Artist of the Month: Carolyn Gavin

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Carolyn Gavin's illustrations are a breath of fresh air, literally. Her Instagram feed is brimming with inspirational quotes, blossoming among beautifully whimsical bynches of flowers and pile sof fruit and veg. We caught up with Carolyn to chat travelling, technique and what 2017 has in store.

For those who don't know, can you tell us a bit about who you are and the work you produce.

I'm a designer and Illustrator living in Toronto, Canada. I grew up in South Africa and left at 21 to travel the world. Landed up in Canada with my family, married a Montrealer and had a baby girl called Lily. I design for my company ecojot and also freelance with my agent Lilla Rogers Studios. My work finds its way onto stationery, fabric, packaging, books and wall art.

How would you describe your style?

Happy, colourful, spontaneous and fresh.

Who do you cite as the main influences on your work?

Early on I studied with an artist in South Africa, Nina Campbell Quinne. She taught me the basics of painting and techniques. I still refer to her teaching methods to this day and what i learnt from her. Using Goauche with texture, negative space, contrast and shadows. Being free with pen and ink and watercolour and making papier mache the traditional way.

A little birdie told us that you grew up in South Africa surrounded by exotic colours and diverse cultures. Do you think this has been a big influence on your work?

Yes! I think I absorbed it and made it a part of my visual library. Subconsciously it filters into my work.I can't live without colour and colour in my work. Not only was it the colour but the warmth, the light, the brightness and the contrasts of life in Africa. It shapes you, whether you want it to or not.

Why have you chosen to predominantly feature flowers in your work?

I try so hard to add other subjects but they always seem to have some reference to flowers. Flowers make me happy, they're classically beautiful, I have so many favourites and also if I cant have fresh flowers everyday, I can paint them. I'm also an avid gardner and love being in nature.

Your work is very whimsical and dreamy. How do you decide what you're going to create or do you just go with the flow and paint whatever you're feeling that day?

Its a thought process. Sometimes it takes a while to feel inspired, sometimes it happens right away. Sometimes, something I did the previous day bleeds through to the next. Its always a work in progress. I'm never quite there.. i always feel i'm reaching for the rainbow.

How did you make the transition from graphic design to illustration?

I started off doing graphic design and then gradually the need to Illustrate my work became more and more essential. It was a slow and gradual process. Now I couldn't imagine my life without illustrating and painting.

We heard that you're all for the environment and sustainability. What makes you so passionate about the environment and do you try and feed this into your work?

My company ecojot was founded on the premise of locally and ethically made, sustainable, 100% post consumer recycled stationery that is totally transparent in the process. Our mandate was to make a better alternative to cheap and cheerful and to give clients the informed option and opportunity of shopping for locally made products that either give back or are sustainable in some way. We started off donating school supplies to various NGO's around the world and my partner and brother Mark went on some of these trips to Haiti and Kenya. Right now, we've streamlined our company, trying to simplify and work better with less stress and of course, less footprint. We design, print and manufacture everything in Canada and i think we're almost ready for a new cause!

You've worked with some pretty big clients (Barnes & Noble, Paperchase) designing stationary and textiles. Do you prefer client work or your personal illustrations?

I love doing personal work as no one is directing and you can do what you want. I think its essential for me to explore these paths. If i'm creative in this area, then i'm creative in that. One feeds the other, its a constant process of back and forth, love and hate. (haha!)

Tell us about your company Ecojot and the environmentally friendly ethics behind it.

I mentioned most of it in the question before this one. I would like to add that we've also worked with Jane Goodall highlighting some of the issues around endangered animals. I would love to pursue this area, animals and conservation in general.

You seem to have travelled around a fair bit. Where would you say is your favourite you've lived or visited and do you try and incorporate travel into your work in any way?

I love Belize, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. In fact my husband and I are planning to live in Belize sometime in the future. In the meantime, I'm trying to travel more as i love it so much and find it essential to my creative process. The next trip is coming up in February. I'm going to Rajhastan, India on a textile tour. I will be painting, absorbing and learning as much as possible. It is not really a work trip but I have always dreamed of doing my own line of block printed bedding, and so this might end up being the catalyst for that.

What would your ultimate lazy Sunday consist of? Do you feel compelled to paint everyday or do you just let loose with a jar of Nutella in your comfies?

I love a coffee and fresh pastry on a Sunday morning and lying in reading my book. We try and walk as much as we can and so will do just that on Sundays too. I almost always will paint, but I'm really trying to take weekends off from actual work projects so i don't suffer the burnout and feel fresh and ready to think, Monday morning. Having said that, sometimes i need to just catch up!

What can we expect from you in 2017? Any exciting projects on the horizon?

Dreaming of doing an ecojot stationery line for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, highlighting baby orphan elephants with a portion of the proceeds going to them directly. A line of bedding of my own and of course project already in the works. I'm illustrating 4 books on Nature and a baby bedding line for Anthropologie is coming out in the Spring/Summer of 2017.

Follow Carolyn on Instagram or buy her paintings on her Etsy store. Interview by Danielle Morgan.