South Island Art: Colours, memories & places
I love it when I see people creating a business around a really unique and creative idea. Even better when it involves using lots of colour! So when Rowana founder of South Island Art reached out to me, I knew it was going to make an interesting collaboration. Using paint colours from the palettes of high-end paint companies such as Little Greene and Farrow & Ball, she takes inspiration from your decor to personalise or even create a unique piece of art based on a memorable location. Where you used to live, a special experience such as a proposal or your first date or maybe even somewhere you’d love to visit. Using the emotional power of memories is a key way that I accessorise and personalise my own home as well as with my work with Room Service clients.
For nearly 20 years Rowana has been creating art to match her customers home decor, honing her signature style of stripes and colour into distinct pieces for homes. Starting with paintings in her teens, to the range of art prints and homeware she now creates, every piece begins with three things (a photo, hand-drawn sketch and colour mood board) to capture the feel of your favourite locations. Having trained from art school to a degree and profession in Graphic Communication, her art is about combining design, paper and print to create unforgettable visuals that bring your memories to life.
How did you come up with such a unique idea?
Although I set up South Island Art in 2016, the idea started in my teens, when family and friends would ask me to create pieces in specific colours to fit in with their homes. I was ready to formalise the idea a few years ago, when I was looking for a creative outlet to capture inspiring places I’d been to over the years. I decided to offer three collections based on my experiences with previous commissions - ready-made prints and paintings available to purchase; customising those pieces to match a person’s home or style and completely bespoke pieces.
Where do you get inspiration for the striking colour palettes as they're so refreshing and surprising sometimes!?
I try to use colour to conjure up positive feelings. The idea for a palette usually starts with something I’ve seen or noticed when out and about. I take loads of photos on holiday or walks, trying to capture everything from architectural details to dusky evening landscapes and floral colours. Sometimes I’ll be looking through paint swatch cards or fabric samples and they trigger a memory of a place or scene. Most recently, inspiration came from a bunch of tulips a friend bought for our home - the colour reminded me of early sunrises I’d see over the hills when I used to commute into the city from the suburbs - and I was scouring paint cards to find the right pinks for a new series of prints!
I love this as it’s SO similar to my experience with colour and my work with clients. Take us back your earliest memories of creativity and art.
My mum used to decorate cakes and I started drawing shapes from her books, and then fell into art by accident. A key moment was one of those that when it happens, you have no idea of the impact it will go on to have. It was during an induction day for high school and one of the sessions was an art class with the Head of Art. We were set a drawing task, and towards the end of the class she had a one-to-one with each of us and asked me if I liked drawing. I’d never really thought much about it and she told me to start telling myself I could draw. From that moment I started taking a much bigger interest!
Wow, the power of a great teacher! I sadly had the opposite experiences with art (a story for another day). Who is your greatest inspiration?
There are so many to choose from! I’d say most of all, Monet and the Impressionist movement. Whenever there’s an exhibition I try to go see it - I could spend all day in a gallery just sitting in front of those paintings. I love the way they capture scenes, those fleeting moments, at different times of day and year - their use of colour, brushstrokes and light is incredible. Also David Hockney, Robert Delaunay and Dale Chihuly for their use of colour. I can’t wait to see the Chihuly exhibition at Kew Gardens, one of my favourite places in London.
Yes! the great impressionists and Hockney have an incredible eye for colour and structure. What do you hope to achieve through your work & what is the power of your work to the individual who owns it?
I want to create art that brings everyday joy to someone through colour and memory, whether that’s one part of a gallery wall or a striking focal point in your home. Pieces that express your individuality through the stories hidden in them and your style through the colours used. For me, locations are often tied to incredibly special moments, from romantic engagements and first dates, to empowering road trips. Different locations will make you feel different things but I hope the overall feeling is one of being valued and unique.
Why do you think memories are so important in interiors?
Interior design is a guiding hand to help us create a space that truly reflects us - one that’s practical and suits our needs and uses, but also brings in our personality to make it our own. It turns a space into somewhere you can’t wait to come back to or use, somewhere you want to spend your time. When your space is filled with your memories, it makes it a happy space to be in.
What are you favourite colours to work with and can you connect them to any personal experiences?
All the blues! Although I’ve always lived in city suburbs, I love being by the sea, seeing that endless ocean stretching out in front of you, the smell of that salty sea air, cloudless skies on holiday. Blues remind me of those landscapes. They can be calm and soothing, happy and vibrant, deep and moody - there’s always a hue to suit everyone!
I love blue too for such similar reasons! Any childhood memories of this colour?
It was a small room with big windows all along one side. I painted 3 walls using leftover paint we had - mixing my own blue! The colour was a bit patchy in places but it just about worked! It was a really soft, pale blue, but warm. The window wall was an off white - and different tones of those colours form a big part of my home today. I had a framed card of ‘Dance me to the end of love’ by Jack Vettriano, it worked beautifully with the wall colour and I loved the feeling that image evoked.
What does travel mean to you and how does it inspire your work?
It’s about exploring new places and revisiting much loved ones - both bring new experiences and stories. Getting the chance to properly stop and see what’s around you - there are so many places I’d love to go to. Those feelings are what I want to capture in my work, whether it’s the hustle and bustle of a city break full of activities or something that evokes the rest and relaxation you felt by the beach.
Wow! I am just so inspired by Rowana’s artistic process and I think it’s really insightful the way she believes colour plays in creating mood and atmosphere as well as a personal emotional reaction. Her art is perfect for those struggling to find an art print with meaning and the right colours for their room and it might even inspire some colour combinations for walls and accessorising in new and interesting ways! The graphic, angular feel of her art would work well in any style of home but would especially fit with those that love modern art and anything with a mid-century feel. I’m really happy to share that she would love to offer my readers 15% off any of her ready-made prints or homeware gifts in Rowana’s online shop with the code SkirtingBoardVIP if you order by midnight 30 September 2019 (BST). (Offer not valid in conjunction with any other code). You can shop here til your heart’s content: www.southislandart.com/shop
Here are some of my favourite locations and colour combinations:
Finally Rowana has recently got married so I want to extend a public congratulations towards her and her husband and wish them all the joy and love in the world as they navigate it together. And also if you want to see behind the scenes of how she brought all the wonderfully colourful pieces together for her big day then have a read on her blog here. Such amazing attention to colour and such meaning imbued in every detail.
Yours in colour and creativity,
Disclaimer: I was gifted some prints in exchange for this post as I knew my readers would love them. The direction of the content as well as my opinions are as always completely my own. Photography supplied by Rowana except for the cover image and the final one below.