Gabrielle Penfold’s paintings combine all her favourite things – travel, food, and nature. These passions started back in her childhood, where she spent her sick days off school painting and drawing, or in art classes on the holidays.
‘I was really fortunate to have my mum who was a history and English teacher, so I’ve always had a love for knowledge and history. In conjunction with that, my dad worked for Qantas, so I think our trips overseas really influenced my art,’ Gabrielle says.
The multitalented creative had finished studying a Bachelor of Design at the University of New South Wales’ College of Fine Arts, and was working with jewellery designer Lucy Folk when she began sharing her paintings on Instagram.
‘It was around the time where people were starting to put up not just pictures of themselves, but things they were interested in. I found that documentation of food, where people were standing up on the chair to take a picture, a really fascinating idea. That’s where I started painting food, and the still life and posting it on Instagram,’ Gabrielle explains.
‘There’s something really ancient about painting food and still life artworks. You can look back at history and get an indication of what people had been eating at that point in time.’
That same bird’s eye composition remains a strong motif in Gabrielle’s paintings today. She captures dreamy table-scapes filled with oysters, figs and seafood, or sentimental, summery scenes of swimmers laying on the beach, palm trees and the iconic Bondi Icebergs with an expert sense of nostalgia.
Travel is also an integral part of Gabrielle’s creative process. Before the pandemic, she would save up all her money each year and go to Europe to soak up all the inspiration, before returning home to her studio to create a body of work.
But when Covid hit, Gabrielle embraced the opportunity to look for inspiration closer to home. ‘Every chance I had, I would go on little road trips along the New South Wales coast, taking my camera, sketchbook and my paints’ she recalls.
These local travel adventures formed the basis of Gabrielle’s hugely successful ‘homecoming’ show last year, Oyster Oyster, which she describes as ‘an ode to Australia’.
‘Seeing it altogether in one room and having the show sell out, and the room filled with people was a real pinch-me moment!’
You can follow Gabrielle on Instagram here, and see more of her wonderful work here.