This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

The Seafaring Painter Pushing The Boundaries Of Maritime Art

Studio Visit

Forgoing typical paper and canvas, Gemma Rasdall paints her deeply-considered seascapes on recycled sailcloth. What’s more, the Sydney-based artist draws her inspiration from her time on the water, rather than the shore’s edge, instilling her works with a resonating authenticity.

Just before opening her latest exhibition, The Calm, last night, Gemma invited our photographer Alisha Gore aboard her yacht to discover more.

19th July, 2019

Artist Gemma Rasdall on her floating home. Photo – Alisha Gore.

The Sydney-based artist doesn’t have a parrot, but she does have puppy Arkie! Photo – Alisha Gore.

Inspired by seascapes and living on the sea! Photo – Alisha Gore.

When she’s not painting, Gemma is renovating her yacht – which she purchased entirely from selling artworks! Photo – Alisha Gore.

Gemma’s home allows her to be as close as possible to her artistic inspirations! Photo – Alisha Gore.

Gemma studied a Bachelor of Design and worked as a textiles print designer before going full-time with her art. Photo – Alisha Gore.

‘I love nothing more than chucking on my headphones, pressing play on an audiobook and painting the day away,’ says Gemma. ‘I really enjoy solitude, which is lucky considering the artist profession is typically a lonely one.’ Photo – Alisha Gore.

When she’s not on the water, she and Arkie cycle to her little painting studio in Sydney’s Inner West. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Gemma at work in her studio. Photo – Alisha Gore.

The little ‘den’ is filled with inspiration, collected knick-knacks, art, and ceramics, as well as boxes of Nag Champa incense. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Just last night she opened a new solo exhibition, The Calm, at Art Gallery on Darling. Photo – Alisha Gore.

In watery washes of colour, Gemma’s new body of work is a visual remedy for stress and anxiety. Photo – Alisha Gore.

Elle Murrell
Friday 19th July 2019

‘I thrive off the highs and lows of creative life.’ – Gemma Rasdall.

Gemma Rasdall, a self-described bizarre combination of  ‘workaholic, sailing sea gypsy and artist’, is living the (/my) dream!

Growing up in the beautiful bay of Pittwater, Gemma sailed on little racing boats every weekend, while most of her weeknights were spent creating with her siblings under the guidance of their art teacher mother. ‘Both passions continued throughout my adolescence, so when it came to deciding what to do for my Year 12 Art major work, I decided to combine both to develop a practice: painting seascapes on sailcloth,’ she recalls.

An incredibly dedicated individual, Gemma’s mantra is that when you try really hard, it usually it pays off, and also that it’s work ethic, not talent that makes for success. She was already living these age-old adages as a young, diligent student. Her secondary-school major artwork was accepted into Art Express, propelling her art practice, and leading to group exhibition opportunities.

Despite her parents’ encouragement to study art at university, Gemma was out to avoid becoming a ‘poor artist’, and enrolled in Bachelor of Design, before working several years as a textiles print designer. She found that path creatively limiting. ‘My heart wasn’t really in it,’ she reflects ‘I was spending every night after work and weekend continuing to produce my paintings on sailcloth, exhibiting regularly, and selling most of them!’

Eighteen-months ago that ‘itching creative anxiety’ forced Gemma to take the plunge into painting full-time. And so what became of her sink-or-sail moment? Gemma hasn’t looked back, and just last night she opened a new solo exhibition, The Calm, at Art Gallery on Darling. The series of mixed-media paintings (acrylics, soft pastel and charcoal) utilise recycled sailcloth, which the artist has collected and developed a special preparation process for over the years. ‘I love the texture of the Dacron, especially the wrinkled, weather-worn and patched sails… they stretch beautifully over a canvas frame too as they are extremely strong,’ she explains.

