her art to express the pain and frustrations she was feeling and the style and symbolism of her work really speak to me on a personal level. I use a lot of symbolism in my own work to explore the fragility of ‘Love, Life and Loss’ and I think this comes from the life experience I have that ‘life is really too short’. Everything can change in a split second so make the most of it.
What was the best piece of advice that you were given when you were starting out?
The best piece of advice I was given was about four years ago now. I had been working and selling work as an artist for a few years but I was beginning to feel lost and frustrated. A friend (who is also in the arts) told me the most important thing is to ‘just be yourself.’ It sounds so simple but I think you can get caught up in the art industry (like anywhere) copying and following trends. I wanted to draw on my experiences, deliver my message, using the skills that I have, to produce art that is true to myself.
What is important to you about your art?
As above. Being true to myself. I think it’s very therapeutic to create. The discipline of it has got me through some tough times in my life. It makes me happy, at times it reduces me to tears. It has made me so angry that I have destroyed it. When your passionate about anything, it matters! The message that I’m trying to convey is important, it’s not just a pretty picture. And on the days when I feel I’ll never paint again I reflect on the emails from my clients or a FB message from someone who picked up one of my prints saying that they love and connect with it on a deeper level than it’s just something decorative for their home. Then I feel I’ve done my job as an artist.
What is your process in creating a new piece of work?
Sketching, researching. It’s so easy to look at things online but I love books. Nature books, old encyclopaedias etc. I get inspired by getting out in to the countryside, listening to music, running, I’m never not thinking about what my next piece might be. I jot down ideas all the time – I am a great list maker but I have things/ideas written down from years ago that I just haven’t painted yet. Not enough hours in the day! When the concept is finalised, I sketch onto canvas and then take my time layering up my paint from initial washes to dark tones and I can’t resist a flash of metallic with a bit of gold leaf at the end.
Where people can find you at Upfest?
At the Steam Crane on North St
Can you tell me something about what you will be doing?
I’ll be collaborating alongside my husband CopyRight, we’re working on a 12m long mural in the beer garden. It will be our usual bright fusion of styles, you’ll have to wait and see!
What are you looking forward to about Upfest?
I love the creative and community aspect of Upfest. There’s so much love and fun over the weekend. People travel from all around the world to celebrate creativity and positivity with their chosen artform and that makes me proud to call Bristol my home and be involved in this festival. Art brings people together from all backgrounds and cultures and we need a little unity in the world right now.
Whose work are you looking forward to seeing?
Eelus is a great artist. I love his work but never seen him live paint a large mural before. MyDogSighs, he’s was missed last year and Buff Monster, I’ve loved his work for a long time and he will be a great addition to East St.
See Gemma Compton and CopyRite’s work at Steam Crane on North St
Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017