cambridge contemporary art

Gael Sellwood

Meet the artist - Gael Sellwood

Meet the artist, Paintingcambridge contemporary artComment

We are pleased to introduce you to Gael Sellwood. Gael has created a series of paintings for our current Spring exhibition.

We discovered Gael's work at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens, Gael is a RHS gold medal winning botanical and natural history artist who creates highly detailed work. She captures the beautiful but often ephemeral natural objects around us. To find out more about Gael and her paintings, we asked her a few questions:


How do you go about starting a new painting?

I am largely colour and texture driven.  By this I mean that the subject – whether a flower, insect, shell or feather - feels right and seems to speak to me until I take it into the studio to start work on it.  I usually have an idea of how a finished piece will look.  I also develop a feel for the layout as I want to recreate a place or a season on the paper simply with the natural objects I find around.

Gael at her desk

Sign of the Times September 

How did you get started with your art career?

I loved biology and art at school.  I especially loved going on a nature walk and gathering small natural objects, plants and flowers and bringing them back to place on the nature table.  We were encouraged to look at the textures and colours and I always felt a connection with the objects.  After leaving school I did an evening class in botanical drawing at Capel Manor College.  It created similar feelings for me to those evoked by the nature table.  I was hooked. To start with I worked part time as a painter whilst having a full time day job.  Over the past few years painting (and some teaching of the subject) has been my main occupation.


What is your preferred medium to use?

I LOVE watercolour; especially wet into wet.  I love the slightly uncontrolled aspect of watercolour and how you cannot quite predict the result you will get.  I have been using watercolour for years now, having used oils and pastels at school.  Recently I have been using very strongly pigmented paints and also natural mineral paints, just mixed with glycerin and gum arabic.  These contribute to the resulting colours and textures on paper.


What are you currently inspired by?

Colour and texture.  Oh and the seasons.  I love the idea that you can take the viewer to a hedgerow with some primroses and pussy willow, or to a bed in the garden, perhaps tended by a much loved older relative just with a full blown rose on paper.  I am also slightly pre-occupied by the thought of plants that we just cannot manage without.  This is an idea that is just beginning to take shape in my mind.  I will see where it leads but no doubt it will go somewhere.

My Heart Rests in the Garden

Enduring love

My Heart's Beside the Sea

Which other artists do you admire?

I love the clever sparseness of printmaking, especially the work of Angie Lewin and Angela Harding.  My most revered painter is Rory McEwen.  I also admire the work of Albrecht Durer, especially his great piece of turf.  I love the rich colours and patterns of Gustav Klimt


Could you describe a typical working day?

When in my studio I start by lighting the woodburner and tuning in the radio or getting an audio book ready.  I then wander round our 3½ acre conservation garden, wood and paddock for inspiration and ideas.  The weather, the light and what I find all play a part in deciding what to do. I then go back into the studio and start with a light line drawing.  Colour and form come next, usually working wet into wet. While topping up the woodburner and listening to the radio or a book, I become engrossed in my work.  The studio has no computer or telephone so I can work for several hours without interruption.  I usually have lots of short breaks though just to keep the work fresh and to make sure my neck doesn't get too stiff.


How do you see your work evolving in the future?

Even when I am not in the studio I am thinking about painting.  I may be driving and the wayside plants make me think about compositions or other ideas.  Cuttings from magazines might show combined colours that I think will work well on the paper.  I am interested in developing some work that combines contrasting textures, shapes and colours.  At the moment I am luxuriating in thinking about them. The planning work will take shape this Spring, in between exhibiting and running a few workshops.


Art for the Heart exhibition

cambridge contemporary artComment

Whether you are looking for some beautiful handmade gifts to spoil your loved ones this February or just for a heartwarming break from winter, our gallery is the place to be!

  cambridge contemporary art will make your heart beat faster with vivid drypoints of hearts and lovebirds by Richard Spare and delicate butterfly collages by Joseph Silcott. We are sure you will also fall in love with the work of two newcomers to our gallery: Gael Sellwood’s beautiful botanical watercolours and Mani Parkes’ charming Valentine-themed acrylic paintings. Or perhaps you have your heart set on Helen Martino’s elegant ceramic sculptures, Gwili’s colourful heart-decorated pottery, or Timea Sido’s distinctive tangled ceramics. McNeill’s glassware with abstract heart motifs make a lovely Valentine’s gift too, as do Helen Russell’s cute sculptures of clay and wood.

To be one of the first to see all the wonderful new work arriving every day at the gallery, see our facebook page and twitter page