In watery washes of colour, the new artworks seek to serve as visual remedies for stress and anxiety. ‘My own experiences with anxiety over the years have unconsciously lead to me produce visually restful artwork. Walking into a studio filled with soft seascapes surrounding the walls is instantly calming… and as a highly-driven person, I really rely on strategies to reduce stress,’ Gemma shares. ‘The ocean and sailing have always been my escape, so by capturing that sense of freedom through art I am able to benefit from my work too.’

Gemma and puppy Arkie are currently living on her modest little yacht, which she purchased from Tin Can Bay, Queensland (entirely funded by selling artwork) and sailed down solo! When she’s not renovating it, or out on the bay sourcing inspiration, the artist paints from her slightly-steadier studio in the Inner West. Future bodies of work, however, will come to life from Scotland Island, a water-access-only island in the middle of Pittwater, to which Gemma is relocating her studio, to be even closer to the water.

Next, she is scouting artist residencies and will ‘chip away at the Australian art prize scene, to build exposure, connections with other artists, and find new opportunities’. Ever pragmatic, Gemma is also exploring a mix of freelance design, art teaching and boating jobs to stay afloat financially.

‘I think the best (and sometimes worst) part about being an artist is the rollercoaster of uncertainty that is life. There are no limitations to my work… I plan exhibitions and take on projects that interest me, spend long periods working really hard, but then can take weeks off sailing on my boat for an adventure too,’ she tells, hinting at dream voyages painting her way along the East Coast or even making a passage to New Caledonia (I’m planning to stowaway!). ‘Despite its instability, I thrive off the highs and lows of creative life, and could never be satisfied with a straight-line career path ever again.’

‘The Calm’ by Gemma Rasdall
July 18th to 21st
Art Gallery on Darling
307 Darling Street
Balmain, New South Wales

Gemma Rasdall’s art at Gemmarasdall.com or follow her on Instagram @gemmarasdall.

This Week

News

Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence In Conversation With The Planthunter

Georgina Reid of The Planthunter sits down with artists Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence in a new conversation series connecting ar...
Amelia Barnes

News

Join The ‘Garden Party’

A star-studded group exhibition at BSIDE Gallery from August 21-25th of illustration, textiles and ceramics that celebrates growing together...
Miriam McGarry

News

An International Japanese Design Exhibition Opens in Launceston

Explore the work of 58 Japanese architects in this Design Tasmania exhibition.
Amelia Barnes

Gardens

A Factory Rooftop Turned Lush Penthouse Garden

SJB director Adam Haddow’s Sydney apartment opens to a stunning rooftop garden, designed by William Dangar of Dangar Barin Smith.
Amelia Barnes

Homes

A Prahran East Atelier Adorned With Layers Of History

Revered Melbourne interior designer Tigger Hall shares her artistic home, filled with objects from all over the globe.

News

Up-cycling, With A Global Flair!

Kyoto-based, French designer Clementine Sander is helping you up-cycle Japanese textiles, in collaboration with The Social Studio.
Miriam McGarry

Travel

A Stylist's Guide To Downtown Los Angeles

Sydney stylist Sarah Ellison shares her guide to all things design in Downtown LA!
Sarah Ellison

Interiors

Saying Goodbye To A Local Icon!

After over a decade of operations, the beloved Brooklyn Arts Hotel in Fitzroy is closing - and its iconic building is for sale.

Interiors

Brown Is The New Neutral

Brown is back! Lauren Li gives us the lowdown on how to add warmth and texture to your home, with this somewhat divisive colour.
Lauren Li

News

All Are Welcome At North Melbourne School Of Displacement

Learn about and honour the First Nations in this accessible North Melbourne discussion series.
Amelia Barnes

Architecture

The Apple Crate Shack On The Apple Isle!

A $60,000 budget goes a long way in this ambitious project in Flowerpot, Tasmania.
Miriam McGarry

Art

Balenciaga Comes To Bendigo!

