By Andrea Louise Thomas Photos Andrea Louise Thomas & supplied
Patterns intrigue fine artist Gabrielle Young. “All of my art series are about patterns,” she says. Growing up and living on the Mornington Peninsula has been an endless source of inspiration and source material. “ The flora and fauna, raw back beaches, serene bay beaches, country roads and leafy lanes – I love figuring out the patterns in all of them,” she says.
Living so near to the beach, Gabrielle has always been captivated by marine life. Seahorses and sea dragons bob in the deepest blues in her meticulously drawn pen and ink artworks. “I love to walk on the beach discovering shells and sea creatures. They all have beautiful patterns,” she says.
It was almost inevitable that Gabrielle would become an artist because her mother was a high school art teacher and potter who not only encouraged her daughter to express herself creatively, but also taught her methods and mediums to explore. Every birthday and Christmas brought new kinds of art supplies to try out.
Her father was a physics lecturer. He brought a love of science into the mix. In fact, Gabrielle did not pursue a degree in art, but received her degree in Applied Science. She works as a speech pathologist. You can see the science in Gabrielle’s exquisite depictions of flora and fauna.
Though she chose a career in speech pathology, Gabrielle was always working on her art, taking classes or courses. “I decided to build a secondary career in art when my children were little. A friend of mine and I decided to join the local art society. That was when I started exhibiting. It was a recreation that became a career,” she says.
Drawing has always been her first and foremost passion. She has worked in pastels and watercolour, but her current work in inks is the most exciting to her. She says, “I wanted something wilder and bolder so I chose ink over watercolour.”
“People can recognise my work by ink. I love that ink is precarious and unpredictable. You get a different effect depending on air temperature, water mix and drying time. You can put layer upon layer of ink. I might have between five to fifteen layers of background ink,” she says.
To get different effects, she plays with the drying time between layers. On an inking day, she’ll start early and be on her feet all day. There is a lot of problem solving involved in getting the effect she wants. Half the time she doesn’t get what she expects, but she embraces that. It becomes a puzzle to solve. She can come back to work on it later.
Inking days are precarious. By contrast, filling in the details is the predictable part. “These are calm, relaxing, mindful days. I am a planner by nature, but even an experimental day requires planning,” she says.
Intricacy is a characteristic in all of her artworks and influences the subjects she chooses. She loves dragonflies, for instance, not just because they are peaceful and relaxing creatures, but they have beautiful shape and intricate wing patterns. She likes to add her own quirky patterns into their wings.
In her pocket-watches and locks series, the patterns are more cerebral and symbolic. They are about communication, connection, emotion, sensory experience and time in all its facets. The stories in them are more personal for her, though she always finds viewers’ interpretations of them interesting.
Vintage and antique items interest her because, much like her own work, there is so much detail in the craftsmanship. Her clocks series was actually inspired by her great grandfather’s pocket watch.
As a child, Gabrielle loved children’s books with picture mysteries. Her artwork, The Key, is a tribute to them. The clue is in the title of the piece; the viewer has to find the patterns, the inconsistency and connect the dots.
Gabrielle works both from photographs and imagination. She often blends the two. She conceptualises the piece in her mind, often spending weeks thinking about it before putting it on paper.
Coronavirus lockdown led to her latest landscape series. Because she was limited in where she could travel, she concentrated on what she saw driving to and from work along the Peninsula back roads. Her focus became local flora.