Gemma Rasdall, this will knot disappoint!
It is common knowledge that, where you were brought up remains an integral part of who you are and how you ground yourself for the rest of your life. In light of this, BYO Art introduces Gemma Rasdall, an artist and textile designer who uses her surroundings and childhood memories to drive her artworks and creative experience. Having grown up on the Northern Beaches and more specifically on one of Sydney’s largest bays, Pittwater, Gemma has become familiarised with life on the water and every gust that comes along with that.
“From the idyllic beauty of her home by the sea in Pittwater to her passion for travel and exploring the world, Gemma’s creative works are continuously inspired by her daily surroundings.”
Gemma uses unconventional materials and a strong illustrative style to recreate her unrestricted and unforeseeable journey ahead. By using materials such as recycled dacron sail cloth as a base for artworks, she presents her sailing moments on the most honest and relatable material for any sea dog. Her scenes of Pittwater showcase her understanding of every mooring, current and sailing vessel that has danced on her backyard. Gemma allows her audience to experience every knot tied onboard with her expressive paintings of racing and cruising on dinghies and yachts. Her observations whether showcasing the beauty of a storm on the bay or calm day, remain elegant and emotive. Her printmaking patterns and illustrations are abstract and minimalistic, differing in tone to her paintings of ocean scenes.
Gemma’s extensive knowledge and understanding of materials and techniques allows her to create in any form or medium with ease and success. Gemma has extended her artmaking to a wider audience as her printmaking and illustrations are utilised for various textiles, wallpaper and layout designs.
“With future dreams of following a career path that combines her love of art with her passion for textiles and printmaking, Gemma is looking to submerge herself within the industry in order to push the boundaries of her education and inform, inspire and further develop her creative practice. “
After having studied printmaking and illustration abroad in Hamburg, Germany on a student exchange in her third year of university, Gemma propelled into 2014 ready to start creating and experimenting with her experiences of travelling around the world to give her fresh ideas and inspiration. Now Gemma is in her fourth year of university, studying a Bachelor of Design at the College of Fine Arts. Having completed a range of commissioned pieces, Gemma can confidently continue to create and exhibit her beautiful pieces of her life on Pittwater with her impressed following.
Read our interview with Gemma Rasdall to gain a deeper insight into her world!
Stylistically, what has influenced you?
Artists such as Peter Kingston and Kerrie Lester continue to inspire my art, while textile designers such as Sally Campbell and Cloth Fabrics influence my aesthetic approach to textiles and printmaking. In terms of my illustration work, I use it more as a creative release, carrying a sketchbook with me all the time. The results are influenced directly by what I am thinking or feeling at a particular time, in a particular place.
What mediums do you like to experiment with and why?
In my art making practice I love playing with acrylic paint and water on old Dacron sail cloth. The weathered sail reacts to paint so differently to paper or canvas, especially when water comes into play. I apply water with a spray bottle and experiment with letting colours run and overlap one another, mixing on the artwork to create something new and unpredictable. I also love to work with charcoal because of it's forgiving qualities, allowing me to smudge, rub back into and alter the line work many times.
Whereas with my illustrations I work strictly with pencil and art line pen, sporadically bringing in colour with water colour pencils or digitally in Photoshop where necessary.
For printmaking I use fabric paint on a range of surface, each giving a slightly different look. A few favourites are cotton, linen, nylon ripstop spinnaker cloth and Dacron sailcloth.
(here you can see where my practices sometimes overlap aesthetically)
How have you presented and marketed your art to attract a following?
My very first step out into the creative world was a group exhibition for emerging artists called Artzpace that I applied for and was accepted into in 2012. During the organisation of this exhibition I was taught basic marketing techniques and developed my own business cards, bookmarks and blog.
From the success of this exhibition, Beachwood Designs in Avalon invited me to sell my work from their shop which has over the years proved to be an invaluable source when it came to gathering a following, leading to many sales and commissions.
In 2013 I participated in my second group exhibition, Artspot, leading to further connections within the art world and an increasing group of followers.
Now in 2014 I have made my own website (www.gemmarasdall.com), Facebook page (Gemma Rasdall Art) and Instagram account (@gemmarasdall) where I keep my followers updated with my current work and from time to time am lucky enough to make a sale or gain a commission.
