Having always found herself residing in photographing distance of farmsteads for most of her life, ever-popular contemporary animal artist, Carol Gillan was hopelessly destined to wile away her salad days creating the likenesses of all manner of farm animals. And then some. As Gillan doesn’t pack up her paints and easels once they cows have gone to be milked (or wandered off to circumnavigate the moon) or this little piggy and all the other little piggies have trotted off in the direction of the market. No. instead Gillan turn her creative attentions to capturing the essence of sheep, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses, ducks, donkeys and of course, giraffes. Any or all of which are depicted in what can best be described as a certain humourous light and shading.
This living close to farms malarkey for most of her natural means that Gillan habitually has a camera at hand when out walking, so as to photograph potentially inquisitive cows or dogs. And any other four-legged beasts normally encountered whilst out walking rurally. Gillan also makes it her (artistically-beneficial) business to pay regular visits to farmers and breeders with a view to maintaining a freshness to her crucial reference material. Understandably due to the very nature of Gillan’s (often unwilling) muses, she uses photographs extensively, along with sketches and notes to determine the individual character and unique personality of the animal in question. Or frame. Or canvas at that particular time. As Gillan concurs, this; “Allows her to achieve an informal, composed painting which is both a realistic likeness and a uniquely distinctive interpretation”.
Born in Lancashire in 1961, Gillan chose to study Fine Art on completion of her secondary schooling, and opted to do this not so locally, in Brighton. Situated on England’s south coast. Unlike Lancashire, which is located roughly 500 miles northerly. After graduating, Gillan began her career in the capacity of a freelance illustrator, and found herself routinely working on a diverse selection of projects. Eventually she settled on the idea of dedicating her time and creative efforts to pursuing a career as a full-time fine artist. Now based in Surrey, Gillan devotes her every hour to originating her now signature dramatic and overtly humourous animal and domestic pet portraits, which have gone down a storm since she first started playing with the concept/genre. Speaking on this topic, Gillan comments; “It’s my aim to bring the viewer face to face with a living, breathing animal, to make you smile as co-conspirators, want to ruffle their hair, laugh or take them home!”
Despite her work being unapologetically contemporary and very much ‘on trend’ in style, Gillan’s technique is grounded in a more classical influence. Resolutely working in oil on canvas, Gillan over-paints thin layers of oil, considerately and measuredly constructing the image to engender a greater translucency and overall luminosity to the finished composition. Only then is the animal subject matter introduced to the pictorial equation, having been cropped and set against this now solid backdrop of colour with the express intention of maximising its initial impact and guarantee that the spotlight falls unequivocally on the predominant creature feature as planned. Gillan plumps for oils as she confirms that these lend the idea accumulative volume to each image, thus enabling her to project this almost tangible texture to the animal’s coat, the shadows and overlays associated with its muscle tone and moreover, the soul, humour, gregariousness and personality which the much sought after artist believes is conveyed through the expression in its eyes.
Gillan lifted the first prize in one of the UK’s leading art publishing houses – DeMontford Fine Arts’ – ‘New Artist’ competition in 2006, which marked her arrival on the contemporary scene from an industry perspective, and from where she’s never looked back. Since then, Gillan’s work has been extensively showcased across Britain as well as throughout Europe, and during this period of reputation-building she’s fulfilled an increasing number of commissions for both individuals in the private sector as well as high profile corporations in the public domain.