March 17 - 23, 2013: Issue 102

 Gemma Rasdall

Meeting Gemma Rasdall is coming into contact with a human lightening bolt. A young and evolving artist, this young lady already has a clear vision for her works that points back to a lifetime of sailing and refining how this and living on the estuary has played so large a part in her life as represented through her works. Gemma’s energy, enthusiasm and ‘seize the day’ attitude is a blast of pure fresh air. This 20 year old dynamo, a part of a family that has and continues to contribute so much to Pittwater quietly, letting their work and its results speak for itself, and to whom she attributes so much of her own creative deftness, is also a really lovely girl. Bright eyed, smiling, already selling numerous works to those who appreciate her art, this week we share a small insight into one of our upcoming artists.

How old were you when you did your first art work and what did you do?

About 2 or 3 from memory, mum had us drawing from the get go. Growing up in my family had a huge focus on art; I suppose that comes with the territory of having an artist for a mother. I think the first picture I ever drew was of my dad, every year my sisters and I used to hand draw his birthday cards.  

Who were your main influences on your earlier art works?

The shaping my artistic practice began when I was in High School for my Visual Art Major Work. I responded to artists who experimented with colour and unusual painterly styles such as Kerrie Lester, John Firth-Smith and Peter Kingston. 

What was the subject matter of this major work?

My subject matter was a no-brainer; I remember mum telling me to choose to focus on something I was most passionate about and if I made the right decision, this passion would be reflected in my work. So for me, as a Pittwater based sailor, boats were an obvious choice. That body of work (entitled “Drift”) led into my first collaborative exhibition and after receiving a positive feedback I decided that I had found my niche, and have stuck with boats ever since. 

You have always been around the water, you’ve grown up on boats. Is that the main focus for your work?

Yes. I’ve grown up on and around boats my whole life and in turn developed a love for sailing. I started off learning to sail at Avalon Sailing Club when I was 7 years old, sailing for leisure and then later on at a competitive level in a range of different classes of boats. At 17 I moved clubs to RPA (Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club) to become part of the Youth Development Match Racing Squad. That was so much fun and I loved it because it was so team focused compared to the dinghy racing where you only have one or two people in your boat. In Match Racing every member of the team has specific roles and working together with a strong focus on communication is essential, I love how its not only physically demanding, but mentally as well. Unfortunately I am no longer sailing on a regular basis at the moment as I have so much going on but sailing is always going to be a part of my life so I know I’ll back to it eventually.   

You work in other mediums?
I combine charcoal with painting and ink.  My works are multilayered with a combination of different mediums. 
You also choose to paint on old sails, why is that?
I love the texture of them. Obviously it’s very different from canvas or paper. It absorbs the paint very differently so you get an unusual result. It also links to the boating culture and is an excellent way to recycle sails that would otherwise end up in landfill. 

This is beautiful…and down at Paradise beach?
Yes, I run there most mornings, the beautiful scenery makes getting up early totally worth it. 

You have a very disciplined life…
Yes, very, I’m a pretty driven person, which is not always a good thing, as I’ve been known to take it too far and exhaust myself in the past. But I find it hard to take a step back when I have so many things I want to accomplish. 

Do you take an afternoon or a few hours off sometimes and curl up in front of a movie?
Rarely. I actually need to do more of that. I think I’m too disciplined. Mum is always reminding me I have to chill out and relax, something I find quite hard to do.

The ‘Sailors Sense’, your current body of work; what is that about?
I have a strong connection with the weather. It always has a strong influence on my emotions, which would be because I spend a lot of time around the water. With sailing especially the weather plays a huge role in how you prepare for each race and how your results end up. That has stuck with me now, I have developed a feeling for the wind, I can sense when a storm is rolling in, I watch for them in the clouds and can smell them in the breeze. There are twenty works in this series and these were shown in the recent ArtSpot exhibition where I was lucky enough to sell half. 

Was this your first big exhibition?
No, I also did the one the year before in Avalon called Artzpace and did reasonably well so they asked me back for the next one. 

Do you think that has helped or empowered your painting as all art seems to have a component which is part instinct or listening to your instincts?
Yes, exactly. I find that certain weather patterns ignite my artistic drive, especially storms. 

I think you have a lightening bolt personality and just channel it in; it’s energy meeting energy.
Yes I do, but I’m yet to fully understand exactly what that means to me.
Your currently at University at the College of Fine Arts (COFA); where is that?
That’s in Paddington. It’s part of the University of NSW, COFA is their school of art, design and media. It’s a four-year course.

