Summer Flowers I by Gill Bustamante
Summer Flowers I by Gill Bustamante

When did you first become interested in painting?

I loved it since I was a toddler. When I was 4 I was dragged along to church and loved the altarpieces and carvings in the church – I was in awe as to how such scenes could be conjured on a flat surface. I did not like the subject (life of Jesus did not look much fun) but I did love the colours and the magic. I wanted to do this but with happier subjects…

Did you always know you would become an artist or did you have other ideas?

I wanted to be a zoo keeper or a farmer or a horse breeder or a vet. I love animals. Unfortunately I am allergic to anything furry and this stuffed up my whole life plan right there. Even the school hamster made me sneeze. I then discovered that I could paint animals and horses and ‘have them’ that way. It just needed to learn the skills necessary. It was a 2nd best scenario but it worked for me.

You went to Art College, what was your experience like?

I loved Art College because it gave me the chance to try lots of new materials and techniques and also the space and funds to experiment. I actually did my degree in sculpture – I made life size horses and animals – still trying to have them as I could not have the real thing. I did not learn much from the tutors as the trend at the time was more about conceptual art than traditional skills so I usually ignored their advices and continued developing more traditional skills. To be honest, I leant more from the technician at the college than the tutors. He taught me how to weld and how to make wooden frames etc.

Are you a full time artists and if so, how do you manage your time?

I am full time artist as long as you include my art tuition in that. I teach around 10 hours a week spend about 15 on marketing my artwork, about 20 on actual painting and the rest mucking about.

Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes quite simply form the desire to have things I can’t have or be places I can’t be. I am a blatant escapist. I walk and drive and travel and take photos or do sketches and then invent spaces and objects and living things to put them in to. My paintings need to thrill ME before I can leave them alone or even try to offer them it for sale.

How did your interest in landscapes and seascapes develop?

A Path Through an Autumn Wood by Gill Bustamante
A Path Through an Autumn Wood by Gill Bustamante

I was lucky enough to have a dad who likes travelling. Every summer holiday he used to load me, my mum, my two brothers and 3 weeks work of food into a Bedford van (which he had converted in to a dormabile himself by cutting the roof off and making other interesting alterations). He then hauled us all over Europe and the British Isles and we got to see beautiful landscapes and seascapes that were unspoilt and breath-taking. This began in the late 1960’s when TV was still mostly in black and white and the only idea I had of, for example, a mountain was from a faded library book. Nothing could really prepare a girl form Bexleyheath for the fantastic experience of seeing a real mountain. It had more impact because Bexleyheath was grey very dull in comparison.

You have a very distinctive style, have you always worked in this way?

Like many artists, I spent years trying to emulate all the other artists I admired. I learnt a lot about techniques but did not develop my own style until I’d been at it a while. I just distilled down to what pleases me. It keep evolving though – always will as I can’t paint something if I already know how it will turn out. It gets dull. I need a challenge so keep changing my own rules.

Are you influenced by any famous artists, if so who are they?

I like Gustav Klimpt best of all – I love the contrast of seriously brilliant portraits and landscapes alongside whimsical and lavish and totally over the top decorative backgrounds. I also love the Pre-Raphaelites. I love the details and skill and impact those paintings have. I could in theory paint like them but do not have the attention span for it. My favourite painting is ‘the light of the world’ by Willian Holman Hunt. I am not even a Christian but this painting is so enticing it takes my breath away.

Sea of Possibility - a Glittering Seascape by Gill Bustamante
Sea of Possibility – a Glittering Seascape by Gill Bustamante


Could you please describe the practical process you go through when making a painting?

I walk, I get images in my mind, I see photos, TV programs, friend’s holiday pictures etc. and an idea lodges. I then sketch possible compositions and design my landscape or seascapes to fit the ideas I have. I then start painting and simply see what develops. My paintings are balanced. My compositions usually stick quite well to my preliminary sketches and this composition is senior to whatever colours and techniques I use as these evolve as I am going along.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Each day of the week has a different schedule depending on the teaching jobs I have, what admin I need to do and what stage I am at in a painting. I work hard but am at the same time quite able to slip into slob mode whenever I feel like it. I am very lucky to be in the arts, I will never be rich but I count myself very privileged to have something that engages me so thoroughly!

View more work by Art2Arts artist Gill Bustamante