March Featured Artist
This months featured artist is a wonderful lady who I have only recently had the pleasure of meeting. Her story is really interesting as is her work.
Where do you live?
Shepperton, Surrey, UK
What is your background?
I studied Art and Ceramics at school and wanted to go to Art College, but my parents advised against it and steered me towards an office job. My first role was as a secretary in London, and I detested it, so I managed to make my way into the computer group. I remember the first time I saw an Apple computer and Photoshop and thinking, “I want to do that!” so I always gravitated towards the more creative side of the IT industry and I have spent the last 30 years working in various roles, both for large and small companies including co-ownership of a small IT business for seven years.
I’ve worked on interactive training materials, seminar presentations and websites. I am currently working as a web project manager overseeing international projects in a large IT enterprise. Throughout my career in IT I’ve always had a keen interest in art and photography as a relaxing and fulfilling pastime. In 2004 I exhibited a number of my digital photographs at a gallery in Portsmouth during their opening week. I have experimented with digital art and mixing digital and traditional processes.
Some of my photography (left to right: Blue Slipper Clay on the Isle of Wight; Red Squirrel; Surfer)
How did you learn your craft i.e. college, self-taught and what did that entail?
My general approach to art and photography has been to learn by doing, and by reading up on techniques, initially through magazines and books, and then via the internet. Between 2003 and 2014 I focused primarily on digital photography.
In 2016 I had been watercolour painting while on holiday, but it was sporadic and I felt rusty every time I picked up the brush. So, I decided to challenge myself to make a small drawing or painting every day for the month of January and I enjoyed it so much that I did that for two years. It improved my drawing skills and reignited my enthusiasm for making art using traditional media. In March 2019 I attended a week’s art retreat at St Ives School of Painting, which really switched me on to the possibilities of making art which draws on my digital photography, digital art and traditional art making techniques and developing an art practice. Up until that time I had seen my art as a completely separate thing from my photography. I then took a 12-week online course with Art2Life, called the Creative Visionary Programme, which has transformed my work and taken it to another level. I am about to begin a one-year art programme with St Ives School of Painting which starts in May 2020, so I am looking forward to learning more and pushing my art further.
Left to right: earlier artwork in gouache and watercolour, three pictures from my daily drawings in pencil and neocolor pastel.
Which media do you prefer to work with?
At the moment I work most with acrylic paints, but I also love to work in coloured pencil, mixed media, water colour, gouache and I have started to learn how to use oils. There are elements of woodworking and assemblage within some of my work and this is an area that I want to explore further.
“A few of mum’s sewing things” mixed media and acrylic paint”.
Do you work in multiple media? If so, which and why?
I tend to use different media depending upon the environment that I am working in, what materials I have available, and what I am attempting to convey in the work. I still enjoy digital photography – right now I use it more now for reference material and to record ideas that feed into the art – but I have some ideas that will involve it more within my process. I also have ambition to include video within some of my work and there is potential to collaborate with my husband (he’s a 3D animator) on some joint projects.
“Neural Entanglement” – Mixed Media
What does your work aim to say?
In essence: “I was here, and this is what I experienced. What do you see?” I like to leave room for the viewer to enjoy their own exploration of the work and to discover things in it that I may not have seen. For me, the act of making art feels like eavesdropping on a conversation between the subconscious and conscious mind. There is an internal dialogue going on that I tap into when I make art. I enjoy exploring different themes and connections between things. This year I am focusing on coherence as an overarching theme.
“Erosion” Acrylic paint on canvas
Does your work comment in any way on current social or political issues?
I like to keep my work fairly light-hearted, entertaining and emotionally engaging. We live in an increasingly busy and stressful environment and I like the idea that someone can sit and look at a painting on their wall and experience in that moment something that sparks their imagination and is different from everything else in their daily life.
“Song for Rita” Acrylic paint on plywood panel
Who are your biggest influences?
I admire the work of Wassily Kandinsky, Barbara Hepworth, Salvador Dali and Piet Mondrian and I was really inspired by a visit to the Takis exhibition at Tate Modern last year – kinetic art is an area that I want to explore further. I find inspiration in unlikely places. It all depends on what catches my eye and my imagination. I enjoy spending time by the sea, and it has a big influence on my work.
How do you navigate the art world?
Right now, I am building foundations and working to develop my practice, so I don’t feel that I have really been exposed to the art world in any significant way. In the last year I have started participating in several online art communities and this has been really great. To make connections with other artists, and to learn together, has been a good experience. I visit some of the London galleries from time to time and use the opportunity to practice my visual language interpretation skills.
How have you developed your career?
I’m currently building the foundations for my future art career and still working out exactly what shape it will take. I have some pretty big ambitions for my art, but right now I am taking things one step at a time.
How do you seek out opportunities?
Online research and through word of mouth via other artists within the online groups that I participate in.
How do you cultivate a collector base?
It’s early days for me at the moment, but I am in the process of building my online presence and I plan to exhibit two or three times a year at exhibitions and art fairs.
How do you price your work?
I use a linear calculation based on size, and factor in the direct costs of the materials used.
Which current art world trends are you following?
I’m interested in ways in which technology can be integrated with art to enhance the experience of the viewer and equip the artist with additional ways to expand their reach. I want to learn more about augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence and how it can be used in art making.
Do you know where you are heading career wise?
Right now, I’m exploring different themes and developing my art practice. Over the next few years I anticipate that my IT career is likely to wind down and that my art career will build.
Do you have any tips for young artists just starting out?
Practice as much as you can to improve your techniques, be true to yourself, build your confidence and never let others talk you out of what you know in your heart that you want to do because life goes by so quickly.
Where can people see your art, do you have any exhibitions coming up?
I just launched my website at https://www.gwynnepenny.com and had my first exhibition of paintings at Denbies Vineyard Gallery. I am active on Facebook and Instagram. I am planning to exhibit at Surrey Art Fair in September and open studios next year in Surrey and Cornwall.
Denbies Vineyard Gallery Exhibition
Do you have anything else you would like to convey to an audience?
I don’t think there has ever been a more exciting time to make art. There are so many opportunities to work with different materials and techniques, and new things emerging all the time. One thing that really excites me is the potential of collaborating with other artists to create art that can be experienced in different ways, both traditional and digital.
How can readers find out more about you e.g. FB IG Pinterest etc?