An Interview with our Artist: Gill Bustamente

3 March 2019

In this interview, we talk to Gill Bustamente from Forest Row, East Sussex.

Please describe your artwork style
Depends what mood I am in but expressive, linear, art nouveau, impressionist? I paint large semi-abstract landscapes inspired by the walks I take in and around Sussex and the South East. I am not a traditional landscape painter as I find the intricacies of painting too ‘realistically’ rather restrictive. I have instead developed a painting method that attempts to capture the feeling of a landscape rather than a nameable place. I call it ‘Memory Impressionism’.

What’s your background?
I come from a suburb of London but hated it so now live in Sussex. I have a degree in fine art and I have always worked in the arts though I have only been a full-time artist since 2012 (when I found I could sell online). I have ample experience in illustration, mural painting, art and craft, design, portrait painting, and art tutoring and this has kept me going alongside various jobs ranging from toilet cleaner to running a small publishing company (I like variety).

How long have you been an artist?
Since I was 2

Who or what are your biggest influences?
The landscapes around me, looking at things, walking, music, eating cake, looking at other artists work (Gustav Klimpt my favourite artist).

How have you developed your career?
Slowly but steadily. I was 50 before I started to sell regularly so can’t really claim to be an ‘emerging’ artist. More of a persistent rash type of artist.

Which current art world trends are you following?
I love the big sculptures being made nowadays like the Kelpies. One of my tutors at Brighton during my degree course was Anthony Gormly and I like some of his sculptures very much. I love Grayson Perry for his honesty and Ai Weiwei for his irreverence and lots of other artists whose work I see on Facebook but forget to note their names. I think there is some fabulous art around nowadays and I am so happy that the gallery system is no longer the only way artists can be seen. The internet has made it possible for any of us to be seen and I love that.

Where do you create your work?
In a corner of the attic under a big dormer window with music station to the left and massive amount of paint and canvases to the right.

What do you feel is the role of the artist in society?
All artists are basically communicators. They see something and they find a way to translate it into a medium and then communicate it to others. It is can be harsh or beautiful or weird or ugly or downright nasty but whatever it is, it is the role of the artist to communicate things which non-artists may not otherwise be aware of. Artists are essential and all art forms are essential. Without art, there is no real fun to civilisation. We may as well all just be hamsters.

What techniques / mediums do you use?
I use oil paint and muck about with linseed oil and different mediums. I particularly like the ‘wet into wet’ style of painting and commonly do 5 or 6 hour painting blasts in order to finish a paint layer before the paint starts to dry. I usually paint in successive layers so each painting takes around month to complete.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
The second option. I often start out with an idea and then change it as the painting develops. Only 3 out of 4 of my paintings make the grade as I like to experiment a lot so often paint awful things that were fun to try but did not work for me. In fact I have made a bit of a habit of painting over anything that has not sold within a year and find it very liberating. It is an analogous to life – you start off with certain plans and expectations but have to be willing to change your mind and directions depending on the stuff life throws at you. I enjoy this. I see it as me sumo wrestler vs canvas and paint sumo wrestler.

How do you feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?
bloody brilliant - there is nothing like it.

What project are you working on now?
The usual – 5 or 6 ongoing paintings.

Any current or up-coming exhibitions?
No because I sell almost exclusively online. I do, however, invite people to visit and see the artwork at my home if they are local and about two a month will do this.

Where do you find your ideas for your work?
I walk a lot in the countryside and then come home and try to capture the essence of a place I liked with a painting that is not a realistic ‘view’ as such but does act as record of a place for me. I see magic in landscapes and nature and I tend to flaunt it shamelessly in my paintings.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?
Yes the one I am attaching – it is called Spirit Guides and it is a good example of a painting that I really had to wrestle with as it did not work initially and has been repainted three times

How do you know when a work is finished?
It is finished when I feel proud of it and it gets stuffed behind the rafters when I am not.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My two favourite colours which are purple lake and Indian yellow. Life was meaningless without them and my cheap set of filbert brushes from Amazon.

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?
It is the interplay of order vs chaos. Doing what you know, then trying something new, succeeding, failing, getting cross, being delighted, getting paint in your hair and many other delights. The main thing, though, is that when you paint – you are the total boss of your own creation. Nothing else in life allows you to do things exactly to your own dictates and it is very very very therapeutic.

See more of Gill's work here:

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