Hampshire Life - - Art -

Graphic artist Chris Gib­son is bring­ing Hamp­shire’s land­marks in to

peo­ple’s homes with his nos­tal­gic posters says SAN­DRA SMITH

My first thought when ar­riv­ing at Ch­e­sa­peake Mill is grat­i­tude for be­ing suf­fi­ciently early to al­low time to browse through 1960s clothes and stacks of vinyl. My sec­ond, is chas­tise­ment.

The restau­rant is full, why didn’t I book? Thank­fully, my dis­com­fort doesn’t last long. Within mo­ments a ta­ble be­comes va­cant and I sit down to await the artist whose South­sea Pier im­age was a front page high­light in the Au­gust edi­tion of this mag­a­zine. A strate­gi­cally placed copy en­sures Christo­pher Gib­son finds me. When he does, it turns out he, too, has spent a while pe­rus­ing the di­ver­sity of this em­po­rium. The outer façade, ap­par­ently, might even make a good a sub­ject for one of his leg­endary prints.

“It’s the iconic views which tend to sell,” the graphic artist states be­tween sips of cof­fee. “More ob­scure places don’t in­ter­est peo­ple; they pre­fer an im­age of some­where they’ve been. Wa­ter is the most tricky thing. I did Peters­field Open Air Swim­ming Pool in vin­tage style. The mo­tion of wa­ter can look so beau­ti­ful if you think the way David Hock­ney might ap­proach it.”

Hav­ing long har­boured an in­ter­est in the his­tory of graphic de­sign, re­dun­dancy a decade ago, co­in­cid­ing with a now fa­mous poster, proved to be the spur which in­sti­gated Chris’s lat­est port­fo­lio.

“Keep Calm and Carry On be­came pop­u­lar about that time. Her­itage is a huge in­dus­try. I’m not sure if it’s any­thing to do with nos­tal­gia; vin­tage posters of the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury have a cer­tain glam­our that is ap­peal­ing, even though the re­al­ity was very dif­fer­ent.”

Chris’s South of the Downs ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tured his se­ries of clas­sic prints based on old travel posters. These were, he con­fesses, more pop­u­lar than his wa­ter­colours or pas­tels: “They seemed to strike a chord with

peo­ple, tap­ping into an in­ter­est in the past.”

The process be­gins with the 50 year old vis­it­ing his cho­sen sub­ject. Weather con­di­tions at this point are cru­cial.

“I al­ways go on a sunny day.

You want the sun for crisp shades, more con­trast. Back in my stu­dio I sketch up a rough com­po­si­tion which is scanned to the com­puter. Then I draw on the com­puter – I’m do­ing the draw­ing, not the com­puter. Get­ting the com­po­si­tion right takes a bit of time be­cause you re­ally want to cre­ate the iconic im­agery peo­ple ex­pect. Flat colours are built up in lay­ers. It’s chal­leng­ing get­ting things to work to­gether. I have a folder full of things that haven’t quite made it but noth­ing is thrown away. My im­ages have evolved, be­come more il­lus­tra­tive.”

Print­ing onto thick, un­coated art pa­per fixes the colour and pre­vents fad­ing while as well as on­line sales, Chris works with White Dog Gallery whose Part­ner, He­len Steen­huis, is a big fan.

“Chris, one of our best-sell­ing artists, has a fab­u­lous range of over 35 im­ages here, all pro­duced in his highly col­lectable, vin­tage poster style. Each one is thought­fully cre­ated as he looks for an un­usual an­gle or iconic part of a build­ing or scene, The Kings The­atre, for ex­am­ple.”

This two way re­la­tion­ship is ben­e­fi­cial on sev­eral lev­els, as the artist ac­knowl­edges.

“Work­ing at home can be a bit iso­lat­ing. You have to be quite dis­ci­plined and look for ex­cuses to get out. It’s good to get in­volved with gal­leries and re­tail­ers. At first I found it a bit daunt­ing go­ing in and try­ing to sell your­self. It’s easy to be knocked back but won­der­ful when you get the right re­sponse.”

And sat­is­fac­tion with his work, does that come easy?

“A lot I’m happy with but some I wouldn’t mind go­ing back and tweak­ing them a bit. It’s a pro­gres­sion al­ways. I’m prob­a­bly hap­pier now; learn­ing how to see, that’s taken time.”

This year Chris’s sub­jects have in­cluded Portsmouth based HMS Queen El­iz­a­beth, though a past trip abroad to Canada has also stim­u­lated ideas.

Given the flat­ness and clar­ity of his work, learn­ing of his love of the Pre-Raphaelites is un­ex­pected. He also con­fesses to a fond­ness for Vic­to­rian books and old prints of birds.

“I try to get the odd bird or bit of na­ture, if not an aero­plane, into my prints,” he laughs.

Talk­ing of air­craft, the RAF cen­te­nary and Southampton’s link with the Spit­fire in­spired a scene of these cel­e­brated planes over the So­lent. And I reckon to­day’s venue will ap­pear in print in the not too dis­tant fu­ture be­cause Christo­pher has de­vel­oped a fas­ci­na­tion for this his­toric build­ing. And more. When we leave, he strolls around the vil­lage tak­ing in the lo­cal scenery be­fore declar­ing, “I’ve a feel­ing Wick­ham will be my next project for the au­tumn.” I can’t wait. Turn­ing land­marks into vin­tage style posters will gain Christo­pher Gib­son, and this his­toric vil­lage, a whole new fol­low­ing.

ABOVE: So­lent Spit­fireLEFT: Chris Gib­sonOP­PO­SITE PAGE: The Cam­ber, Portsmouth

ABOVE: Southampton Tu­dor HouseLEFT: So­lent Rac­ing

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