Interview with British artist Gill Smith -- the goal of all art is to inspire - as to inspire is to change things

"If the blues touches your heart it gives you a great sense of empowerment and that no matter where life takes you there is always hope, it is a great comfort to me."

Gill Smith: A Labour of Blues Love

Gill Smith has been drawing and painting from childhood. From an artistic and musical family she felt it came naturally and as with all natural abilities, fine tuning and education helped her sculpt her gift. For her years after college, family life and being a mother took priority and it’s only in recent years has she been able to commit her time and energy to her art. In 2014 she committed herself to a solo exhibition, inspired by nature and the moment. This required a massive 40 paintings minimum, a huge amount of work. It was the first chance in a long time to paint the inspired pieces she had longed to for many years. Gill had been asked to paint a portrait of Charley Patton, by her friend and Blues Historian Max Haymes, this started a whole collection of blues portraits that would be included in upcoming exhibition , a series of paintings she named 'a labour of love'.

From start to finish the blues collection only took Gill a few months to paint, she said, "They just fell on the canvas, as though they were just waiting to be painted, so exciting to do! I wanted to show how music that had been with me from a teenager, still feels as fresh, new and has never aged or got lost in time. I combined that thought with my love for urban art, which is the newspaper of the street, the most current and of the moment, then painted the women and men of the blues that changed my life." Gill believes it is more important to have work seen or heard, than sold, because she believes that the goal of all art is to inspire - as to inspire is to change things. She hope sincerely that these works will inspire you, enjoy!

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues culture and music?

If the blues touches your heart it gives you a great sense of empowerment and that no matter where life takes you there is always hope, it is a great comfort to me.

What does the blues mean to you?

A sense of connection with myself mainly, almost like it was there just for me.

How do you describe and what characterize Gill Smith’s artwork and philosophy?

Since I have had the time to rediscover my art, it has become an uncompromising channel for my inspiration. I can express my conclusions on all the things that matter to me via my work without inhibition, I mostly paint on canvas using acrylics which is very versatile and suits me. I love to paint figure, the human form shows emotion in many ways and helps me to convey my message.

"I really love the purity and originality of the music of the past, I do love all music though." (Muddy Waters / Artwork  © by Gill Smith)

Why did you think that the Blues personalities continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because these characters have delivered such timeless sentiments within their music with such honesty, it can’t really be replicated with any success, may as well stick with the real thing.

Which is the most vivid memory from your inspiration to make a painting?

Recently I painted a picture called 'Everything Returns to the Mother' which took about 40 hrs, I really struggled putting it down at the end of the day -just didn’t want to stop. It comes from the thought of a never ending regeneration of life in nature, it was intense to paint.

Which memory makes you smile?

I was having my first solo exhibition , whilst painting 'Everything Returns..' and as important as that was my mind was back at home waiting to continue  my work !! haha

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past?

I really love the purity and originality of the music of the past, I do love all music though.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I have all faith in the evolution of all things, just hope I remain as open minded as I am today so I can enjoy it when it arrives.

Little Walker / Artwork  © by Gill Smith

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Elitism - the same as with the art world, I don’t think we get to hear or see a fraction of what is out there, I know it won’t change any time soon, but it would be nice.

What are some of the most memorable drawing you've had?

Painting my parents portraits is very memorable, it was so challenging (being faces I knew so well!) it changed the way I paint, in a good way, it made me more observant if that makes sense.

What music you hear when you are on progress?

I don’t listen to music when I paint. Music transmutes my emotions in seconds, and I become over-stimulated and unfocused, I generally listen to a story , or have a movie on in the background .

Which incident of music history you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

I would like to paint (even if it is fictional) Robert Johnson and the Devil on the crossroads … I think I will, soon!

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from your artworks?

My Daughter's portrait as the May queen in a hawthorn crown, looking like an angel. Everyone who has seen is touched by it. What they don’t know is I had to bribe her to pose for me, she was a real tom boy, not very angelic at all! Always makes me giggle when I look at it. What touches me the most in regards to my work is when someone contacts me to tell me they have been moved or inspired by something I have created, it justifies all the difficult moments a painter could have.

What would you like to ask Etta James?

I would ask Etta, what would be the one piece of advice you would give to a Girl entering a career in the music industry today, knowing what she must have overcome in her early life. What an amazing woman!

 Robert Johnson / Artwork  © by Gill Smith

Robert Johnson was ghost or human?

hahaha! Mr. Johnson changed my life, he will always be alive and his portrait will always hang in my house…

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Probably, yes, it would have to be Woodstock, maybe we will have V.R. for that trip one day...!!

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