Interview with Gill Bustamante 2022

What’s your artistic background?

I did an art foundation course at Chelsea in 1979 and completed a fine art degree in Brighton in 1983. I have always tried to make my living as an artist and that includes illustrations, mural painting, animal portraiture etc.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

You have to protect yourself from the criticism and interference of others in order to develop on your own determinism (no matter how well they may mean it). Otherwise, you be forever trying to be some other artist. You have to have space, materials and time to learn and experiment until you find your style and niche. Some of these things took me most of my life to find but better late than never!

What role does the artist have in society?

The artist is someone who observes something and then translates into a medium that will communicate to others. You can choose any subject and make people feel better or worse depending on the point you wish to make. Artists are vital as they make people see new possibilities and realities and help to bring about positive changes as a result. A world without creatives would not be worth living. We dream the dreams and inspire futures.

What art do you most identify with?

I prefer art that makes me feel hopeful and has some mystery and beauty to it. I love landscapes best of all as they are little universes I can escape into. I dislike art that is upsetting or disturbing. It may have its place but my personal aim to help people feel better – not smack them down further into a world that is already disturbing enough.

What themes do you pursue?

Landscapes, wildlife and nature and the idea that anyone can create their own world if they want to and should. Imagination is valuable and should be encouraged. I try to inspire others to feel the urge to walk, to enjoy nature and to want to protect it and to see how precious nature is.

What’s your favourite art work?

My favourite artwork is pretty much anything by Gustav Klimt. He had a way of weaving masterful portraits, gold leaf, mad whimsy and beautiful messages into his art and I love it. I especially like his landscapes as he was able to take something as apparently boring as corner of a field and a bit of a tree and make it fascinating and beautiful and mysterious. He was not restrained in his technique and often did things for no reason at all other than it looked good. I aspire to do the same.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

My technique has evolved as a result of me walking in countryside and then painting, from memory, the ‘essence’ of a place. An example is a recent series of kingfisher paintings. I have only ever seen two of them in real life but they are so jewel-like and perfect at I have had to keep trying to capture them. The mystery that comes into my paintings sometimes comes from the places I walk which are quite ancient. I seek out old Roman roads, Neolithic forts, medieval buildings, 1000-year-old churches and other historical places and the resonances these places retain often influence the paintings.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

I have had a bash at many things from toilet cleaner, chamber maid, pizza waitress, publishing company salesperson, vitamin manufacturer, EFL teacher and many others – all temporary so that I could still have time to paint.

Why art?

It is the thing I am best at and have always wanted to do and is the way I can best help others – both by creating things that inspire and also as an art tutor which enables me to help others to find their creativeness. I believe the relationship between creativeness and sanity are interchangeable. One gives you the other and everyone has an art form whether they know what it is or not.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

An artist’s outlook on life is a simply one of seeing the beautiful things in life and enhancing them through whatever medium you choose. You also need to be willing to look and not just accept what others say but look for yourself. And finally, you need to see how ridiculous life can be and be able to laugh like hell at it. I do this last one a lot.

What is you favourite food, drink and song?

Cake with thick icing on it, fizzy water, There There by Radiohead

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

No. It is lovely. I have been able to develop my own style as a result painting by myself in my attic without comments or others trying to influence me. Artists are mavericks and should not be interfered with. If I do get lonely, I simply go walking or go meet a friend or two plus I teach art regularly and enjoy being with my students.

What do you dislike about the art world?

I dislike the snobbery, the ‘buying art for investment’ and the gibberish that many artists feel they need to come out with it in order to be taken ‘seriously’. Art should be honest. You don’t have to be clever or deep or significant. You just have to honestly do what you like to do. I love Grayson Perry for his ability to be just be who he is. He has helped bridge the gap between the self-important art world and real people.

What do you dislike about your work?

I never show work that I dislike. If I dislike it, I paint over it.

What do you like about your work?

I like the colours, the curves, the sense of balance, the flourishes and twists, the creatures and the whole random element I cultivate when I paint. Most of all I like to see what comes out onto a canvas when I am thinking of a place I just visited and am trying to capture an echo of. I never actually know what will happen and I like that.

Should art be funded?

Yes absolutely. Beautiful things should always be a priority. Art defines time periods and is remembered down the ages. Just look at how art, in all its forms, has kept us all going throughout Covid era. Art gives life meaning and should be prioritized always.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

I can’t answer that as I am very intent on developing my own art style. Among the top artists I admire though are Christian Hook, David Grossman and Bartholomew Beal.

Favourite or most inspirational place?

South Downs, East Sussex but if I could choose a place to live in future - Norway is stunning.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

A quote by L. Ron Hubbard is my favourite bit of advice: “Your potentialities are a great deal better than anyone ever permitted you to believe.”

Professionally, what’s your goal?

I want to keep evolving and see where that takes me. As long as painting still thrill’s me I will be happy. And I would like to eventually be in a position where money was not of a concern so that I could simply concentrate on living an artist’s life.

Future plans?

Travel more, do some artist residencies, start an art colony, find some very rich patrons or sponsors who can commission big art from me and finally I would like to be in a position where I can buy land all over the world as the National Trust or Land Trust does in order to safeguard it. That, of course, requires serious money but that is a dream none-the-less.