‘I love visiting the same places at different times of the year and seeing the impact of the changing seasons. A golden yellow and white stretch of the park on frosty winter morning evolves to a sea of green and violet in the height of summer. I love seeing and documenting these changes.’
Join us as we get to know more about artist Natalie Gilmore’s art practice in this months featured artist blog.
Which medium do you work with and what do you like about it specifically?
I mostly work in acrylic as I love the speed in which it dries as it suits my style of painting. Sometimes the transparency of the paint can be a challenge, but it just means I need to build up more layers, which can really start to add vibrancy when you’re layering contrasting colours. I also do lots of drawing in pencil, pen and watercolour, particularly if I’m drawing outdoors.
Describe your style of art:
I’ve always really enjoyed the work of the post-impressionist artists who describe the world around them through bold colour and shape. I’m heavily influenced by these artists and my work alternates between natural and architectural landscapes with an emphasis on colour.
Can you talk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just go straight in? How long do you spend on one piece? How do you know when it is finished?
My creative process begins with being outdoors. I run each morning around local parks and I always have my camera-phone with me. I love visiting the same places at different times of the year and seeing the impact of the changing seasons. A golden yellow and white stretch of the park on frosty winter morning evolves to a sea of green and violet in the height of summer. I love seeing and documenting these changes.
I take lots and lots of pictures and choose the composition while I’m out. I then take my favourite images and digitally alter the colours and textures until I arrive at an image I want to paint.
I usually start off quite expressively and lay down blocks of colour as a base. If the image I’m working on is architectural, it will need very detailed drawing and measurement. I will then go over each pencil line with a thin line of black acrylic, and then infill with colour. If I think things are becoming a little disjointed, I’ll add a wash of thin colour to bring it back together, which will usually darken the canvas. I then add back in the whites and lights. This process can happen a few times until I’m happy it feels right. Each layer adds something.
I can spend hours and hours on the same painting, but I’m always happy to finish a piece so I tend not to over-paint.
When did you begin your career in art?
I’ve drawn pictures for as long as I can remember, and I loved art at school. I was fortunate to have a really inspirational teacher and there was never any doubt, art school was my natural next step. I finished my degree in 1996, and I don’t know if it was panic from the amount of student debt I accrued or a romantic notion of wearing a suit to the office, but I immediately started training to be an accountant. I supported myself through the early days of my finance career by painting murals and doing decorative arts in people’s homes.
Eventually, the balance between painting and accountancy shifted as I took on more senior finance roles and raised a family – painting took a back seat. Over the last four years, I’ve fought to readdress this balance. I moved sector to join the arts so that my work as an accountant is surrounded by artists and creatives which I love. Despite working full time, I dedicate time each day to my creative practice.
Who or what inspires your art?
Working in Liverpool on Hope Street is an absolute inspiration. I think it must be the greatest street in the world, with two cathedrals and so many other iconic buildings and cultural institutions. I love painting the city, it’s my home. I’m also very inspired by nature. There are so many hidden beautiful places in Knowsley and St Helens that I actively seek out while running. I love birds, I love water and I love trees.
What is one of your favourite pieces that you have done and why?
When I made the decision to return to painting, I undertook a series of paintings set at music festivals. I love festivals and have sadly missed them this year. The painting below is quite big at a meter square and I think I’ve really captured that moment between day and night, where there is a real buzz before the headline acts begin their sets. This series of work makes me happy because it reminds me of happy days filled with music and theatre, but also because it was the turning point where I found my style.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got lots of paintings on the go at the moment. A series I’m really excited about our views of the Metropolitan Cathedral and surrounding area through the decorative fibreglass reliefs outside the building.
One of my favourite quotes is by Pablo Picasso and I really believe it “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”. I treat making art as a job, and one that I constantly need to work to improve and understand. Drawing is a fantastic discipline.
I’m a member of the Liver Sketching Club, and for the last few years, I have done weekly portrait and life drawing classes. I find it has really helped me improve in all areas of my creative practice. I’d urge all artists to practice drawing portraits as they’re so difficult to master, but really help improve concentration and looking skills.
What’s your most unusual artistic habit or strangest technique which you have learnt?
I’ve wracked my brain to think of one unusual habit or technique, and I can’t think of a single one!! The most annoying thing is accidentally dipping my brushes in my tea – I still drink it though.
What are your favourite things to listen to whilst painting? If anything!
I listen to music constantly, and that it’s true if I’m working as an accountant or an artist. My favourite bands are Tindersticks and Radiohead, but I try and listen to lots of different music and love the new folk bands.
I listen to lots of music from Liverpool – Of course, I love the Beatles, and my favourite contemporary local musician is Nick Ellis. I couldn’t imagine working without music.