What do you hope to do once you have your degree?
I’m not quite sure yet. My degree is very broad. I’m majoring in Graphics and Textiles, which is quite different from my painting. I like having the painting on the side so it doesn’t become like a job or a chore. That way I can make sure I continue to enjoy the creative process of my art making, something I don’t think would be possible if I was revolving my career around it. 

Yes. I do a lot of print making onto fabric that I thoroughly enjoy. I also love to draw and do so a lot within the Graphics major of my degree and then print these designs onto fabric in my Textiles classes. The two design practices compliment each other beautifully, allowing me to design and create my own fabrics. I think this may be the industry I’ll go into when I finish studying. I love printmaking. 

You mentioned you want to go to Germany as an exchange student to learn more about Graphic Design and study there. Where in Germany is this?
It’s in Hamburg and I just got accepted a couple of weeks ago. I’m going at the end of June which I'm very excited about. The university I’ll be going to is the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. It has a really good reputation for its Graphics teaching and this was the main appeal. I’m majoring in Graphic Design there and I picked up a couple of different electives such as Book Illustration and Print Making. I’ll be living on campus in the College and am lucky that a couple of my friends from Uni got into the same place so I’ll have some support close by. 

How long will you be there?
I’ll be studying for six months and I’m going to travel for a few months as well so I’ll be gone for 8 months in total.

Of all the paintings you’ve done so far what are your two favourites?
One of my favourites is called ‘Tranquil Taylor’s’ and is an artwork of Taylor’s Point Wharf, which is not only where I live, but also, in my belief, one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s positioning means it is entirely sheltered from the south, so it’s an idyllic place to watch the storm roll in above you. I love to sit out there with my camera and document the way the weather totally transforms Pittwater. The image I worked off for this painting was taken in a ‘calm before the storm’. A sense of complete tranquillity, stillness and silence had consumed the ocean and me along with it, so I raced straight home in hope of translating this feeling with paint onto sailcloth. I was in a really good, I guess it’s termed ‘creative state of mind’, and whipped it out in a couple of hours. That rarely happens to me, its hard to get on that kind of roll, normally I spends hours across a number of weeks trying to finish one work. 

Has that one sold?
Yes, I was quite upset about that one going, I find myself getting quite emotionally attached to some of my works. Another favourite of mine I’m lucky enough to still have at home, it is called ‘Nautical Shadows’, which was part of my high school major work. When I first finished school I wanted to sell it as I had quite a few interested buyers but mum wouldn’t let me. So in the end she bought off me so she could keep it in the house, which I’m very glad about now. That again was a really spontaneous work where I wasn’t thinking too much about what I was doing when I created it. When I’m not focused or stressed about trying to produce work and am just experimenting, the best artworks are always created.

Nautical Shadows by Gemma Rasdall

If you could be another creature for a day, furred, feathered or finned, what would you be?
I really like ducks. I’m not sure why, probably because they have a particularly cute appeal and always look to be completely content with a life spent frolicking about in the water. 

They’re also a waterbird which can be in the water, under the water, on the water, fly and also be on land.
Yes, they definitely have best of both worlds.

What is your favourite place in Pittwater and why?
Taylor’s Point would probably be one of my favourite spots and Avalon Sailing Club also holds a soft spot in my heart because I’ve grown up there. My whole family has grown up there; I spent every Sunday there throughout my childhood, learning to sail and forming lifelong friendships so it will always remain a special place to me. 

What is your motto for life or a favourite phrase you try to live by?
There’s a quote by Vincent van Gogh that I love that is something like; We know the seas are rough and the storm is wild, but that has never been sufficient reason for remaining ashore. I see in that, sure, life is full of scary and unpredictable circumstances but that’s no excuse for not giving it a go. I believe in throwing yourself headfirst into the deep end, sink or swim, either way you learn something from the experience and come out of it better off than when you jumped in.  For example, the ideal of studying overseas for a long period of time is daunting, but its something I have to do; I have to experience it. I love to push myself; I love the thrill, the fear and the adrenaline rush of pushing the boundaries. It’s in situations like this where you surprise yourself by exceeding your expectations and achieving great things. 

Gemma's works are on display and for sale at the Quarterdeck Brasseries, RMYC - Broken Bay, will be exhibiting in the 9th Annual Marine Art Exhibition at the Royal Motor Yacht Club - Broken Bay, June  6-16th, 2013 or can be contacted as listed below:

Copyright Gemma Rasdall, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Taylor's Point Wharf, 2013. Picture by A J Guesdon. 

Avalon Sailing Club, 2013. Picture by A J Guesdon.