Photograph © Diana Pappas via Brita Granström website.
I’m thrilled to publish this interview with the fabulous artist, Brita Granström, whose work I discovered last year (and have been coveting ever since!). I went to Brita’s exhibition at the Tanner & Lawson gallery in Chelsea and was completely charmed by her gorgeous paintings featuring domestic interior scenes, as well as the beautiful landscapes of her native Sweden and Scotland. Brita’s next exhibition is taking place in Scotland at the Open Eye Gallery from 10th-27th March, and she has kindly allowed me to illustrate this post with the paintings that will be exhibited (and available for sale) at the exhibition. I so wish I could see it! If you’re in Edinburgh – please do go and report back!
But on to the interview…
Muscari and Sea View
MN: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background? Did you always want to be an artist?
BG: I grew up on a farm in Sweden, by a lake, and I always wanted to be an artist and grew up drawing, painting and making all the time. After leaving school I did a 4 year postgraduate course in Illustration & Design at Konstfack in Stockholm. While still studying, I worked as an illustrator for the charity AMREF making step-by-step ‘how to do it’ illustrations for Kenyan and Ugandan bush surgeons, mostly repairing cleft-pallets – this meant a month in Africa and flying in tiny planes over the Serengeti not to mention drawing operations from life! A couple of years later in 1993 I came to Scotland, unexpectedly fell in love, and stayed here.
Tulips and Scissors
At first I made illustrations for the Glasgow Herald and BBC Scotland as well as embarking on a career making children’s books. I have always painted on canvas too, but initially found it very hard to find a gallery to show my paintings. Then, one day, I met Mara-Helen Wood, an authority on Scandinavian art, and who was, at the time, the director of The University Gallery in Newcastle. She had enough faith in my work to give me shows in her galleries, first in Newcastle and later at the prestigious Kings Place in London. Since then I have been fortunate enough to show at various galleries, including the brilliant Thompsons Galleries of Aldeburgh and London who stock my paintings, as do Tanner & Lawson in Chelsea. My new exhibition, Dreaming Of Scotland, will be my second show at the wonderful Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh.
MN: What first brought you to Scotland? What things do you miss most about Sweden, and what do you enjoy about life in the U.K.?
BG: Love kept me here. I fell in love in Scotland 24 years ago. I love the light and the wind and the beaches. I love the contrast between the chilly Scottish winters (nothing compared to freezing Swedish ones where it can drop to minus 30!) and the short, hot Swedish summers. We live in an old Georgian house in the borders with lots of character and a wonderful soft light which inspires many of my interior paintings. We have also built our own wooden house in Sweden near a lake. The vibe is different in both places – but I like them both equally.
MN: I love your interior scenes that often focus on the domestic, but your landscape paintings are equally beautiful. Do you have a preference for drawing outdoor or indoor scenes?
BG: My work follows my life. When I get really inspired by the light and subject it makes me want to paint it. At the moment I have immersed myself in painting interiors as well as tulips and muscari – but three weeks ago, I was painting on the windy beaches in the early spring sunshine. In the summer I painted watery Swedish summer night-scapes with swimmers. In August we were back in the UK and I had my canvasses on the rocks, dodging the tide and painting beautiful rock pools. Quite often someone walks into my picture and I paint them in. You can see lots of these paintings on my website and follow new works as they happen on my Instagram feed @britagranstrom. In my interior paintings I like to paint the beauty in everyday chores; the fleeting moment often ignored or missed. Chopping rhubarb or apples for a pie, a boy drinking tea or beating eggs, someone cutting the ends off tulips or carrying a birthday cake…
Girl Chopping Rhubarb
MN: What is your creative process like? Do you work from 9-5 most days, or are you generally more flexible?
BG: With my book illustration work it’s mostly 9 to 5. The painting is different. Often, after days of building up my ‘painting battery’, I paint and then it takes the time it takes… The light and the subject is all that matters not time.
MN: Your exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh opens on 10th March. What was your inspiration behind the artworks exhibited? Do you have a favourite amongst these paintings?
BG: The exhibition is named after one of my autobiographical paintings called ‘Dreaming of Scotland’. It seemed fitting for a show in Edinburgh. There are quite a few paintings of interiors as well as some big seascapes painted in the stunning all changing weather of the coast up here. You can view them here.
MN: I love the children’s book you illustrated about the Bronte sisters. Do you have a favourite Bronte novel?
BG: Thank You. That was a great book to be working on – about admirably strong women! Wuthering Heights is my favourite with Jane Eyre as a close second.
MN: Which Scandinavian artists do you admire the most?
MN: What advice would you have for young creatives starting out today?
BG: Be true to yourself, work hard, have fun and do not give up. I also love Bonnard’s quote: ‘Draw your pleasure, paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly.’
Parrot Tulips and Lapwing
MN: Through my blog and podcast, I like to celebrate successful, creative women. Which women do you particularly admire within the Arts industry?
BG: I think the artist/printmakers: Emily Sutton, Alice Pattullo and Angie Lewin are having fantastic and well-deserved success just now. I also admire the children’s books of Helen Stephens and Emily Mackenzie. Recently read Nellie Dean by Alison Case and thought it one of the best novels I have read; Emily Bronte would have approved.
Big Sand Dune
Thank you so much to Brita for taking the time to give me such fabulous answers to my questions. For more of her glorious artwork, check out Brita’s instagram, website and current exhibition. To purchase any of the paintings featured, contact the Open Eye Gallery.