I still also continue to exhibit work regularly at Beachwood and am very grateful of Poppy Roxburgh and her team who have supported my art journey for the past 3 years.
Do you have any reoccurring concepts or themes in your pieces?
In my artworks the concept of boats and journeys continuously come into play. To work on this theme seemed inevitable for me with my upbringing in Pittwater, sailing on the family boat every other weekend and racing dinghies out of Avalon Sailing Club and then later on Match-racing from RPAYC.
I draw connections between boats and myself; both embarking on journeys into a wide and ambiguous sea, affected by unpredictable elements that determine our destination or outcome. Such as the wind or tide when it comes to sailing or opportunities like travel or relationships as well as setbacks such as health in terms of my own life.
In my illustration and textiles work I tend to move away from the idea of boats but continue on with the theme of journeys. At 21, the idea of journeys is almost an obsession as I am constantly trying to work out who I am, not only as an artist and a designer, but as an individual. I find creative expression is the perfect way to document and experiment with journeys that I have experienced or wish to embark on.
Where has your art knowledge stemmed from?
With an artist for a mother, I was brought up drawing, painting and creating from a very young age. She instilled in me the love and passion for creative expression that I have today and continually inspires, encourages and supports me in every way possible. I feel extremely lucky to have this support base, because without it I would definitely not be where I am today.
Have you done any collaborative pieces?
In terms of actual artwork I haven't created any in collaboration with others, but love the idea of working in collaborative spaces. For example in the group exhibitions which I have participated in or group studio environments are great in terms of being inspired by other artist's work and gaining feedback on your own work.
Describe your art making process, from the initial idea to final product.
In terms of my art making I begin with searching for ideas and inspiration. This is usually done by jumping in a boat with my camera during a Pittwater twilight race or making my way around the coastline, on wharves or beaches documenting Pittwater from different perspectives, at different times of day and in different weather conditions. From here, back in the studio I cut a piece of sail cloth from my collection of old sails to a desired size and draw up a composition with willow charcoal I am happy with. Using a wide brush. I will then undercoat the work following my basic outlines. Then it's a matter of continuous layering of paint. Because I use a lot of water in my works it means I need to allow time for layers to dry before working on top of them, so I'm always working on at least 3-4 works at the same time.
On top of the abstract layering, I use charcoal and credit cards dipped in paint to create definite forms such as boats, wharves and horizon lines. On the rare occasion I'm in the right headspace I can knock out a painting in a couple of days, but most of the time a work takes between 1-2 months of playing and problem solving with colour and composition before I get a result I am happy with. This is why I prefer to work on multiple pieces at the same time.
In terms of my illustration work I am inspired by a thought or feeling that then sparks an idea. I will then research further into existing works or concepts that have used this idea and document my findings in my sketchbook. This book will then be my source of inspiration as I begin to draw. I begin mapping out in pencil, but then eventually this will safety net will fade away as I gain confidence, i get lost in the creative flow with my art line pen.
Upon completion some drawings are scanned into the computer and edited in Photoshop. I love how Photoshop allows me to play so freely with endless number of ways I wish to present the final result. Once I'm happy with the final look, either as a placement or repeat print, the design is then exposed onto a silk screen and printed onto fabric, paper or anything really. The technique of screen printing gives you a lot if freedom in the ability to print endless copies of the same design in many different ways. Sometimes these prints will stay as singular works or other times I will turn then into textile pieces such as a quilt etc.
Are there any changes and improvements you would like to see to the Sydney art scene?
Not in particular, there are plentiful opportunities for exhibitions and art shows as well as are large supply of galleries for continuous inspiration.
What challenges have you faced as an emerging contemporary artist?
Finances have been a bit of a challenge. It's hard to know how much to invest in creating work when there is no guarantee of financial return. But I guess this is the problem for any new business and is something I have begun to learn along the way.
What direction do you see your art taking in the future?
Upon finishing my Bachelor of Design at the end of this year I hope to undertake an internship over the summer within the textile design industry in order to learn as much as possible about turning my love for art and design into a career. In conjunction to this I aim to start selling work at market stalls and continue to participate in group art exhibitions whenever I can.
For more on Gemma Rasdall and her amazing artworks please visit her website: gemmarasdall.com
By Lucy Murray