I have only recently been acquainted with Chloe Gillespie‘s artwork but after skimming (read: stalking) through her website, my excitement to meet her and purchase some of her artwork is very (very) high on my list of things to buy at the upcoming October edition of the Gathered Design Market!
The level of detail and intricacy that goes into Chloe’s work is admirable and inspiring – not that I am an artist in the slightest sense, but going through her work almost makes me wish I had a bone of artistic skill in my body to even attempt drawing a fraction of a masterpiece as Chloe does – and so gosh damn well!
With the upcoming Gathered Design Market in October, I had a Q&A with Chloe about her anticipations around participating in the market as a stall holder – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Chloe?
Chloe: I am a 20-year-old emerging artist based in the Adelaide Hills. I work part-time and run my art business on the side, although I would love to continue to follow my passion and turn it into a full-time business one day. I love to celebrate the unique personalities of animals by drawing them in the form of realistic, black and white portraits using graphite pencil. I have always felt a deep connection with our beautiful, natural environment, animals in particular. From an early age, I could regularly be found outside wearing nothing but gumboots and undies, carrying one of our pet chooks under my arm, as I wandered around on our property. My childhood is where my respect and passion for nature began. My heart is always drawn to animals, who are indifferent to their appearance, whether they are covered in dreads or bindis or while eating bugs, I derive an immense sense of contentment capturing the fleeting and joyful moments when they’re not shy to show off their unique personalities. My favourite part of the creative process is giving each little guy or gal a funky name that matches their personality.
Tema: What made you decide on starting up your own business?
Chloe: Since I was about 10 years old, I’ve always dreamed of starting up my own business, whether it was selling tomatoes from the garden out the front of our house or sewing cushions to sell. It wasn’t until the end of Year 12 Art when I realised that I had found my passion, which was drawing detailed black and white portraits of animals. I decided that seeing I had just finished school, I had plenty of time to start up my own business doing what a loved – drawing.
Tema: What do you think makes your style of art unique?
Chloe: I think the combination of intense detail in a black and white form really contrasts with the care-free natured personalities and names that I give to each animal. This is what makes my style of art unique, the fact that the animals are personified and given a fun, artistic vibe to them.
Tema: What is a ‘quintessentially Chloe Gillespie’ piece?
Chloe: Horatio the laughing horse would have to be the most quintessential piece of them all. His playful personality is definitely shown through his expression, which is exactly what I love capturing within my drawings. I love that it gets onlookers smiling too and more involved with the artwork, as they then wonder what on earth Horatio is laughing about.
Tema: How would you describe your style of art to someone who is new to your work?
Chloe: I would describe my style of art as realistic, black and white animal portraits drawn with graphite pencil. I would say that most of the personality is seen through the eyes of the animal, much like the saying, “the eyes are the window to the soul”. The majority of the animals drawn are common farm animals. However, there are a few exotic creatures that are drawn with immense fine detail to create the realistic appearance and visual texture. Because of this, I would also describe my work as visually textural. I have many people come up to my work and put their hand up to it, explaining they could almost touch it because it looks so real.
Tema: What styles of art do you primarily specialize in?
Chloe: I choose to specialise in one style of art, as I have found after much experimentation with other mediums, such as water colour, coloured pencil and acrylic, that I enjoy this one the most. It is using pure graphite pencil on 100% archival grade cotton paper to draw realistic portraits of animals. I choose to use graphite pencil, as I feel it enhances and allows the detailing and animals personality to become the focal points of the work, without the distraction of colour. This medium enables the flexibility to produce a wide variety of textures and contrast needed to produce the realistic appearance.
Tema: Do you do custom designs in addition to your standard pieces? If so, would you like to share any customs with us – particularly those that pushed your creativity to the limit (in a good sense, of course)?
Chloe: Yes, I do custom pieces / commissions for people. I worked on a custom drawing of a beautiful black and white dog for a lovely lady. It was an exciting process to see her beloved dog come to life on the paper and to see her love the finished product was amazing…and relieving! If anything, it was a good challenge for me and enabled me to learn some new textural drawing skills when it came to drawing the fur, as I had never really experimented with drawing dogs. I love creating customs pieces, because it’s not only rewarding to see the final product a success, but also the reactions of the customers and knowing you’ve made someone’s day with your work – that’s priceless!
Tema: How long have you been in business for? How have you found the journey so far?
