New Forest artist Katie Gibbs’ floral paintings
- Credit: Archant
With a shrewd determination, ambitious mum Katie Gibbs is set for big things with her brightly coloured floral paintings says Sandra Smith
“Business sounds like a dirty word when you mix it with art but after spending ten years in the advertising world, blending commercial skills with creativity is part of my make up, which I use to my benefit.
“My first career gave me a trained visual eye not just from an artistic viewpoint but creatively, so I know what looks good and what people will buy. As well as reproducing fantastic paintings it’s important to find your target market.”
There’s an aura of energy about Katie Gibbs. Overflowing with commercial acumen and artistic vision, she smiles her way through our time together - every aspect of her life, from floral art to neighbours and the Hampshire landscape, kindling enthusiasm. Even the daily juggle between painting and the demands of two young children appears to motivate rather than faze this attractive 35 year old, who possesses an ability to convey the essence of nature - the colours and fragrance of a season - at the same time as being appealingly down to earth.
“I am not a snobby artist,” she laughs when I ask about the tools of her trade. I’m expecting an admission to a lavish budget for the most sought after brushes. How wrong could I be?
“I believe it’s what you do with them rather than their quality that matters,” she emphasises.
“I will happily go to cheap art shops and pay £1 for a brush. That attitude transcends into where I want to see my work and who buys it. I don’t laboriously want to get my art into lots of galleries, which can be a sterile way to view paintings. My art is for people who are after nice looking paintings to complement their décor.”
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Acrylics such as Lavender and Daisy are particularly evocative of English summer days. Delicacy of brushstrokes is complemented by uncanny detail. You can almost hear the buzz of a passing bee. It is as though the viewer is looking out onto a quintessential country garden or field, inhaling fresh scents and witnessing fine stems swaying in a light breeze.
Like many artists, Katie’s images are available as prints. But driven by a desire to retain the quality of originals led to a partnership with a printer and alliance with a German product.
“The first time I met my printer I wasn’t convinced about the German fine art paper he suggested. So I asked him to do a test run on cheap paper and one on the paper he recommended. The difference was instantly obvious. On fine quality paper it’s like looking at the original, you can see the texture. When someone pays for a print, I want it to feel special, as brilliant as it can be.”
Katie favours acrylics as much for the range of colours available as the medium’s quickness of drying. Mistakes can be easily covered and the paint can either be applied thickly or watered down to a watercolour consistency. Neon colours, she assures me, readily elevate a painting by encapsulating the vibrancy of nature’s hues.
As we continue to make the most of a quiet afternoon - Katie’s children are asleep upstairs - I admire Brook House Studio. Just metres from the family home, this comfortable space is remarkably tidy despite Katie’s insistence she can make as much mess here as she likes. Roses grow up the outside walls and, although the studio is sometimes shared with her husband, the overall impression is one of organised creativity.
Typical canvases, both white and natural, measure 30cm x 30cm though others with rectangular dimensions give a sense of the landscape, as Katie emphasises.
“The size and shape of a canvas is very much part of the painting. Often my work looks like it’s been done quite quickly, but I will have practised in sketch form, mastering how the petals open and the flowers fall, investing time up front. I do a light pencil drawing on the canvas once I’ve mastered the composition. By then I know what I want to do and let the paints do the work. Sometimes I’ve missed out the sketch phase and lived to regret it.”
Her starting point doesn’t always follow convention. Background? Well, that may be the place where artists are traditionally taught to begin, but Katie has been known to start with a flower in the foreground. And if a piece features a big, hero flower, the rest of the painting flows from there. The most important rule, it seems, is to capture the subject.
Living in the New Forest, Katie sources inspiration in hedgerows and gardens during daily walks to pre-school. Spring and summer may be an obvious time for colour but this is an artist who ensures she embraces all the seasons. Pastels are a useful way of giving a softness to floral work and there’s the possibility of working with oils at some point.
“Oils aren’t so practical at the moment. I don’t have a lot of time to fit painting into my life and oils take a long time to dry. But I hope to explore more and more. My work schedule has grown around my family life. I like to find predictable times of the day when I know I can work. I paint in the mornings when the light is right, when the children are napping after lunch and maybe at weekends. I make the most of those chunks of time. But painting is only one strand of what I do. There’s PR and my website. As the children become independent I hope to create a 9-5 working set up.”
That time will certainly be valuable given Katie’s ambitions. Her long term plans include seeing her art featured in different ways, work being licensed, appearing on cushions, fabrics and wallpaper. And there are other forms of nature to explore, too.
“I was thinking the other day, how interested I am in wildlife. I spot rabbits and mice scurrying around the garden and it would be interesting to see if I could capture them either individually or within floral work.”
Our interview is drawing to a close but there’s one aspect that still intrigues me: the names included in her website – Agnes and May. Why not her own name?
“I wanted to approach it more like a business. There’s a flow about the name which I love. Agnes and May were women in my life who were entrepreneurial with a feisty spirit and I want to inject that into my business.”
One side of Katie Gibbs is creative and artistic. Then there’s the flipside. Determination and ambition, originally providing the impetus to make the leap into the world of art, continue to provide ongoing motivation. Just as her paintings work in contemporary apartments and traditional cottages, so this artist is as talented as she is shrewd – both vital characteristics in building a successful career.
To purchase Katie’s work visit agnesandmay.com
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