Rhiannon Thomas – Artist interview

This week’s artist interview it with Rhiannon Thomas.

Firstly a little introduction from Rhiannon,

“After Art College and a degree in Egyptology, I completed a Masters in Archaeology and continued to work as a field archaeologist and archaeological illustrator before my love of a ‘freer’ style of painting led me to become a full time artist based on the edge of the Gower Peninsula.

I love working with large, vibrant,
coastal inspired pieces and I always try to generate memories, stories and feelings with each. Capturing the smell of fish and chips at the seaside, the salty seaweed and the sound of Herring Gulls overhead is really important to me. I like to think of my work as a
dream-like interpretation of some of the most influential places I have come across (whether real or fictional). By exaggerating natural colours and shapes I look to recreate the ‘feeling’ of the place I’m painting; I pull it apart, work with new shapes and lines and really get involved in the subject. It’s like putting the best bits of a memory together on canvas!

‘Real life’ has no place in my work, and it’s this approach that allows me to add to the paintings as I see fit,
throwing in details of particular significance. You’ll often find buoys, boats, smoking chimneys and rows of brightly coloured miners houses reoccurring in many of my pieces”.

Rhiannon Thomas - Waters Edge_768x768
‘waters edge’

     ·           Firstly how is the lockdown affecting your work?

As expected, lockdown initially had quite an impact on my work. There were commission cancellations and a general feeling of nervousness when it came to anyone spending money on art. But as time has progressed and we’ve all got used to the situation we’re in, I’ve had some wonderful work on and have found a lot of people are buying small pieces to send to family and friends. 

·         Where do you get most of your inspiration?

The ocean, the coast generally and British harbours. I’m a huge nature lover but standing next to the sea and watching the fishing boats go about their daily business is something that fills me with ideas and really gives me that creative buzz. There’s no feeling like it and I haven’t been able to replicate it anywhere else!

·         Do you prefer to work outside/in your studio/a mixture of both?

Definitely a mixture of both, it’s wonderful to work outside but I often have so much kit with me (including the kids), that it’s lovely to be able to sit in my studio and be surrounded with everything I need.. plus, coffee to hand! 

·         Do you have a favourite painting that you have done?

These tend to change depending on the season but I think my favourite to date is the ‘Cornish Charm’ piece. It’s only 8×20″ but it’s fresh and really reminiscent of summers in St Ives. It’s also quite simple, there’s few colours and a lot of open space but I think it’s that simplicity that really works!

‘Cornish charm’

·         Where/ or what  is your favourite place/subject  to paint?

Pembrokeshire. Without doubt. I’ve painted the cottages so many times and spend half of my life there with the family. North Pembrokeshire has got to be my favourite, away from the crowds a little. There’s always so much to draw inspiration from and so much room to breath! 

Rhiannon Thomas - Garn Fawr_768x768
‘Garn Fawr’

·         How do you find titles for your paintings, does the idea come before or after?

More often than not, I finish the piece first and then leave it for a few days where I can see it. The name often tends to present itself to me, but sometimes I get a name in my head that I can visualise as a painting and that’s great fun, because it feels like you’re already working on a finished idea. Even though the paint hasn’t even touched the canvas.

·         Who’s your favourite artist/artists?

I’m a huge fan of renaissance art. So I love the classics – Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, etc. But I also love Kyffin Williams, Ceri Richards, and modern artists like Andrew Bird, Ron Lawson and Janet Bell.

·         Which is the favourite piece of art by another Artist that you own?

My favourite is an original oil by Sue Mcdonagh who is just an incredible artist and friend. It’s a big piece that sits pride of place in my living room where everyone can see it! It reminds me of Mull and is full of rich reds (I colour I can’t usually get on with), but I saw it and had to buy it! 

·         Do you listen to music while you paint? If so what kind of music?

I listen to podcasts and all sorts of music while I paint. I’m a bit obsessed by folk music, but I like to listen to jazz, sea shantys or instrumental pieces. I’ve also been listening to a lot of tribal music of late. Anything goes when it comes to painting. It just has to fit my mood.

·         What could you not do without in your studio?

The big windows! There’s so much light in there, but because of that, it also feels like a greenhouse and heats up quite dramatically when the sun’s out! At least the paint dries quickly. 

·         What does your studio space look like?

My studio is currently a separated part of my house. It’s a temporary fix as we’re currently house hunting (for something with a lot more space!) Its next to the living room which allows me to pop my head around the corner and watch the kids. I’ve got my desk, easel, walls full of shelves which are filled with pots of paintbrushes and other things I probably don’t ever use. It’s currently filled with toys too, which the kids insist on brining into me to ‘make it more fun’! 

·         How do you feel your work has changed over the years?

I feel like I’ve got a lot more sense of the style I enjoy working in. It’s cleaned itself up a little from quite thick outlines and a huge range of colour, to much thinner outlines, often creating little areas that look like a painting within a painting. It’s a lovely transition and even though I can still see my original self in my recent work, it’s a refreshing evolution! 

From rhiannons’s sketchbook

·         Is there a particular time/place or movement you feel influenced you the most?

Nothing specific because my tastes are quite wide ranging and they tend to change depending on day, mood or where I’m painting. I enjoy gathering influence from a range of artists across the ages. But it’s also the unknown artists. I’ve recently been working on a piece with my children that incorporates ancient cave paintings (from my time as an archaeologist). Art tells a story, so in my books, anything is an influence. 

from Rhiannon’s sketchbook

·         What other work have you done apart from being an Artist?

Oh I’ve done lots of interesting things! I qualified as an Egyptologist, did a Master’s in Archaeology and worked in the field as an archaeological illustrator. Ive dug up some incredible things, but since I specialised in ancient burial, working on the burials we found was by far the best. I also used to work on a boat in Cardiff Bay where I was learning to be a boat captain and for a time worked as a Stand Up Paddle board instructor. 

·         What is the best thing about being an artist for you?

I can spend every single day putting the ideas in my head onto paper. I get to be inspired and have a route to express that inspiration. It’s therapeutic and it’s inspiring for my children. It also means I can be a parent full time to my little ones. I’ve mentored a few people in art and to see those you’ve worked with develop their passion is incredible. I wouldn’t change it for the world! 

·         Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

Since I was a little girl I always said I’d be an archaeologist and an artist. And that’s what I did! I combined the two for some time before moving away from field work and into the realms of full time art. I’m very lucky its something that I can get paid for too. 

·         What sort of painting are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on two paintings as I rarely have only one thing on the go. I have a number of commissions on, but I’m creating a big, bold floral piece, with summer flowers sat in a jug on a cottage windowsill. I’m also painting a piece inspired by Orkney which is about a meter long. 

from Rhiannon’s sketchbook

·          What is your favourite medium to work in and why?

For me, it’s acrylic! I’m actually allergic to oil paint, it gives me a tremendous headache just to smell it for a while. So to get that buttery texture, I tend to mix acrylics with a thickening gel. Same effect, but no smell! It’s a wonderful medium which is both forgiving and dramatic enough to make the statement you need, when you need it! 

To see more paintings by Rhiannon Thomas click here….