Question: Can you tell us about yourself/your artistic background and education?
Artist: I studied art at school (both GCSE and A-level) and completed a foundation in Art at Loughborough University. I went onto finish a degree in Graphic Design at the UAL: Camberwell College of Arts in 2003. It was after I finished my degree that my creative career took a halt as it was unfortunately very difficult to get an art / design related job as a foreigner in England (I was born and raised in Kenya). It took a while to find my feet, but I always knew I wanted to be part of creativity in some way. I became a client services lead at a marketing agency, working with designers and creatives, solving strategic problems and then working with creatives to bring the solution to life, visually.
It wasn’t until 2014 that my art career started again. Following a successful start to a career in corporate marketing, my employer’s lack of support for part-time hours (as a new mum) allowed me to capitalise on the opportunity to channel my energy into creating skyscapes and bring my visual language to the world. I started painting again and launched a business while raising my son. To offer me the flexibility and also fulfil a long standing dream.
Question: Can you take us through the process that you go through to complete your masterpieces?
Artist: It starts with a rough idea – usually from when I’ve been out gathering inspiration – whether that’s a walk through local woods or a trip to the beach, it could even be through looking at old photos and looking through old work to see if there’s an idea I can further develop (I particularly enjoy these escapes into my previous work/sketches). From there, I create rough line sketches of the composition and flow of the texture and landscape.
Then I start looking into colour – I’ve learned I’m influenced by the seasons. In the spring and summer I crave softer, lighter, brighter palettes, but in autumn/winter I chose rich, velvety, bold, jewel tones.
Once I have the palette, I start painting. Over the years, I have learnt to work in batches and will sometimes have 4 or more paintings on the go simultaneously. This allows me to create harmony in my work and I’m able to build up collections this way.
The first layers happen quite quickly, as I’ve learnt to work fast with acrylics. I lay down the main areas and create blends of colour to block out key areas – the sky, the sea, the land, etc. The other reason for working quickly is that I have very small pockets of time in between looking after my young kids, so learning to work quickly has been the key to moving forward.
Once I’ve blocked in the main areas, I start to bring in the darker tones and mid-tones where needed. Finally, I’ll had highlights. Each painting is different, some are complete in 3 layers, others can need more than 10! Over time, I’ve learned to trust my gut and stop as soon as I start to feel a slight uneasiness about adding paint. I like to walk away from a painting for a few days before coming back to see if it’s really finished – I sometimes do this 2 or 3 times.
Question: What is it about modern abstract nature that draws you to paint them?
Artist: I grew up in Kenya – it has one of the most beautiful sky, land and seascapes I have ever seen. There’s an organic element to the terrain in Kenya, it changes depending what part of the country you’re in. Being away from home for so many years, and especially after having my kids made me crave its warmth, colour and light. Since I couldn’t travel back as often as I liked, I decided to start bringing elements of the Kenyan landscape back to life through my work.
As I worked, I started to discover my love of texture, organic materials/shapes, natural movement and a strong sense of inner calm. I truly believe that taking those moments to be with yourself and your thoughts can cultivate a journey towards that inner sense of calm. I want to draw the viewer into my work and allow them to take that moment to have, what I call, ‘silent conversations’ with themselves, to take the time to be in the moment and reflect on what truly makes them happy. I have been working to bring these emotions and conceptual values to life through my work.
I especially enjoy the contrast between the smoother parts of nature against the rougher, textured parts, like the bark of a tree against clean cut grass, fallen leaves on a smooth path or wispy, textured clouds against a smooth coloured sky.
Question: Throughout your time painting what has been the most important thing you have learnt?
Artist: This is a difficult one to answer, I have learnt so many different things while developing my practice – from learning more about myself, learning how to run a business and be all the things as well as the artist. But, I would say, the most important has been not to give up, even if I’ve had a tough painting day – I’ve learnt to walk away and say to myself that I learnt something from it and that I can come back and try again tomorrow.
Mindset is such a key part of being an artist and if we always bring ourselves down for mistakes we make or things that don’t go to plan, we’ll fail to move forward.
Question: Do you have any art influencers? If so what are they?
Artist: I wrote my dissertation on the impressionists, focussing on Monet. The freedom of the brushstrokes and the play on light are huge influences in my work.
I also love looking at wildlife photographers, especially Kenyan photographers as they connect me to home and bring the inspiration of the landscape to me. I have some very talented and generous friends who allow me to use their photos for inspiration.
I look at sky photography on social media, following specific hashtags so I can see the differences and similarities between clouds, movement and colours around the world.
Question: What makes a good day for you?
Artist: A good day is one where I have that perfect session with creative flow – one where I totally zone out and paint something that’s truly come from deep within. I focus on the process and emotions while painting. I’ve found that whether or not I have a great result, isn’t the focus.
But the whole day isn’t filled with painting. There would also some marketing, content development and planning in my day too – I tend to leave this for the afternoon when my creative energy can be lower.
Question: Do you showcase or exhibit any of your work? If so, where can we find your work?
Artist: I have exhibited my work over the years with various charity exhibitions. I’m currently taking a break from gallery exhibitions, but am hoping to start again in a few years.
You can find me on my Instagram page (@artbypunam), sharing behind the scenes and collection launches. I also have my work available for sale on my website www.artbypunam.com
Question: What are your future plans, and how do you see your career as an artist’s developing?
Artist: I’m currently focussing on continuing my exploration of colour and texture. For the future, I would like to work with more licensing companies to make my art further accessible and far reaching.
In terms of how I see my career developing, I’d like to continue to use my work as a way to help people find inspiration and calmness in their everyday. Given that everyone’s journey is so different, I wouldn’t like to define exactly how I see the future unfold, I’d like to leave some of it open to new opportunities and grow with the business. I truly believe that it will create room for more creativity and excitement, too much planning can be stifling.