Acclaimed and ever-popular contemporary figurative and humourous artist, Joan Somerville is known for her larger than life (and it’s fair to note, often risqué) caricatures which she admits are drawn from everyday life experiences and interactions with Joe Public. In some cases Somerville originals can fetch five figure sums when sold and regularly hang from gallery space in London, New York and Singapore, as her appeal and reputation is universally acknowledged and admired. Somerville insists that one of the keys to her accumulative successes in the realm of a professional artist is based on the down to earthness of her signature compositions, and fervently believes that with so much doom and gloom in society (and every time we flick onto a news channel) it’s nice to find an illustrative balance and strive for graphical accord by focusing instead on a humourous painting.
We guess it’s the pictorial equivalent of watching Tom and Jerry after being scared witless by a horror movie. We could be wrong though. Either way Somerville tries to bring a collective smile to our faces with her paintings rather than produce something obscure that struggles to connect with the man/woman on the street. But it’s not just a case of interacting with her potential audience, as Somerville stresses the importance of being welcomed and accepted in notoriously aloof art work circles. Somerville adds; “The art world can be quite snobby, but I have been very lucky and haven't experienced that attitude towards my work at all”.
What makes Somerville’s talent and successes all the more remarkable are that she’s entirely self-taught, in spite of being afforded the Wonka-esque golden ticket of being invited to study as the prestigious Glasgow School of Art. Instead, Somerville chose to raise her own family, after which she followed an alternative career path which totalled over a decade’s service to local government. On the back of this, Somerville held down a number of different jobs, whilst continuing to hone and perfect her drawing and painting skills and attributes in her own time and away from the 9 – 5. Rewinding a little, Somerville’s prodigious artistic talents came to the fore as a pupil at Hillhead Primary School, before furthering this fledgling ability at Kirkintilloch High.
1996 was the pivotal year for Somerville and when her fortunes changed for the better; at least in terms of her long-dormant ambition to become a professional artist. After chancing her arm and brandishing her portfolio to the proprietors of the Aldessan Gallery in Clachan of Campsie, the suitably impressed recipients offered Somerville her own exhibition space, then and there. Her debut one. From here, Somerville’s artistic career took flight, and her work gained exposure further and wider, cementing a reputation for her quirky compositions in no time at all. Her slightly caricatured images have a human touch that brings a smile to the face of the viewer, that much is true, and her works defiantly underline her love of meeting and chatting to the passer-by; which goes a long way to explaining her gift for catching the right expression and for capturing the perfect moment.
Working out of her home studio situated on the outskirts of Glasgow, Somerville has found much fame in her professional art career thus far, including television and media coverage, which kicked off pretty much within that debut 12 months. In that period Somerville was selected as one of five major prize winners in the first competition which she entered – at The Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling, Scotland – where she adapted her work to interpret the story of William Wallace, with the theme going under the banner of, ‘Brave Art’. Somerville’s muscular warriors made a lasting impression, illustratively primed and ready for the battles that lay ahead, and now forms part of the museum’s permanent collection. Submissions in collaborative shows housed in other galleries in Glasgow and London soon followed, whilst Somerville was also signed up by greetings card designers, Tartan 2CV’ that from the very outset of their professional relationship saw nine of her images appearing on the front of cards which were distributed throughout the UK.
Somerville cites Jack Vettriano as an inspiration and her aim is to ultimately reach similar levels of success through her creativity. Commenting on art, Somerville says, "I genuinely love life and live life very much for the day and the moment”.