Direct from the Victoria and Albert museum in London, the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ arrives at the Bendig...
Miriam McGarry

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Seasonal Flavours : Citrus

One of our FAVE foodies, Julia Busuttil-Nishimura joins TDF this month as a columnist! First up, she shares a flavour-packed roasted caulifl...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Art

Shifting Time And Space With Jasmine Mansbridge

Explore the artist’s new exhibition ‘Your Time For The Moon’, showing at 19Karen gallery.

Architecture

A California Bungalow Reconfigured For Light And Practicality

Project 12 Architecture has renovated a Northcote home to overcome its southern orientation and previously disjointed rooms.
Amelia Barnes

View Comments

Similar Stories

Art

The Next-Gen Australian Artists You Need To Know

Australia's brightest young student artists on show at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Elle Murrell

Shopping

Sheridan by Ken Done

The story of an iconic collaboration between Sheridan and Australia's best loved artist, Ken Done.

This Week

Homes

A Prahran East Atelier Adorned With Layers Of History

Revered Melbourne interior designer Tigger Hall shares her artistic home, filled with objects from all over the globe.

News

An International Japanese Design Exhibition Opens in Launceston

Explore the work of 58 Japanese architects in this Design Tasmania exhibition.
Amelia Barnes

Art

Balenciaga Comes To Bendigo!

Direct from the Victoria and Albert museum in London, the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’ arrives at the Bendig...
Miriam McGarry

News

Join The ‘Garden Party’

A star-studded group exhibition at BSIDE Gallery from August 21-25th of illustration, textiles and ceramics that celebrates growing together...
Miriam McGarry

Interiors

Saying Goodbye To A Local Icon!

After over a decade of operations, the beloved Brooklyn Arts Hotel in Fitzroy is closing - and its iconic building is for sale.

Art

Shifting Time And Space With Jasmine Mansbridge

Explore the artist’s new exhibition ‘Your Time For The Moon’, showing at 19Karen gallery.

News

Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence In Conversation With The Planthunter

Georgina Reid of The Planthunter sits down with artists Tamara Dean, Bill Henson + Janet Laurence in a new conversation series connecting ar...
Amelia Barnes

Architecture

The Apple Crate Shack On The Apple Isle!

A $60,000 budget goes a long way in this ambitious project in Flowerpot, Tasmania.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A California Bungalow Reconfigured For Light And Practicality

Project 12 Architecture has renovated a Northcote home to overcome its southern orientation and previously disjointed rooms.
Amelia Barnes

Interiors

Brown Is The New Neutral

Brown is back! Lauren Li gives us the lowdown on how to add warmth and texture to your home, with this somewhat divisive colour.
Lauren Li

Gardens

A Factory Rooftop Turned Lush Penthouse Garden

SJB director Adam Haddow’s Sydney apartment opens to a stunning rooftop garden, designed by William Dangar of Dangar Barin Smith.
Amelia Barnes

Food

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Seasonal Flavours : Citrus

One of our FAVE foodies, Julia Busuttil-Nishimura joins TDF this month as a columnist! First up, she shares a flavour-packed roasted caulifl...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Travel

A Stylist's Guide To Downtown Los Angeles

Sydney stylist Sarah Ellison shares her guide to all things design in Downtown LA!
Sarah Ellison

News

Up-cycling, With A Global Flair!

Kyoto-based, French designer Clementine Sander is helping you up-cycle Japanese textiles, in collaboration with The Social Studio.
Miriam McGarry

News

All Are Welcome At North Melbourne School Of Displacement

Learn about and honour the First Nations in this accessible North Melbourne discussion series.
Amelia Barnes

Similar Stories

Art

The Next-Gen Australian Artists You Need To Know

Australia's brightest young student artists on show at the NGV and the Art Gallery of NSW.
Elle Murrell

Shopping

Sheridan by Ken Done

The story of an iconic collaboration between Sheridan and Australia's best loved artist, Ken Done.