Antiguan artist Gilly Gobinet grew up in England, where she was born. Although wanting to go to art school, her mother advised her to get a “proper” career, as the ability to paint would never leave her. Thus Gilly gained a BSc Hons. Degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Sussex, after which she worked on the editorial side in a veterinary laboratory, as a ghostwriter for a professor of epidemiology & social medicine in a London teaching hospital, and finally as an international civil servant in Strasbourg, France, in the fields of nature conservation and public health.
A happy coincidence found her on vacation in Antigua where her husband was offered a job. Delighted with the prospect of a challenge rather than enduring bureaucracy, she dropped everything and moved there in 1984, seizing the opportunity of fulfilling her childhood dream of painting full time.
Whilst bringing up her three young children, she slowly developed her painting techniques, mainly in watercolor and acrylic. Her subjects reflect the beauty and charm of the enchanted island of Antigua and to this day, inspiration is never lacking. Many of her subjects are of Caribbean flora and fauna and marine art, although painting nudes, preferably from life, continues to be a particular pleasure. In addition to the vibrant colors in her tropical art, Gilly uses a palette of more mellow tones in some of her paintings, reflecting her European origins.
She is happiest when painting and ever joyful when others take equal pleasure in her art. She has given various shows around the Caribbean and in Venezuela and exhibits in galleries on different islands. At present, she runs her own Art Gallery in her delightful secluded waterfront residence in leafy Fitches Creek, on the east coast Antigua (10 minutes from the airport). If visitors do not find what they want, Gilly is always willing to accept commissions
Gilly also specializes in pet portraits, particularly dogs & cats, working from high res photos supplied by the owners.
Hi Gilly! You wanted to pursue art since you were a child, but was advised by your mother to get a “proper” career. When you look back, do you think that if you’ve decided to do art right from the beginning, you would’ve lost or gained something in your artistic expression?
Gilly: I don’t think I would gave gained anything – on the contrary – I was a late developer and maturity took a long time coming (if indeed it has come at all!). As my Mother said, if I could draw, then that talent would never leave me – and she was right, it hasn’t…
Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.
Gilly: I started taking art seriously when I discovered yes, I COULD still draw, and began using pen and ink, which suited my nature very well (at school my worst fault was apparently too much detail – a trait I have struggled with ever since). Living in the Caribbean, it was suggested that as I was surrounded by color, maybe I should use this in my art, so I tried watercolor – OMG so difficult and the initial efforts were disastrous. I also started using acrylics which was easier in that mistakes were easier to correct, but it took me a long time to get a real feel for both mediums as I was bringing up a young family.
I have developed a number of styles over the years which I used to think was a disadvantage as most artists are recognized by one individual style – but I enjoy them all, depending on the subject and my mood, and now tend to include signature “drips” in many of my paintings.
What is the message you are trying to give with your art?
Gilly: I try and incorporate joy, happiness, and serenity into all my paintings so that they feel really good to live with as well as embellishing a home, irrespective of the colors I use. These tend to be bright because of where I live, but I also use a more muted palette for clients in colder climates – or upon request – whilst retaining the concepts of peace and well-being.
Could you walk us through your process? How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork? If you do, what are you trying to solve at each stage of it?
Gilly: Ideas come from all and every source and I tend to start sketching straight on to the paper or canvas and let the composition take its own course. This might take several attempts before painting actually starts as I have to “feel” that the composition “works”, especially as making changes in watercolor is very difficult but more forgiving with acrylic.
How much is your art is the reflection of your European origins?
Gilly: Very little, if any: I have lived in the Caribbean since 1984. However, my degree in Biological Sciences precipitated my interest in nature and I get much of my inspiration from that (I have to also know how an animal or plant is constructed) – and having grown up with animals all my life (I cannot live without dogs!), I love painting their portraits.
What are you currently working on?
Gilly: Large floral watercolors and acrylics on canvas using my “lines, shapes & flat color” style.
How has your style changed or evolved over the years?
Gilly: I am glad to say that my watercolors have loosened up a lot and my acrylics too. Overcoming fear has always been a challenge as has artists block. And I am now exploring further the “lines & shapes” style, which I first started aged 12.
Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you right now, and why?
Gilly: Many artists inspire me – particularly abstract painters, as I am perfectly aware of how difficult abstract art really is. However, I also try not to let their styles actually influence me too much as I really want to create my own.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Gilly: That a client just can’t live without a particular painting or that a commissioned piece is far better than was ever expected – or that a painting IS as joyful and serene as I set out for it to be – or that they love so much what have had from me already and want some more!.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Gilly: Instagram would seem to me to be the best way at the moment. Because of the Covid19 situation, I currently have no visitors to my Art Gallery and cannot supply printed artwork to gift shops – our island depends on tourism. I am therefore reaching out to clients elsewhere than Antigua who would like to own something I have already painted or prefer to commission me to do something special (I work a lot from photos, particularly dog portraits) – shipping via my FedEx account is no problem. I also have a website that gives an indication of the type of art I create and am available by email and WhatsApp for clients wishing to discuss painting.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about (or canceled due to the Covid-19 situation)?
What’s next on the horizon?
Gilly: Completing two dog portrait commissions and some others (in a particular size and special subjects – one is fish) in the “lines & shapes” style for a new apartment and continuing to explore my watercolors….and reaching new clients who share my own passion for my art and would like to live with one or more of my creations. I am happiest when painting and like to think that this enjoyment, excitement, and energy can also be experienced through my work. When a favorite piece is bought I am both happy it is going to a good home but also sad as I know it’s a unique piece and that I can never again emulate that exact painting. But maybe even better, so who knows?!
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