Chloe: The business was started a year ago this August, so it is still relatively new. I have loved the journey so far – there have definitely been highs and lows, while trying to figure out pricing and target audience, but overall, it has been an amazing experience! I have gained so much knowledge in a range of areas – whether it be from different forms of eco-friendly packaging and their different compositions, to professional printing and how the print’s appearance can change depending on which side of the paper it is printed on, to the endless array of drawing techniques and what types of animals they are best used for. This business journey has definitely enabled me to branch out and network with many amazing creatives and suppliers for items such as printing, packaging and equipment. Their professional knowledge has helped guide me to create a professional business and to ensure that customers are receiving only the best quality. For example, when it comes to printing, we chose to use 100% cotton, acid-free, fine art paper, so that the print is kept in mint condition for the remainder of its life. The journey has also given me amazing opportunities to showcase my work through group exhibitions in Victoria and be part of a big art and design show in the heart of Melbourne, which I would have only dreamed about doing before this.
Tema: How did you hone your skills around creating your art – was it something that you undertook formal training for or are you self-taught?
Chloe: My drawing skills are self-taught, as I have always enjoyed drawing since I could pick up a pencil. I have a love for interior design and sustainable architecture, so I would always sit down and design eco-friendly houses with a passive design and family in mind. I then tried my hand at something completely new, which was jewellery design for friends and family and the occasional school fair. Then, I deviated and began experimenting with acrylic portraits of people, watercolour botanicals and lastly, graphite animal portraits. It wasn’t until the end of Year 12 Art that I decided for my last project, I was going to experiment and focus on drawing animals, with the intention of developing them into greeting cards, as I also had a love for graphic design. I soon realised that I had developed a strong passion for drawing graphite animal portraits. So, fast forward a few years and I am still just as passionate, if not more, with this style of art. I am constantly learning from it. All of this has helped me develop my skills to where they are today.
Tema: Do you primarily run online or do you have a physical shopfront / stockists where people can access your work?
Chloe: The business is run online via the website. However, majority of sales are made at markets. I am in the process of stocking prints and greeting cards of the little critters in physical shops, which is super exciting! As much as having a website is great for reaching people globally, I do really enjoy selling at markets and art shows, because you can meet the customers in person and create great relationships with them.
Tema: What do you think helps make your business unique and a stand-out?
Chloe: I think that being a boutique art business where the artist themselves meets customers at markets and art shows, gives a bit of a more personable touch and makes it stand out a little more. People can buy so many different animal prints from pretty much any home décor shop. But, I think that giving them a personality and name definitely makes them and the business unique, as this is what the business is based on. I feel like it adds a little bit of humour towards the artwork and so people feel more of a connection with what they are seeing and buying.
Tema: What have you found rewarding about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Chloe: Things I have found rewarding about being a small-scale business in the Adelaide Hills would have to be the fact that you get to know your customers really well and develop good relationships with them. I love this, because people can not only see where their products are coming from but also meet the artist. It has been really rewarding to have seen my work taken so well – not only by people in the Adelaide Hills, but also being recognised by big art shows in Melbourne – this has definitely been a big highlight for me so far.
Tema: What have you found challenging about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Chloe: Things I have found challenging would be the fact that because Adelaide is a small city, it has been a little difficult at times to grow my customer base and get my name out there. That’s why social media has been great for the business, as it enables me to reach people globally. It was also a little challenging at the beginning to decide on the right price points for my work, as I didn’t want to sell myself short but also didn’t want to make it so expensive that no one was willing to buy it, although they may have liked it.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Chloe: Last year, I saw posters and flyers around local cafes promoting Gathered SA, but it wasn’t until a friend posted something about the Gathered Market on Facebook a few months ago that I decided it would be a great opportunity to be involved in, especially as it celebrates local artists and vendors.
Tema: What are you anticipating from the upcoming Gathered SA market?
Chloe: A creative-filled few days of networking, sharing, and creating relationships with new customers. Exposing my work to a wider audience and hopefully making a few sales.
Tema: What would you like your customers to experience by buying something from you?
Chloe: I would like my customers to experience a bit of excitement when they come to see my work at the upcoming Gathered Market, as I go through each of the different animals, their names, their unique personalities, and how they came about. I am also looking forward to sharing my artistic knowledge so far with other creatives and artists and those who are curious about the drawing process. Customers can also expect special once-off market offers different for each Gathered Market day.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about you and your business?
Chloe: Make sure to check socials as I will be selling the little critters, some new work and products at a number of upcoming art and design markets this October, November and December – just in time for Christmas!
You can visit Chloe Gillespie Art at the Gathered Design Market onOctober 26 + 27 from 10am – 4pm at the Queen’s Theatre in the Adelaide CBD.
Entry to the market is $2 and there is $4 (flat rate) parking available on Saturdays and Sundays at K Park along Playhouse Lane.
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity.
Interview conducted by Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan
Answers + images supplied by Chloe Gillespie